In at least a hundred movies, ‘Besant' Ravi has done somersaults on the roof of speeding trains and expertly jumped off cliffs and high-rise buildings chasing heroes. The gravity-defying scenes of the stunt artist-turned-actor propelled the success of many action movies. He talks to S. Aishwarya about his career, risks involved in the stunts and the impact of fight sequences on the success of films.
From a silent observer of film shoots to an actor playing sinister roles, ‘Besant' Ravi climbed up his career ladder in the industry swiftly to become an integral part of many acclaimed action sequences. In ‘Mudalvan,' he risked his life for a fight sequence with actor Arjun on Anna Salai.
“We were fighting on top of a bus that was moving at an extremely fast pace. We escaped a terrible accident when the bus passed under a huge signage that hung very low. Arjun pulled me down and we ducked at the last moment to save our lives,” he recalls. Such instances are not one-off affair in lives of a ‘fighter,' he says, as he steers the talk towards his transformation as an actor. “I grew up watching film shootings near my house in Besant Nagar. Every day, I used to walk down the lane and gaze at the shoots for hours. That was part of my life's routine and I soon became familiar with the artists and technicians on the sets.” For someone who had it easy to gain entry through such contacts in the industry, Ravi had to confront a predicament when it came to choosing his career. “I wanted to join as an actor, but I was good at martial arts and boxing. People told me it is easy to get fight roles for someone like me. I joined classes under Pandiyan master.” Only when fight master Pandiyan trained him for film fights did he realise that film fights are a different ballgame altogether. “It is not just about kicks and punches. We need to react in sync when we are hit. Even a second's lag would reflect badly on camera.”
As one who has performed in some of the longest fight sequences in Tamil films, he says a sequence would be gripping only if it lasts for three to four minutes. “It takes three to 20 days to shoot such three-minute sequences. Retakes can be very taxing in stunt scenes. It is all about working hard and paying rapt attention to the stunt master's instructions.”
His initial career made him accustomed to daily doses of accidents and injuries. With experience, he learnt to do fight sequences without hurting himself. He credits film industry for the improving safety measures for fighters and actors. “Accidents have greatly come down. Mishaps do occur but fatality has been largely prevented.” Films such as ‘Sokka Thangam,' ‘Parthaen Rasithaen,' and more recently, ‘Singam' and ‘Pen Singam' have helped him tune his acting skills. “[To-be-released] ‘Ponnar Shankar,' especially, will be a milestone in my career,” says the actor, who was told by actor Thyagarajan that Chief Minister M.Karunanidhi admired his performance in the film. On providing insurance for fighters and compensations for victims of accidents during shoots, the actor says the Stunt Union has been instrumental in supporting the artists and lobbying in case of any issue.