Veeru Devgan, Bollywood’s favourite stuntman
Film industry remembers Veeru Devgan as an innovative artiste
With legs split across two parallel motorbikes, Ajay Devgn’s entry onscreen in his debut film, Phool Aur Kaante is widely regarded as one of the most memorable scenes in the actor’s career. The credit goes to his father Veeru Devgan, a veteran stunt director, who worked in over 80 Hindi films, including Phool Aur Kaante.
“For stars like Dharmendraji and Jeetendraji, their only condition used to be we want stunts to be done by Veeru Devgan,” says filmmaker Sanjay Gupta, who worked with Devgan as an assistant director in Shehzaade. Devgan also did stunts for veteran actors like Dilip Kumar, Vinod Khanna and Rajesh Khanna.
“He always encouraged young people on sets and we never saw him stressed, even while performing stunts,” recalls Mr. Gupta.
He began his career in the mid-70s and worked in films like Mr. Natwarlal (1979), Mr. India (1987), Shahenshah (1988) and Tridev (1989). He also dabbled in acting in films like Kranti (1981) and made his directorial debut with Hindustan Ki Kasam (1999). “He was ahead of his time, innovative with action and ruled the scene from mid 70s to 90s,” says stunt director and actor Vicky Kaushal’s father, Sham Kaushal. He says “It is a personal loss because he made me a stuntman and signed my application. When I told him I wanted to be a stuntman, he told me you are M.A. educated so think about it again. But then he was very supportive and taught me all the skills to be a stuntman.”
Devgan came to Mumbai from Amritsar to pursue a career in the Hindi film industry. “An uneducated man who comes from a village and learns the tricks of action is an amazing journey,” says Mr. Kaushal.
While stunts today have evolved with an advancement of technology and CGI, Devgan belonged to a generation of stuntmen who performed risky action sequences, some of which have become landmark moments in Hindi cinema. “We can easily call him the greatest stunt director. There’s nobody after Veeruji who the entire industry liked so much,” says Mr. Gupta.