Kanal Kannan’s Telugu may be a bit shaky but he speaks it with great confidence. He terms both Chennai and Hyderabad his hometowns as he shuttles between both cities frequently.
After a debut as a fight master in Cheran Pandyan produced by RB Chowdary and directed by K S Ravikumar, Kanal Kannan worked in around 400 films. A native of Kanyakumari, he moved to Chennai along with his brother, in search of work.
He had been practising gymnastics since childhood, and as he watched gymnasts at work in Chennai, he was spotted by one of them and asked if he would be interested in becoming a fight master. Tha was a decision that changed his life. “I was 18 years old then and there was a huge age gap between me and the other fight masters. I worked under the stewardship of Rambo Rajkumar who encouraged me.”
Kannan has worked in Telugu, Kannada, Hindi, Tamil and Malyalam movie industries. He also worked in two Hollywood films First Fear and a French film .
Several eputed fight masters like Peter Hein, Stunt Siva, Ram Lakshman, Anal Arasu, K Ganesh Kumar and others have worked as his assistants. “Timing and perfection in work is a must. We have plenty of fighters and our fight master association has become famous through Bahubali . All the fight masters from the film are from here. The Hyderabad stunt fighters, AP stunt masters have made us famous.”
His tryst with Telugu industry wasnt smooth initially. He recalls, “Producer RB Chowdary offered me a film and then I worked in Aranmanai Kili which was remade as Maa Voori Maaraju . Kodi Ramakrishna who directed the Telugu version was not convinced I could handle it, so I lost the opportunity to work in Telugu. Since I had worked in Nattamai , Rajinikant recommended me for Pedarayudu, its remake in Telugu. I was taken but ousted immediately. Since I lost out twice, I decided to focus on Tamil cinema .”
Stung at being removed from Pedarayudu , he declined a subsequent offer of composing fights for Mohan Babu’s Adivi Lo Anna . However he took up Hitler around the same time and went onto work on several big banner movies in Telugu.
Talking about the risks involved in choreographing stunts in contemporary movies, he says, “Earlier it was difficult but now graphics dominate; if there is CG, the risk is reduced by 70 %. Earlier we would perform stunts live — breaking tables, jumping from a height and smashing glass panes. A hero would jump from the 14th floor but now it is not necessary. Those days there was no insurance but now the stunt masters association takes care of everybody. A few years ago when a few fight masters died, we collected money for their families, there wasn’t any insurance.”
He says the audience has turned very smart, they observe all the fights in Hollywood films and when they watch our stories they are not satisfied. The pressure is on them to give something different, new. “Everyday I see a film and update myself. I work out hard even when there is no shoot . Everyone says eating rice makes one fat but I believe that you can eat anything but in moderate doses. Don’t deprive yourself of food.”