The death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injury to director Joel D Souza in a freak accident when a prop gun went off in veteran actor Alec Baldwin’s hands has left the world in shock. But did you know that accidents on the sets of Bollywood movies are commonplace?
While actors often get injured when doing action or other sequences, there have been many deaths on the sets of stuntmen and other workers, which go unnoticed at times.
During the sets of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s 2002-film Devdas, two workers were accidentally sucked into the storm fan. Shooting was again thrown out of gear, when one person’s face was totally disfigured and another received such a severe blow on his head that he lost his mental equilibrium. Death struck again on the sets of the film when a light-man working on the sets of the film at Filmistan, Goregaon, fell and died instantly. Producer–director Sanjay Leela Bhansali had to bear all the expenses as the duo was not registered under the Movie Action Dummy Effects Association (MADEA).
Then, Shah Rukh Khan was shooting a scene for the film, when a window he was seated at fell on his hand, causing blood to ooze out. Later, when he was shooting for another scene, in which he was to play like he was in a state of drunken stupor, he ended up breaking the glass in his hands. The glass went right through the palms of his hand, and there was blood gushing all over once again.
Real-life accidents on the sets
Ravi Dewan, the action–director of films like the 1984-film Mashaal, 1990-film The Sword of Tipu Sultan and the 2013-film Jodha Akbar, says that accidents are a part of the job, something he suffered too. “These are human errors, just as one of those that happened to me at the shoot of Anil Kapoor and Vijay Shanti’s 1992-film Apradhi. A knife placed on a bazooka misfired by the man operating it, and the knife went into my stomach. I was saved after much effort. But it was an accident. You cannot stop it,” he adds matter-of-factly.
Filmmaker Sabbir Khan, who has worked with the likes of Sylvester Stallone in the 2009-film Kambakkht Ishq, says that it’s important to have a safety-director. “We have to take care of the safety of everyone on set,” he reasons. Filmmaker Sanjay Gupta, however, opines that filmmakers should not try to save money all the time. “Safety precautions need to be taken on many sets. It is being done on some shoots, but others really are trying to save money,” he adds.
And Dewan agrees. “Indeed. Filmmakers try to save money and they don’t listen to Indian stunt masters. They’ll listen to a foreigner and spend money not only on them but also on everything they ask for,” he says. That being said, even Dewan doesn’t think a safety director would really make much of a difference if it’s an accident.
“I remember I’d told a Hollywood guy Scott not to mount a camera on a raft when we were abroad shooting for the 2003-Suneil Shetty and Aishwarya Rai-film Hum Panchhi Ek Daal Ke. But he didn’t listen to me and the camera fell down and was never found again! That is where you need safety directors to come and insist on how it has to be done. No one listened to me because I was Indian,” protests Dewan.
During the shoot of Indian 2 last year, three technicians died when a massive crane crashed, even as actor Kamal Haasan, Kajal Aggarwal and director Shanmugam Shankar escaped.
On the sets of Khakee in 2004, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan fractured her foot after she was hit by a jeep, which was to stop just away from her. She was seriously hurt after being thrown in the bushes.
In 2013, during the filming of Shootout at Wadala, Anil Kapoor fired a blank bullet at John Abraham from 4.9 feet away instead of the previously planned 15 feet, and John got hurt in his neck.
No one can forget Amitabh Bachchan’s near-fatal accident on the sets of Coolie, which happened in 1983 in Mysore.
Sunil Dutt saved Nargis when a fire broke out on the set of their film, Mother India in 1960. Dutt was seriously burnt.
In one of the biggest tragedies on sets, actor and filmmaker Sanjay Khan was hospitalised and had to undergo multiple surgeries for a year after a massive fire erupted on the sets of The Sword of Tipu Sultan in 1989 in Mysore, killing 62 people.
During the filming of Mani Rathnam’s 2004-film Yuva, Vivek Oberoi also got injured when his bike skidded on a bridge they were shooting on. He fractured his leg and had a death threatening blood clot, which was finally brought under control.
Mahima Chaudhary’s career as an actress was as good as over when a piece of glass crashed on her face on the sets of the 1999-film Dil Kya Kare and only producer Ajay Devgn supported her even as director Prakash Jha insisted that she continue her shoot