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Kannada Stunt Mishap: Long Ill-treated Stuntmen Say No More 'Adjusting'

Nagarjun Dwarakanath | CNN-News18

First published: November 8, 2016, 5:46 PM IST | Updated: November 8, 2016
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Kannada Stunt Mishap: Long Ill-treated Stuntmen Say No More 'Adjusting'
Actor Uday (Picture courtesy: News18)

The deaths of two Kannada actors while executing a stunt while shooting for the film Maastigudi has blown the lid off the condition of stuntmen in an industry that has increasingly become uncaring.

While the families of actors Anil Kumar and Raghava Uday are still trying to deal with the tragedy, the film fraternity is angry at the 'Kindly-Adjust’ attitude that all filmmakers seem to have with artistes who perform supporting roles in films – but also roles that require intense hard work, workout sessions, severe diets and huge risks.

The focus has shifted to the lives of these stuntmen, ever since footage became public of the two actors who didn’t know swimming but willingly jumped off a helicopter from a height of about 100 feet, into the middle of a reservoir with no safety gear – and only the assurance that “all is taken care of.”

The Akhila Karnataka Sahasa Kalavidara Sangha, a forum of stuntmen and ‘dupes’ of Kannada film industry had 150 registered stuntmen but this number has dwindled to just around 20 to 30, says veteran stuntman ‘Different’ Danny. Not because they found other jobs, but they were forced into retirement after suffering injuries during shoots, after which no help comes forth from the filmmakers.

“The Kannada producers always want to compromise when it comes to the budget, they will spend on heroes only. There is no respect for the technicians in the industry. Everyone in the film unit will dance to the tunes of the hero and his wish is everyone’s command,” says Danny, who has worked in over 500 films.

The pathetic state of ‘fighters’ hired by the day is only because of the carelessness of producers, he says. Stuntmen, over the years, have jumped off tall buildings, helicopters, horses, jumped from cars, and any injury or accident is written off at the end of that shoot – they are packed off home with a pain-killer injection and a measly purse of Rs 2,000.

‘Fighters’ who risk their lives are today asking, is it all worth it? Often, they are bedridden with fractures for months together, and are never able to get back into the field as they suffer limps or other difficulties.

Danny recalls how one producer asked his stunt crew to fight in the clothes they were wearing, and refused to even offer them a fresh set of clothes after falling in a puddle after being hit by a ‘hero.’

Film fraternity unites

A leading actress, who spoke on condition of anonymity, says she never signs a film contract unless she reads the fineprint on safety standards. She recalls, “Once I was shooting in a JCB, the joystick of the JCB got stuck and I was left hanging for a while. Fortunately, I had safety belts so I didn’t suffer a fall.”

The film fraternity is now considering imposing a ban or boycott of the Stunts Director Ravi Verma, who planned Monday’s shoot that went awry.

The film fraternity in other States too is asking the one question on everyone’s mind – could this film have been shot without that live sequence off the helicopter?

Tamil Star Suriya tweeted, “Deeply saddened! At the age of VFX (sic) this is unfortunate! High time, safety of the crew is taken seriously! My condolences to the family members!”

Bollywood veteran Rishi Kapoor too weighed in on twitter: “RIP. Two stuntmen drown whilst filming a stunt from a chopper in a Kannada film. When VFX facilities available, then why endanger human lives?”

Kannada’s ‘Rebel Star’ Ambareesh echoed the thought, telling mediapersons on Tuesday that the film chamber will be discussing this incident in-depth. “With the technology available today, this shot was completely avoidable. In any case, you are picturising from so far away; it wouldn’t have mattered for the shot either.”

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