“Lights, camera, action!” A fire rages on the sets. The scene is set around it. But, despite precautions, something goes horribly wrong and the actress is trapped behind the wall of fire. Her co-star, the hero, rushes in and rescues her. This really happened on the sets of Mother India (1957). Nargis was trapped and Sunil Dutt braved the fire to get her out to safety and suffered cuts and facial burns as he did so.
Sometimes things do not go according to plan and accidents happen. Like the shot where Shammi Kapoor’s swing of the fist caught Pran flush on his cheek. They were shooting for Tumsa Nahin Dekha (1959). While Pran got away perhaps with just a bruise, there were more serious consequences during the shoot of Jung-e-Azaadi (1942) when Bhagwan Dada’s slap landed hard on Lalita Pawar’s left eye and left her with facial paralysis. She was out of action for three years and could never play the heroine again.
Some actors have been in accidents not once but twice in the same film. During the shooting of Khotay Sikkay (1974), Feroze Khan’s foot hit actor Ajit on his eye as the latter did not duck quickly enough. Shooting was cancelled. When it resumed a month later, the same shot was taken – and guess what? Feroze Khan’s foot again hit Ajit in the face!
More recently, Kangana Ranaut jumped off a 40-feet wall and landed awkwardly tearing a ligament in her leg. This was on the sets of Manikarnika (2019) in Jodhpur, Kangana. Earlier, shooting for the same film in Hyderabad, she got hit between her eyebrows with a sword wielded by actor Nihar Pandya in a fight sequence. She got 15 stitches on her forehead.
Akshay Kumar, known to do his own stunts and no stranger to injuries, hurt his ribs during the shooting of his upcoming Kesari (2019) due for release in Holi.
In the iconic Sholay (1975), as Gabbar’s men chased Basanti on her tanga, they were actually chasing Reshma Pathan, Hema Malini’s body double. The tanga dashed against a rock and Reshma’s legs hit an iron rod and she passed out. Said Reshma Pathan in an interview with Upneet Pansare for Femina in 2013,“I was the sole breadwinner in my family—that thought kept me going. Also, I had to pay the rent.” Reshma was back on the sets after being hospitalized for two days.
No mention of accidents-on-the-sets is complete without mentioning the one Amitabh Bachchan had on the sets of Coolie (1982). Punit Issar’s right fist pounded into Bachchan’s lower abdomen in a fight sequence and for weeks Amitabh battled for his life at Breach Candy Hospital. The public prayed. The industry was frightened. Amitabh Bachchan was a one-man-industry and he was in the ICU! Poor Punit Issar was turned into a real villain by the media for something that was clearly an accident.
Amitabh called a guilt-ridden Punit to the Hospital and put an arm round him, urging him to ignore the media. “It wasn’t your fault at all,” he told Punit, recounting how he himself felt when a glass he had chucked at Vinod Khanna at the shoot of Muqaddar ka Sikandar hit Vinod on his chin and he had to be stiched up. Recalls Issar in an interview, “That day at Breach Candy, Mr. Bachchan stood up, walked with me till the door. The media was standing outside. Mr. Bachchan still had his arm round my shoulder. He was making a statement to the media - ‘It wasn’t Punit’s fault. I am with him.’