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No STUNT this

Even stuntmen must be recognised at the national level, says veteran stunt master `Super' Subbarayan

HE HAS worked with all the leading heroes of Tamil cinema and some of the most exciting action-packed films bear his stamp. `Super' Subbarayan has been in the industry for 28 years and is quite frank when it comes to discussing things close to his heart.

Because of his hectic work schedule, he is in deep slumber when we meet him during the Jee (featuring Ajit) shoot. But, he soon settles down for an interview. "I wanted to become a Tamil teacher," he tells you without batting an eyelid. But that never happened. His interest in martial arts finally landed him in tinsel town.

`Super' Master (as he is referred to in cinema circles), who has done stunts for more than 100 movies in all the four South Indian languages, says that he has always loved taking risks. "At school, I used to take part in high jump and long jump, using unconventional techniques. I didn't know that they were risky," he recalls.

Coming to stunts, he says: "Technical improvements and graphics have helped us. People watch a lot of Hollywood and Japanese movies and want something similar."

Ask him about the risks associated with the profession and his most challenging scene, and he says with a smile, "In every profession, there is risk. Doing a stunt scene is in itself a big challenge. A lot of imagination goes into fight sequences. Doing stunts is a team effort where the co-operation of the main artistes plays a vital role."

Have fast fight sequences changed the concept of stunts in Tamil cinema? "However fast the sequences are, they should suit the situation. The sequence has to be powerful. Only then will it work," he points out.

Conceptualising scenes for action heroes who have a style of their own is not very difficult, he feels. "Action heroes have longer staying power. They pay a lot of attention to fight scenes. I ensure that their style doesn't get diluted. However, they are open to suggestions and changes."

Stunt artistes have come to be associated with the mugamilla veerargal (faceless fighters) tag and recognition is hard to come by. Does it hurt? "Unlike in the past, stunt artistes have a lot of exposure. In Hollywood, they even give awards for risky shots. But here, there is no award for stunt at the national level," he rues. "If you can have awards for choreography and make-up, why not for stunts?" "There was a time when an artiste had to jump down 20 feet with just `vaikkol' (dried grass) below and when no cannons were used for `flying car' shots. There was also no insurance cover for stuntmen. Now, you can subscribe to group insurance schemes through the stuntmen union. Stuntmen knowingly take risks. But, they can get injured if their judgement or timing goes wrong. Even a great fighter can fracture his wrist while breaking glass or hurt his knee during a motorbike scene," he points out.

Do stunt masters innovate? How long do they practise?

"The basics are the same. But the fights should be based on our traditional martial arts. Only then will people like them," says this stunt master, adding that his group practises every day to keep fit.


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