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Stuntertainment: All about Ajay Devgn and Rohit Shetty’s stunt-studded lives

Published Jul 6, 2014, 10:26 am IST
Updated Mar 31, 2019, 9:05 pm IST
Most important thing is the shot that you capture, when people look at it, they should be like: ‘How did they do that?
Mumbai: Rohit Shetty, son of stuntman late M.B. Shetty, is today one of Bollywood’s few self-made men. But he has also taken his father’s legacy forward by turning himself into a brand known for designing high-octane action set pieces for his films. There’s however, more to him than flying debris and he is still easily offended even when casually asked, how many cars are you blowing up in your next? 
Rohit lost his father when he was a kid and doesn’t have many memories of him except being told that dad was a fun-loving man. Fondly called ‘Fighter Shetty’, his father was known to introduce special glasses in the industry for car crash sequences. Rohit, who ensures every safety trick in the book before a stunt, says, “The most important thing is the shot that you capture. When people look at it, they should be like: ‘How did they do that?’ It should shock the audience. That doesn’t mean you put the camera and the technician inside the vehicle. It’s how you cheat.”
His mentor and good friend, Ajay Devgn (the two together have been behind a series of blockbusters) also comes from a stuntman’s family. Son of action director Veeru Devgan, Ajay made a memorable debut, standing on two bikes in the 1991 flick, Phool Aur Kaante. Since then, it has been a series of stunning  stunts and awards in a career spread over two decades.
Ajay admits the lack of safety measures earlier led to a series of injuries at the start of his career. Do those still bother him? Ajay says, “Yes, there are few things you have to take care of... the old injuries we have when we did action sequences back then. I have put ice packs so when you are doing heavy-duty action, you just have to take precautions.”
Ajay adds that as a child it was scary watching his father, Veeru Devgan, doing all those daredevil stunts. But the actor claims that experience has helped him understand the detailing and the precaution one needs to take while performing stunts for the camera. 
“I’ve grown up watching my father perform those serious, and often dangerous, daredevil stunts. I’ve always looked up to him as a ‘hero’. I think more than being his profession, action was his passion. I’ve inherited my passion for action from my father. As a kid, whenever I was on his sets, I used to be extremely worried about his safety. It was also heartwarming to watch how he took care of his stuntmen and ensured they were safe. Today, my wife and parents have the same concern when they watch me perform my own stunts. I show my father some action scenes from my films. Good or bad, I always ask for his feedback.”
Today, things have completely changed with safety harnesses and other equipment drastically cutting down the risk factor, which an actor or a stuntman had to deal with earlier.  Says Rohit, “How you keep your safety in place is crucial. Also, one needs a lot of training before any stunt. Earlier, it was quite difficult. Today it’s a lot easier keeping the special effects in mind. For all my films, I have this approach.”
As an actor, safety becomes all the more crucial as any injury to the hero can delay projects for months. But thanks to cables, Ajay feels  action films have become smoother. “It has become a lot easier. Earlier, when I used to jump from a four-storey building, there were no safety cables. I’ve received a lot of injuries because of that. A person like me feels lazy to wear a cable and if I can do a scene without them, I will do it,” says Ajay. A statement that has been backed by years of experience. Ajay can’t pick any particular stunt that has been very challenging for him but says it can be very tiring. 
“We have been doing it for the past two decades. Action is very tiring. In fact, after three to four days of shooting action sequences, you wouldn’t feel like going on the sets. Every film... from Phool Aur Kante to Kache Dhage to Qayamat have had different kinds of stunts and it was tough doing them.” During the shooting of Rohit Shetty’s last blockbuster, Chennai Express, one of his stuntmen suffered burn injuries during the action sequences. 
He took the stuntman in his own car to the nearest hospital and cancelled the rest of the shoot. The director made sure he was by his side till he was out of danger, and the hospital. 
There are instances where these stuntmen, who risk their lives everyday to earn a living, are bedridden for months due to an accident on the sets. This cuts their income and they are left with practically no support. Today, the Fighter’s Association has set up new rules and secured their future if one of their members are bedridden after an accident. “We now have a rule in the Association that the daily pay of a stuntman will continue even if he meets with an accident. For example, a stuntman from my team had an accident a year ago and he will be at home for a year. So, he will be paid for 20 days every month, till he has recovered.”
Also, there is no specific training area in Mumbai where stuntmen can train themselves. But the new office, where Rohit recently set up his production house, has an area the size of a basketball court. Every evening, stuntmen gather and train for a couple of hours in groups as that practice can keep them always ready to earn a livelihood.
So, with age catching up, how does Ajay still manage? With a smile, he adds, “I am 45 years old. But it’s all fine if you keep yourself fit and maintain your health.”