With the arrest of the crane operator who was responsible for the equipment that came crashing down on February 19 and took the lives of three crew members of Shankar’s Indian 2 on the outskirts of Chennai, the question of safety measures on movie sets has come up again. Apparently, director Shankar and leading man Kamal Haasan are likely to be called in for questioning soon.
While most of the Tamil film industry is silent on the issue of safety — or the lack of it — a young filmmaker admitted on condition of anonymity that safety rules are often flouted on film sets. “Everyone wants the scenes to be done quickly, so that they can go home. Yeah, rules are flouted. Nothing new about it,” he said.
Says director Raj Nidimoru, of the Raj-DK duo who directed Go Goan Gone and Stree, “The incident on the sets of Indian 2 was very unfortunate and horrific. Safety is not something that’s foremost in the minds of many... and there’s no value for life. Most of the things are done in a jugaad way. There are too many people doing too many things on the sets. Crowds of crew lead to a chaotic approach. A lot of process can be streamlined from the point of view of safety. This is where I feel the film bodies/unions come in. They need to sit together with producers and formulate rules and guidelines, keeping safety in mind. Every stunt is a risk. It’s about first creating a safe environment and getting the right people to do the right job in a place that has the right equipment. It’s not about winging it. It’s not about ‘Hojaayega... karlenge’.” Kamal Haasan has himself been a victim of several accidents on location, including 34 bone fractures.
Recalling his most serious injury, Kamal said, “In a Tamil film, Kaligan, I did an action scene in a subway. It was a relatively easy sequence. But a car sped up and hit me smack on my spine. I landed on top of the car. Then, when it halted, I went under the wheel. I dislocated my jaw, my nose was cracked and I had three fractures. I thought I’d never walk again. That’s when I made a comedy called Ladies Only — to feel better.”
Then again, for the Hindi comedy, Mumbai Express, Kamal Haasan was shooting with a child actor on a motor cycle when the vehicle turned turtle. To protect the child from injury, Kamal took the full brunt of the fall.