Twenty-four hours after the ‘stunt’ mishap that went horribly wrong during a film-shoot at a reservoir near Bengaluru, the families of these two actors are getting frantic with the lack of response and responsibility from the film producers.
Rescue officials and divers of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have been searching for the bodies of the actors since last night in the still waters of the Thippagondanahalli (TG Halli) reservoir, near Magadi about 50 kilometres from IT capital Bengaluru. The actors – Raghava Uday and Anil Kumar V – jumped off a helicopter along with lead actor 'Duniya' Vijay to shoot the climax scene of Kannada film Maastigudi.
The stunt was to be a one-of-its-kind stunt in Kannada cinema – but ended up as ‘The End,’ literally. While Vijay was rescued from the water by a coracle on stand-by, both Uday and Anil are seen in the footage flailing their arms in the water, shouting for help, before finally disappearing into the water. The engine of diesel boat nearby is unable to switch on, though people on it are trying to reach the duo.
The actors’ stunned families are wondering who will take responsibility for the obvious negligence and recklessness with which the shooting was taken up.
Uday’s sister Sudharani blames the hero, director, producer and the stunt director of the movie for snuffing out his life.
“Uday hasn’t done this to himself. He has been killed by this film crew. All of them knew he didn’t know swimming. Duniya Vijay, stunt director Ravi Verma – all of them knew it. Even if they had thrown down a rope from the helicopter (for him to hold on to, while waiting for the boat) when they realised there was a crisis, perhaps my brother would have lived today,” she told CNN News18’s Kannada affiliate ETV Kannada.
Well-built Uday was in his 30s and was a gentle human being, say his relatives and friends. He was apprehensive about plunging into the water and is seen in an interview just before the shooting, saying the stunt director promised him that “everything” is taken care of. The stunt director in this case – Ravi Verma – is said to have worked in over 300 films.
Both Uday and Anil had shared breakfast at Uday’s house just before they headed out for the shoot earlier Monday morning – telling families they would be back in a couple of hours as it was the last sequence they were wrapping up the movie. Both were excited to be part of this daredevil scene, involving a jump from a height of 100 feet.
Anil’s family has not spoken to the media, his wife and two children too shocked by the tragedy. He has been a close aide of ‘Duniya’ Vijay, having acted with him earlier.
Anil’s decade-old friend Raju is angry with the film crew. “How can they be so negligent about any stunt. The crew must be taken to task. The ignorance of the director has taken away two promising lives,” he says angrily.
Many in the film industry are also wondering how only the hero was given a life-vest, while the other two jumped with no safety gear – the shot required them to be wearing jeans and bare-chested, showing off their six-packs.
Award-winning multi-lingual actor Ramya (Divya Spandana) felt the actors should have perhaps put their foot down when they realised there was huge risk involved.
“This film industry is such that they invest on lavish sets, but forget to take care of minute but important things like safety measures. Kannada industry has always pushed the envelope to prove that we are not far behind (others) because we are constantly compared to other film industries. But the actors here should have put their foot down and refused to do the stunt without adequate safety measures. It is not worth taking such steps for a film. My heart goes out to their families.”
Questions remain not just about safety measures but about violation of approval norms. Officials of the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board, which maintains this reservoir with water about 70 feet deep, lodged a police complaint as their rules had been thrown to the winds by the film crew.
“We gave conditional approval after our team inspected the shooting area with the producers that morning. We told them no entry into prohibited zones, specially the main reservoir area where we know there is accumulated silt. Permission was given to shoot in the backwaters only. They did not heed our rules,” says Sarala Kumari, Board public relations officer.
In fact, silt and fishing nets stuck in the water impeded recovery efforts, with even professional drivers unable to go below 40 feet.
Filmstars like Shivarajkumar and Jaggesh visited the mishap site on Tuesday, which also attracted a large number of fans, on-lookers and locals. Police are finding it doubly difficult to keep the thousands of people at bay, away from the deep waters.