Actor Akshay Kumar would rather call himself a stuntman than a superstar and true enough his backside-kicking daredevil stunts have earned him the moniker Khiladi Kumar.
Now, Akshay is championing the cause of stuntmen in the film industry. And the sudden death of international stunt coordinator Scott Cosgrove, with whom Akshay was supposed to work with in his next film, has affected the actor greatly. In fact, the star has penned an open letter campaigning for an award category for stuntpersons.
Akki feels that “stuntmen who put their lives at risk for the actors and for the film don’t even have as much as a category in any award function. There is an award for those who create the background music, but these guys who are breathing thrill in the film are probably the most neglected. They are the real champs”.
In support of stuntbuddies: Akshay Kumar pens an open letter
To all the stuntmen and women out there, I just heard another great international stuntman, who has actually worked in my own industry, and was going to come and train with me has sadly passed away. I not only believe you all should be winning Oscars or Indian awards for your incredible work, in my eyes, you should also be acknowledged globally for saving our lives and the credibility of our films. It pains me, because I know the one expert that an actor/actress can’t live without, during their shoot, is their stuntbuddy. Hadn’t it been for your unbelievable hard work and amazing talent that make our movies look good and help us earn so much, we would be mourning the death of so many actors/actresses.
Instead, the stunt community is quietly mourning the ones they’ve lost, be it by accident, injury or fatality on the sets of award-winning films over the years. I know winning an award still isn’t enough for what you all painfully go through for these million-dollar projects, but it would be a small start. Sadly, the fraternity is barely even honouring you with that. I just want you to know, coming from a stuntman/actor like myself, I admire, respect, honour and am eternally grateful for everything that you all do. My children still have their father in one piece because there is always someone prepared to take the fall that I may not be able to. To all the stuntmen and women I have ever worked alongside, around the world, you are always in my and my family’s prayers. You deserve so much more than just a wage packet, and I hope I live long enough to see a change in that. I know that in my 25-yearlong career nothing much has changed! But it will, and I will try and make sure of that... Till then Thank You and take great care. Good luck with the fight for your rights... RIP to all those who have lost their lives.
Love & Prayers
AK the Actor/AK the stuntman...
Watch: Akshay Kumar doing his own stunts for Rowdy Rathore
The West is yet to be won: Jason Statham espouses stuntmen’s cause
In the West, Hollywood star Jason Statham has long advocated a category for stuntpersons in Oscars. “All of the stunt men — these are the unsung heroes. They really are. Nobody is giving them any credibility. They’re risking their necks. And then you’ve got poncy actors pretending like they’re doing (the stunts),” Statham was quoted as saying.
Bollywood wants stuntpersons awarded too
Many in the Hindi film industry also agree that the least one can do is recognise the brave efforts of the stuntmen. “The stuntmen and women are actually one of the strongest artistic contributes of a film which has dangerous action, unsung heroes and heroines who do not get any credit for being the silent backbone of actors. We need to support them to get their due credit and even though the Screen Actors Guild Awards does recognise the work stuntmen and women do with a Best Stunt Ensemble category, the recognition is clearly not as great as it would be at the Oscars. In India too we need to definitely get in a category for our stunt men and women. Because without them our action movies would be seriously depleted. Let’s face it, there is only one Jackie Chan to go around,” feels actor Celina Jaitly, also a UN Human Rights Equality Champion.
Actor Sonu Sood, who has done many action films and is even working in an international project alongside Jackie Chan, says, “Most action films which revolve around stunts have stuntmen doing the real action for us. Since every filmmaker wants to make their film the most entertaining involving death-defying stunts, these fearless people are the ones who risk their lives and make some of the toughest scenes come alive for actors. I feel these unsung heroes should be given their due by giving them equal importance as compared to the other credits of the film.”
Director Aanand Rai says, “They really make your impossible idea look real and possible on the floor. As the director I am always thankful to the stuntmen.They are the core members of our fraternity and awarding them is very important and it should be part of our award functions.”
While men and women, who are taking the risk for our actors feel that better facilities and insurance etc, should be provided to them, they feel award categories would be at least some sort of recognition.
High expectations, low budget: The life of a stuntperson
Fight director Abbas Ali Moghul, who started his career as a stuntman about 35 years ago, says, “I feel insurance cover should be provided to us. Our men and women put themselves to so much risk and god forbid if someone dies, they get a paltry one-time amount of about Rs 4-5lakhs. That may take some time to come around but at least award categories will attract more attention to our people.”
Fight director Javed of Javed-Aejaz duo says, “Not all the actors are as brave as actor Akshay Kumar to pull off stunts themselves, and that’s where me and our boys come in. We are really integral to a film, but there is hardly a decent medical insurance or compensation given. When we started out in 1989, we didn’t even have ambulances on the sets, although now there are doctors and fire brigades on the sets if needed, the safety measures need to be better. And yes, award categories will be at least some recognition, it’s high time our contribution is discussed in the mainstream.” Fight director Aejaz Gulab, agrees, “We are highly marginalized, starting awards category for us will help us in a big way.”
Lack of safety apparatus is appalling
Director Sanjay Gupta, known for making several action flicks says that lack of safety sometimes is a budget constraint. “There is no value for life on sets. I don’t see safety precautions being taken even in 10% of the movie sets because producers are always busy saving money,” says Sanjay.
But Aejaz says that it may not always be the production house’s fault. “Sometimes we make compromises and it may not be because of the production house. For instance, we had to jump from 15th floor for a scene in Chor Machaaye Shor (2002). We needed 4000 boxes for padding. We could get only 2500 because there was no one who could supply so many boxes, so we had to make do with whatever we had. But sometimes they’d say there is no budget and we work with that. For instance, if there is a scene of a car crash, then they may say ‘car ko cage karne ka budget nahia hai’. Tab hum, stuntman ko ache se cover kar dete hain. And if someone becomes a handicap there is no one who’ll provide for the family of the victim. We see about two to four injuries on the sets every year, although we haven’t heard of any death now for a long time in Bollywood.”