Mumbai, April 14 (IANS) From jumping cars to hanging from a skyscraper to sky diving, stunts in the Indian entertainment industry have come a long way. Stuntman Shailendra Singh Bisht's death in Greater Noida has once again put the spotlight on safety measures.
However, industry insiders say that showbiz in India has come a long way in relation to high-risk sequence. Be it adopting international norms, using trained body doubles, and calling in experts from abroad, a lot is being done.
Bisht, 30, was rappelling down a new, glass-walled mall in Greater Noida last week when he lost his grip on the rope after crossing more than half way to the bottom and fell to his death from a height of 40 feet.
Actor Vidyut Jamwal, who performed all action sequences in "Force" himself, told IANS, "We do have stunt masters on our sets. In my case, for 'Force', we must have rehearsed the action scenes for more than 10,000 times before rolling to avoid any consequences. We took eight days of training before going for the shot."
Actor Rahul Bose had a near fatal accident while shooting an aerial stunt for "Shourya" and Vivek Oberoi had a brush with death while filming a stunt in Kolkata for "Yuva". Till date people remember how Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachcan's accident on the sets of "Coolie" nearly killed him.
Though cent percent safety can never be guaranteed, producers try to resort to the services of Hollywood experts and give extra padding to those celebrities who do their own stunts.
Karan Malhotra, who directed the "Agneepath" remake, says Hrithik Roshan and Sanjay Dutt were more than willing to perform stunts for the movie, but they used doubles for a few scenes.
"For a few shots, we had stunt doubles who are lookalikes of the actors and professional stunt trainers," said Malhotra.
Even filmmaker Sanjay Gupta is using similar tricks for "Shootout At Wadala".
"A lot of stunt doubles and cables are being used for 'Shootout At Wadala," said Gupta.
"Usually, before we begin shooting, the production managers do their homework. They see to it that there are hospitals and doctors near the sets for emergency cases as it is not possible to have doctors on sets 24X7," he added.
When actors insist on performing stunts, body padding is used.
"Almost all the scenes in 'Agneepath' were done by Hrithik and Sanjay themselves. Many of the shots are done by the stars wearing wires and cables for safety, but those were removed from screen while editing. For both actors, a lot of precautions were taken using body padding," said Malhotra.
"Tezz" producer Ratan Jain roped in British stuntmen to shoot an action sequence starring Sameera Reddy.
"Besides the leading men, Sameera has also done a few action sequences. We called two well-experienced stuntmen from Britain to help.
"There's a particular scene in the film where Sameera is seen riding a bike. Some of those shots have been done by action masters to avoid any hassles," said Jain.
For live shows too, event organisers claim they try to ensure maximum safety for all artists.
According to officials at Wizcraft International Entertainment, complying with international safety standards is indispensable during any high risk act.
"We work quite a bit internationally so we are well aware of the US safety standards and follow the same in anything we do - be it theatre or live events," Viraf Sarkari, one of Wizcraft's three directors, told IANS.
"We make sure we use multiple combination locks to ensure utmost safety for all our performers," he added.
Wizcraft is known for organising large-scale shows like the annual International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) awards, and was the creative brain behind the opening ceremony of the fifth Indian Premier League (IPL) and the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony last year.
It also runs Bollywood musicals, involving aerial acts, at Gurgaon-based entertainment destination Kingdom of Dreams.
"With celebrities, we are concerned about hanging them in the air...so we check and double check the cables and the harness before putting the acts together.
"We make celebs practise enough before the show...sometimes they are required to do it 50 times as we don't want to compromise on their safety," added Sarkari.
International quality equipment, which is most often custom-made, is more expensive but worth it, says Sarkari.
"Of course, equipment is expensive, but that cost is not more important than our performer's life. You'd rather not do any aerial stunts than to save some money and risk anyone's life," he added.
(Uma Ramasubramaniam can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)