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ticketless travel? Karthi and Anushka run on top of a train in Alex Pandian  

The number of freak accidents involving stars who choose to do their own stunts is on the rise. In the last few years, stars like Ajith, Suriya, Vishal, and Dhanush have suffered many injuries while filming stunt sequences.

So, why do they put their bodies on the line? Most insiders say actors are keen to be identified with their onscreen image — that of a macho hero.

Vishal recently cut his fingers on an asbestos sheet while jumping off an overbridge during the filming of Poojai. He says actors today are under pressure to push the envelope and do something new every time. “It has been eight years since a double performed my stunts. The reason: I don’t want the stunts to look monotonous; they need to dazzle the audience, excite them. As an actor, I have to constantly raise the bar.”

Cinematographer Om Prakash has seen Ajith hurting his knee during the shooting of Arrambam and Dhanush twisting his ankle on the sets of Anegan. He says the audience is getting smart and can see through camera tricks. “Most actors are aware that audiences can figure out when a double is doing the shot. That’s why they want to do it themselves. It lifts the entire sequence.”

He explains that it’s not usually the dangerous sequences that result in accidents. “In Anegan, Dhanush had to run through a forest. Unfortunately, he had to jump over the track laid out for the camera and twisted his ankle. But, full marks to him, he continued with the shoot.”

Stunt Silva, who choreographed the dangerous sequences for Ajith’s Veeram, says, “There’s heavy competition. Older actors are being pushed by the younger ones, who do their own stunts.”

Why do actors ignore the risks? Social media consultant Arun Rajagopalan says it could be a marketing tool. “When an actor jumps from a bridge, it gets talked about. It’s good publicity.”

Until recently, the word of the stunt choreographer was final in matters of safety, but big stars seem to be calling the shots now. “Not really,” says Vishal, “I leave it to the stunt choreographer who knows what’s best. For instance, there’s a scene in Samar for which I had to get hit by a van. The foreign stunt master said I couldn’t do it and I didn’t.”

In S.P. Jhananathan’s Purampokku, Arya performs the risky stunt of running on top of a moving train. Says Jhananathan, “It was Arya’s decision. First we shot with a dupe, and then Arya did it himself. It was a risky stunt where he had to crouch between the compartments and then run on top of the train. It’s not new; actor Vijayakanth has done it before.”

Experienced filmmakers urge young actors to learn the art of performing stunts before trying them out. “A friend of mine, Babu, who even played the lead in En Uyir Thozhan, is now bedridden because of a stunt gone wrong,” says Jhananathan.

“Martial arts and stunt choreography are different,” says stunt master Pandian; “In cinema, it's about faking the punch. It is easier to punch than to fake it.” Pandian believes the buck stops with the stunt choreographer. “Young actors might want to do it because they get a kick out of the danger. But it’s the duty of the stunt master to explain the risks.”

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Printable version | Mar 8, 2021 3:47:59 PM |

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