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A helicopter action chase sequence went horribly wrong after two actors reportedly lost their lives after failing to emerge from the waters of a lake they jumped into from the chopper while filming the climax of Kannada movie, Masthi Gudi. The incident puts the spotlight the great risks encountered by stuntmen even in today’s times while performing a high-octane action in films. We spoke to a few action directors to know if safety comes first in Bollywood.
Shyam Kaushal, stunt director:
It’s a very tragic incident. It’s difficult to say what went wrong there without knowing the facts of the case. While jumping into water, one has to be careful about landing in such a way that the impact on your body is minimal. If you don’t land properly and the water impacts you at the wrong angle, you can get disoriented. That’s dangerous because you will then not be able to rise to the surface immediately and swim to safety. In this case, one needs to see if the error was technical or human that caused this tragedy. It pains to see stuntmen losing their lives. In Bollywood, safety comes first for us. Every safety precaution is taken care of before performing any risky stunts. From ambulance to doctors, we have everything on sets to take care of any mishaps that could occur.
Aejaz Gulab, stunt director:
Safety is of prime importance to us before performing any stunts. While jumping into water from a height we take into consideration many factors like the level of the water, the current, the flow, the spot where we will be landing and the safety equipment we will be wearing. If you’re jumping directly into the water, then we make sure our stuntmen are wearing safety vests, floating equipment, pads on chest and thighs to protect them from the hard impact. We have ambulance and speedboats on standby. No stunt is absolutely safe as there is always an element of risk involved. That’s why all kinds of precautions need to be taken. In this case, I don’t know if it was due to the lack of precautions or something else that cause the tragedy. No actor takes any risk while performing stunts. It’s the stuntmen who puts themselves at great risks and that is why it becomes important to take full measures to ensure their safety.
Geeta Tandon, stuntwoman:
There are two things that are important while performing a stunt- safety and luck. From what I’ve seen in the video, it looks like there was no boat nearby to come and pick them after the jump. While jumping into water from a helicopter or a height, first and foremost you need to have is a boat nearby so that after the jump you are pulled to safety. It is only then that your next shot is filmed. If not a boat, there should have been a rope thrown in from the helicopter for them to hold on to till they are pulled to safety. If neither, at least a life jacket should have been worn to keep them afloat. From what I have seen, it looks like a case of gross negligence. I also hear that they were not expert swimmers. Why use amateurs for such stunts? I have been in the industry for 10 years now and I have done a lot of for high-risk stunts but safety is always taken care of. I don’t know on whose mistake it was in this case. Were the producers trying to cut costs by not having safety measures in place? And how can the artistes themselves take it so lightly when they know there is a huge element of risk involved and safety is not up to the mark.
Abhinay Deo, whose upcoming film Force 2 has some death-defying stunts, says, “It’s tragic news and my condolences to the families of the stuntmen. As a director, the safety of all those present on my sets while filming an action sequence is my prime concern. We do have ambulances, doctors on call while shooting such scenes. Despite the best efforts sometimes accidents can happen. John Abraham was injured while performing an action sequence in Force 2. Accidents can occur but we never disregard the safety of actors or stuntmen.