Being finicky about safety means fewer opportunities

Stunt artists sign up for risk but does that make their lives dispensableImage for representation, smswigart/ Flickr
news Artists Tuesday, November 08, 2016 - 19:50

The deaths of two actors in a helicopter stunt in Karnataka has raised questions about their safety during stunts. However, it is lesser known that industry people who specialize in performing stunts and also actors who are made to do stunts work is poor conditions. 

On Monday afternoon, the two actors Anil and Uday, who were shooting for the movie 'Maastigudi', jumped from a helicopter into the Thippagondanahalli reservoir, which is a drinking water source. 

The scene in which three actors, including Anil and Uday, jumped from the helicopter was touted to be the first of its kind in Kannada cinema. 

According to industry stunt performers, safety precautions such as life jackets, boats on standby, should have been in place. 

What has compounded the magnitude of the tragedy, is that both actors said that they could not really swim. 

While many condemn the film’s crew decision, stuntmen who spoke to The News Minute said taking the ‘leap’ was the way of the profession if a struggling actor had to be in demands.

Narayan Swamy, who has played negative roles in Sandalwood, told The News Minute that increasing competition pushes actors to take the risk. 

Thirty-seven-year-old Narayan Swamy is Anil’s neighbour and has known him for over 20 years. 

“Landing a villainous role itself is difficult. To keep them coming, actors are pushed to take the ‘leap’. This is no way similar to how it works with actors who play heroic roles. For villains, maintaining a body and appearance sprinkled with machoism, has become a must to portray the (negative) character according to contemporary industry demand,” said Swamy.

Narayan said that at 38-years, Anil was at a very critical point in his career. 

“Even though both of them were regarded as promising actors, to climb up the ladder, it was important for them to take some risks, and spend invest in shaping and grooming. In fact, Anil built a personal gym so that he could work out alone. Uday who is also a friend, spent a lot of time training. They might have not worn a shirt and a life jacket because they wanted to show their abs,” he said.  

If the stunt had been a success, people would have clapped and appreciated it up on the film’s release, with no idea of what the extent of risk was, he said. 

Renowned artist and stuntman, Besant Ravi said, “Every stuntman should have accident insurance. If the stuntman is a part of a union, they ensure everything is in place. However, unlike in other professions, stuntmen don’t get health insurance that easily.” 

But insurance is only one part of it. At work, a stuntman should be open to anything.

In fact, Ravi told The News Minute that in his career so far he never asked the producers whether they had the required approvals and permissions. 

“If a stuntman turns out to be finicky about things like permissions, dangers, precautions and safety, etc., the director will think twice before him calling for his next film,” he said.

Ravi said that anything could be done with technological advancements and extensive video editing options available at this time.

“Editing a lifejacket and masking it with the actor’s six-pack abs or erasing a 50m harness off the video would have just cost a little extra and could have avoided this accident,” he said. 

Even as he says this, Ravi emphasises that a stuntman’s lifespan in the industry is short and depends on the extent of risk he or she is ready to take.

“By the time a stuntman reaches 45 years of age, he or she starts experiencing some or the other kind of weakness. The reason is obvious; they are constantly risking their lives and invariably being injured,” Ravi said. 

Fighter and artist Niranjan, who has done several films in Sandalwood, says that stuntmen, and stuntmen-turned-artists are considered to be in the lower rungs in the film industry associations. 

“It would be nice if they took our safety seriously. Once we get out of our house we don’t know whether we will return. 

He says that the film actors’ association does not take their concerns into consideration, Niranjan says.



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