KALA KRISHNAN RAMESH
As a mechanic he would never have been able to smash and crash all those cars and bikes. But this most sought after stunt master of South Indian films, Jolly Bastin, who has some 400-odd films in his kitty, has been able to do all this and more on the silver screen
I slowly want to quit because of the tension, the risk and because after your 30s, the enthusiasm is gone. You want to slow down Jolly Bastin
"I can't afford to buy a car and do all this; now I can crash them, I can twist them, bend them, break them, and I can even fly a car if I want."This is Jolly Bastin, one of south India's most sought after stunt masters, who's done over 400 films, a 100 of them as stunt master, in Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam. He's worked with directors like Dinesh Babu, Muthyala Subbaiah, Krishna Vamsi, Jairaj, Guruprasad, and now Ram Gopal Varma in Shock. He's talking about the good parts of the trade, having just finished saying: "I slowly want to quit, because of the tension, the risk and because after your 20s and 30s, the enthusiasm is gone, you want to slow down. Also, I don't want to put my family through all this the tension."
Jolly started completely by chance. He was a stunt man in Ravichandran's Premaloka (coincidentally, Ravichandran's Putnanja was his first film as stunt master), after the star's physical trainer, Murthy saw him doing wheelies on his bike.When Murthy asked him to do stunts for Ravichandran, Jolly readily agreed, because "it was a question of survival". People discouraged him from going into film stunts, but Jolly held on through long hours, rough work, no rules, bad remuneration and it eventually paid off. "Now I can name my price because people know that I am one of the best for vehicle stunts."As a stunt master, Jolly comes with an advantage for producers, because not only can he drive and do stunts with any vehicle, including bullock carts and trucks, but he's also an ace mechanic and works on the engines himself. Once the narration and approval are over, Jolly gets a group together; he plans the scenes down to the minutest details, and uses a storyboard for all scenes. There have never been accidents, deaths or failure on any of his sets.
Photographs of wrecked cars, trucks, bikes, lorries, makes me comment on the colossal waste, but Jolly assures me that "there are people who come to the movies just for the stunts, they watch the stunts like you watch the storyline or acting and they can tell if something is a repeat, or copied, or not well done. We have to find new things all the time."In the south, Telugu films spend lavishly on stunts, sometimes going as high as Rs. 30 to 35 lakhs for a film, like in Krishna Vamsi's Danger.Jolly's always on the look out for interesting ideas, which he notes down because "I like to adapt my stunts to daily situations"; He watches films every day — his favourite stunts are those of Chiranjeevi, Jackie Chan, Van Damme, John Wu and Stunt Master Thyagarajan. Jolly has worked with most of our well-known stars including Ravichandran, Vishnuvardhan, Shankar Nag, Ananth Nag, Chiranjeevi, Mohanlal, Shruthi, Roja, Meena, Vijayashanthi, the list can go on. He's worked in hit films like Annaiah, Vandanam, Premaloka, and Danger; Jaggesh's 100th film Mata, has stunts directed by Jolly.Screeching breaks, overturning cars and crashing bikes are one profession, Jolly also belongs to Gaana Tharanga Melodies, a professional music troupe, in which he sings in several languages.
There's something about Jolly, something a lot more than the sum of parts, from the moment you meet him, you're trying to grasp it. I finally get it as he's explaining that he kept his old garage going because he "can't forget the old trade, can't forget the way I came up." He's a peculiar mix of humility and self-knowledge. Only a master stunt artist could pull that off day after day.