The man behind Puneet's awesome kick
Puneet Rajkumar set a new benchmark for action films with his power packed kicks and punches in the recently released Kannada film Jackie.
And it is all thanks to Danny, one of the action directors of the film. Danny, who became famous with Duniya and Jogi talks about the stunts in Jackie and more. Excerpts:
Congratulations! The fights you directed in Jackie have been receiving appreciation...
I have directed three of the five fights in the film. I have been flooded with congratulatory messages from the industry colleagues ever since the film released. I am very happy that the fights are being considered as one of the highlights of the film.
'Puneet never says 'no' to experiments'
Can you recall the experience of working with Puneet?
He is a very dedicated actor and prepares for the action bits at least 15-20 days in advance. He does his warm-ups every day and that's why he most often gets his fights right in the first shot itself.
Appu (Puneet) never says 'no' to experiments and that's how the fire fight became a reality. He received some minor burns during the shooting, yet he didn't complain. He felt that he could do these stunts when fighters were doing riskier ones.
Appu worked very hard on the fight where he pretends to be a mad man as well. He has even jumped from a height of 40 feet in this film.
For Jackie, neither ropes nor jumping boards were used. Even in a gym sequence fight in Bindaas, he insisted that there be contact between him and the fighters.
You have worked with Appu's brother Shivarajkumar also. How do you rate him as an action hero?
He is very energetic and ready to take risks. He, in fact at times does his stunts without padding. Even at this age, he fights without dupes (stunt men) and does a perfect job. He even shows fighters how to get their moves right at times.
Image: Puneet in Jackie
'The five-minute long fight in Preeti yeke bhoomi melide was one of a kind'
Which do you consider as your best directed stunt?
I have worked as an action director in 165 films so far. While it's not possible to pick my favourite, the one I directed in Preeti yeke bhoomi melide was an exciting experience. The fight that takes place in the rain was five minutes long. It was one of its kind in the Indian film industry as it was filmed without cuts in just one shot. From my first film I have always worked towards doing something different in each of my films.
Is that why you are called 'Different' Danny?
I used an ink pen as a weapon in Excuse me and people thought it was a very different concept and thus the nickname. Since then there has been no looking back.
Duniya starring Vijay further boosted my career. I'm always trying out unique things.
Who among the newcomers do you think is shaping up as a good action hero?
I was really impressed with Yash's work in Rajdhani. Among yesteryear actors, I enjoy watching Tiger Prabhakar.
'A stunt man is sometimes paid only Rs 2,000 for two days of work'
What are the challenges that you face as an action director?
There is a tendency to make last minute changes to the brief given to an action director. This becomes problematic as we have already composed the action sequences well in advance. What makes things worse at times is that we are given very little time to compose the fights despite the changes.
Also there are instances when we are shown action sequences from English, Tamil and Telugu films and asked to compose similar fights. What most forget to notice is that those fights are backed by graphics and expensive properties. And here, there are times when we are not even provided with sets required to perform the act.
In other industries, stunt directors are given a minimum of one month to direct each fight, but here most of the times, we just get four-five days to finish all the sequences. If we are given the freedom to compose our own fights and enough time to shoot them, then things will work out for the better.
Would you say that it is not an easy life for stunt men either?
When I worked as a fighter, the risks were higher. But these days more safety measures are taken. All the same remuneration remains the prime concern. There have been instances when they are paid just 2,000 for two days of work. We, directors also feel the need to be paid more. While directors in other industries are paid in handsomely, here even if we ask for 50,000, they agree to give us say 10,000.
There have been instances also of many action directors having gone back to becoming fighters due to lack of work.
Coming back to fighters, I feel it would be good for producers of respective films to give them insurance cover just in case they suffer wounds during shooting. I say this because unlike the union in the Tamil industry that covers the expenditures of injured members for up to 15 days, here the union only loans 5,000. Actors can also contribute to our cause.
You also started as a fighter...
From school days, I was more into sports than studies. I developed interest in gymnastics and sports as my father used to take me jogging since I was a child. After learning gymnastics and watching films, I decided to try my hand at films. Once I went to a premier studio where Kumar Bangarappa was shooting for a film and performed a back summersault there. He was so impressed with me that he took me along with him to Bangalore and got me a fighter's card. I have worked in 326 films as a stunt man.
Image: Chiranjeevi Sarja performs a stunt in Gandedhe
'I am directing a film with Audithya in the lead'
Which was your most dangerous stunt?
It has to be the dive I took from a height of 200 feet at Mekedatu for Vishnuvardhan's film Himapatha. I had to jump from that height and swim in the water for some time. The place was infested with whirlpools and over 100 people had died in the same place and yet I did the stunt. What was sad was that I was neither paid for it properly nor was I acknowledged.
I also did a stunt in the same place for another film after Mumbai stunt men backed out. My stunts in Hai Bangalore, Huliya and Lockup Death are also memorable.
Like some of your colleagues, do you also plan to play a lead actor in an action film?
No, but I am directing a film with Audithya in the lead. I will reveal more details soon. This apart, I am working as the action director for Kote and Gavipura.
Image: Puneet in Jackie