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Can make really good butter chicken: ‘World’s strongest man’ Mark Henry

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NEW DELHI: To say that Mark Henry is a ‘big guy’ hardly does justice to his enormous stature, both literally and figuratively. The 6 feet 5 inches tall former WWE World Heavyweight Champion, who was in the capital for a promotional tour, easily towers over everyone around him. In a candid chat with DT, the former powerlifter, Olympian, and professional wrestler – often billed as the ‘world’s strongest man’ – talks about how India has changed since his last visit, his love for butter chicken, the talent pool in Indian wrestling, and whether he would be up for a Bollywood gig.

Surprised by India’s progress

It is Henry’s first visit to the country in over two decades and he says he is pleasantly surprised by the progress the country has made. “I first came to Mumbai in 1993 during my days as a weightlifter. This is my first visit to Delhi and also the first to India as a professional wrestler. Back then, I remember being driven from the airport and seeing swanky golf courses flanked by vast slums. This time around, I’m surprised by the progress India has made. There is great improvement in the infrastructure and from whatever I have seen, even in people’s attitudes. I think it’s great because India is now trying to compete with the world in all aspects,” he says.

Can make really good butter chicken and samosas

The discussion soon shifts to Henry’s favourite subject – food. It doesn’t come as a surprise that the 400-pound (over 180kg) wrestler loves his food. But what does startle you is his proficiency in cooking Indian food. He elaborates, “My mum is a chef and I grew up around food. Growing up, I was trying to learn to cook something new all the time. I know how they say ‘tough guys don’t cook’ but believe me, in Texas, everybody cooks! I have a very good friend who belongs to Punjab and lives in Texas now. He introduced me to Indian cuisine. The one thing I can cook really well when it comes to Indian food is butter chicken, which is one of my favourites. I also make pretty handy samosas but I’m figuring out how to perfect them. In fact, now that I’m in India, I think I’ll pick up some seasonings and spices because I’m sure to get genuine stuff here.”

India produces excellent talent in wrestling

Hailing India’s talent in professional wrestling, Henry says that the new generation of Indian professional wrestlers seems all set to go a long way. He explains, “India has produced some amazing wrestlers. I grew up watching Tiger Jeet Singh and was fascinated by his gimmick of carrying a sword to the ring. Then you have Khali, who is not just a great competitor but also a great friend. We constantly stay in touch when we are on the road. I think the talent from India will make it big in professional wrestling in the years to come. I know for a fact that we already have a couple of youngsters from India training to become professional wrestlers in Orlando (USA). Then, Khali has opened up a school of wrestling in his native place in Punjab. So India seems all set to contribute more to professional wrestling.” In fact, Henry offers to play mentor to the next generation of professional wrestling aspirants from India. Referring to Satnam Singh, who recently became the first Indian-born player to be selected in the NBA, Henry says, “I wish success to the Indian kid who is now playing in the NBA. But if he ever plans to switch from basketball to sports entertainment and professional wrestling, all his people need to do is give me a call. I’ll make sure he makes it big in wrestling.”

The drama in Bollywood is similar to pro-wrestling

Henry confesses his love for Hindi films, adding that the drama and action in the cinema here is what he loves. He says, “I’ve seen so much of Bollywood growing up that I’ve come to love it. I can’t remember names of the movies, so I won’t be able to come up with those, but the one thing I love about Hindi cinema is the action and drama in it. It is so similar to pro-wrestling in that it is all so overdramatized. You have so many elaborate movements in professional wrestling and Bollywood is so similar to it when it comes to action sequences. Hindi films are so engrossing that it’s hard not to binge-watch it because once you begin, you have to know where the story goes.”

If a big filmmaker calls me, I’m ready to shake a leg in Bollywood

Many of Henry’s contemporary wrestlers have ventured into films and a few like Dwayne Johnson have even built successful careers as actors. Does Mark plan to enter into films anytime soon? He replies with a smile, “Why not! We’re all performers, so I know I can act. I love dancing as well, so if a big Bollywood filmmaker calls me, I’ll be more than game to shake a leg and star in my very own Bollywood blockbuster. The only drawback is that I can’t sing very well. You don’t want to hear me sing. Had I been able to do that, I could have done pretty much everything myself.”

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