As a culture gains exposure and matures, so does its artistic expression. This couldn't be truer than in the case of popular Indian culture (such as movies). One aspect that stands out is its action sequences. But all that is changing.
Action in the southern film industry is no longer about the hero versus an army, or about flying Sumos. Thanks to foreign stuntmen, southern filmmakers are able to deliver the international touch to racy action thrills -- much to the delight of audiences.According to cinematographer-director Vijay Milton, whose upcoming Tamil thriller Paththu Enradhukulla features action sequences choreographed by Lee Whittaker, action is no longer about the regular 'dishum dishum'.
Whittaker has also worked on recent Tamil films such as Lingaa, Vishwaroopam 2 and Arrambam, besides being part of international projects such as Live Free or Die Hard, Jurassic Park and Batman.Filmmaker Mysskin, who has worked with Hong Kong-based stuntman Tony Leung Siu Hung in his films such as Mugamoodi and Pisasu, says audiences nowadays prefer realistic action.
"I think audiences have evolved. Unlike before, they look forward to realistic action in our cinema. I'm trained in martial arts myself but I chose to work with Tony because I felt international expertise on some crucial action blocks could make a lot of difference," Mysskin said.Telugu director Sudheer Varma, whose recent outing Dohchay featured stuntmen from Paris, says filmmakers are willing to experiment as well spend little extra when it comes to action.
"If it's worth it, I don't think filmmakers mind spending extra. I didn't want to compromise on action in my film. We had hired Peter Hein for a car chase sequence for which we need a driver who could do drifts; so we hired one from Paris," said Sudheer.
While the services of international stunt crew may not come cheap, it certainly pays off, says Mysskin, who finds working with them exhilarating.
"They're highly professional and, unlike us, they come to the sets with a lot of planning. I remember when I had brought Tony to shoot the climax of Pisasu, he wanted to be briefed what was expected from him. It took them a few hours to understand what was required and in the next few hours, they finished the shot and left," he said.
"I find working with them so inspiring and exciting because they're so motivated all the time," Mysskin added.Director Preetham Gubbi, who has hired kick boxers from abroad for his Kannada film Boxer, says it's good to have a mix of Indian as well as international stuntmen on a project.
"Stunt master Ravi Varma is working on our film, training actor Dhananjay in the lead role of a boxer. We've also hired a foreign crew of kick boxers. When you have them work together, I believe it helps in keeping the local sensibilities intact," he said.
But does hiring international stuntmen upset local stunt choreographers?
"Not really. It depends on the requirement of a project. There have been occasions where we've worked together. When we get to work together, we could learn from each other as I believe each one of us brings something different to the table. It should happen more often," said Stunt Silva, who has worked in several south Indian films.
In the last couple of years, there has been a considerable rise in the number of foreign action choreographers in southern filmdom, especially Tamil cinema.
Some upcoming Tamil films featuring foreign stuntmen include Kamal Haasan's Thoongaavanam, which features stunts choreographed by French stuntman Gilles Conseil, and Dhanush's yet-untitled film with Prabhu Solomon featuring Batman Begins action choreographer Roger Yuan.