Meet ‘Gun’ Naveen, an ‘arms dealer’ for the movies

It was just another day at work for Naveen Raj, or as he is known in film circles, ‘Gun’ Naveen. Between phone calls, he found time to flip through news channels when a particularly disturbing news item came to his attention. A police officer was being interviewed after he had recovered a time bomb from a temple in Kumbakonam, with the panic-stricken officer citing religious violence or terrorism as probable causes.

Rattled at first, Naveen slyly looked through his work diary, in which he lists what his assistants are up to. He calls up one of them and his hunch is proven right. “Sorry sir,” said the assistant as he picked up. “I forgot to bring back one of our time bombs after shooting in Kumbakonam,” he confessed, frantically.

Meet ‘Gun’ Naveen, an ‘arms dealer’ for the movies

A dozen phone calls and “a lot of explaining” later, Naveen managed to pacify the pandemonium he had inadvertently caused. “It’s an occupational hazard when you’re dealing with dummies,” he cracks up.

Naveen is in the ‘special effects’ business of cinema, which is also referred to as ‘dummy effects’. A guns and explosives specialist, he has been in the trade for more than 20 years with his work featuring in over 200 movies in all four South Indian languages.

Son of a gun

But for Naveen, it is as much a family tradition as it is a career. His father ‘Gun’ Raj (also what the nameboard of their house says) was a licensed gun holder and got into the business in the 1960s when real guns and real bullets were used for film shoots. “He was one of the pioneers even though he was a mechanical engineer. He began by renting out his original licensed guns, but as demand soared, he started making prop guns by copying the real ones. A lot more action films had started coming up and naturally, our business flourished,” says Naveen.

But times were simpler and so were the guns, he remembers. “There were just two types back then,” he says, “Single or double barrels for the dacoits and revolvers for police officers,” adding how he had to innovate to add bombs, grenades, holsters, metal detectors, rocket launchers and machine guns to his arsenal.

Meet ‘Gun’ Naveen, an ‘arms dealer’ for the movies

“Older directors were happy to use whichever guns we gave them. But directors today are more aware and come to us with Google images of the exact gun they want to use. It’s even a part of the script sometimes. It has to be authentic, especially for close-ups.”

As a result, a single gun can take up to a month to make with constant coordination between welders, carpenters and specialists who focus on the minute details. “Even the way bullets eject from the gun needs to be right. With so many foreign movies and video games, a 10-year-old can tell apart a Glock from a Beretta.”

Trigger happy

His company operates on a daily rental basis with assistants travelling with the props to film shoots. Over the years, the company has grown to manufacture hundreds of rifles, dozens of AK-47s and pistols of every type imaginable. But when a pistol proves too difficult to make, “we import them from foreign gun manufacturers who make dummies for training and exhibition purposes.”

Meet ‘Gun’ Naveen, an ‘arms dealer’ for the movies

But explosives are a different game altogether. “It requires a lot more time to plan and it is all about safety. Accidents are a part of the game but we have to try to avoid them at all stages. We recently tried shooting an action scene with minimal explosions, thinking we could recreate it in post production. Be it reacting to gun shots or the fire, actors were simply not able to perform. We had to re-shoot it the real way.”

Into the second generation, he wonders if his two sons, who also share his love, will take over the family business.

But things are looking up, “Our heroes start off in love stories but they need to do action movies to climb the ladder of stardom. As long as that’s the case, we will have work to do.”


Our code of editorial values

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Jan 15, 2022 9:07:10 AM |

Next Story