Risking their lives to make a living

Arduous: Stunt artists practise on YMCA Ground, Nandanam.

Arduous: Stunt artists practise on YMCA Ground, Nandanam.   | Photo Credit: — Photo: B.Jothi Ramalingam

S. Aishwarya

CHENNAI: We see them do somersault in dizzying speeds, leaping from tall buildings and driving cars off the mountain cliffs in movies. Yet, their names are not known and faces alien to audience, who cheer the good-over-evil deeds of the macho male leads.

Risking their lives almost every day, stunt artists get hard-hitting blows on screen from the heroes to bring out thrilling sequences in the movies. But, the post-shoot days for the stuntmen are painful, quite literally.

Even as the masses watch the edge-of-the-seat action scenes, many stuntmen involved in the movie will be battling injuries. “Our schedule is quite erratic. We will be engaged for a fortnight and suddenly left jobless for months together,” says ‘Power’ Pandiyan, a stunt master who shapes up scores of stunt artists for movies and trains heroes in fight nuances.

To keep their body fit to perform daredevil acts, the fighters toil it out hard every morning by practicing silambam, acrobatics and few stunt actions. “We will be under constant fear of injury and fatality before our shoot. There is no foolproof method to save our lives. When we return home unhurt, we call it a lucky day,” says V.P. Kandhan, who has been performing car stunts for over two decades. With a spinal injury that is bothering him for five years, Kandhan now has to combat a jaw injury, in which he lost all his teeth. “Our work continues well past midnight. Passion apart, we do the actions with a hope of making a good living.”

But the road to it is arduous and sometimes, unattainable. The stuntmen, on an average, are paid Rs.1,000 a day. “But only the busiest of the lot get to work for 15 days a month. Rest of them hardly get a week’s work,” rues ‘Besant Nagar’ Ravi, who has been acting as villain in handful of movies.

Despite the South Indian Cine Stunt Directors and Artists Union offering financial support to deprived artists, education and health of their family members bear the brunt. “Even our meagre savings are watered down when we are left jobless for months owing to injuries. We are, no doubt, driven by passion. But good safety measures and financial support can save us and our families,” says Pandiyan, who is also vice-president of the union.

After a day of kicks, punches and jumps, the stuntmen make sure they get the right food and long hours of sleep.

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