Freak accidents on film sets have been sparsely reported in the Indian media. The recent accident that took place on the sets of director Shankar’s Tamil film Indian-2 led to the loss of lives of three technicians in a jiffy. Lead actors Kamal Haasan and Kajal Agarwal had a narrow escape when a massive crane gave way leading to the unfortunate mishap.
Here is a sampler of mishaps that took place in the past and that grabbed media spotlight for a while:
1. The most (in) famous accident on the sets of a film was of course the one on the sets of the film Coolie (1983). A stunt actor (Puneet Issar) had to engage in a fight sequence with Amitabh Bachchan and due to wrong timing, Bachchan was grievously injured in his stomach. Millions of fans across India prayed for his recovery. His miraculous escape was due to his tremendous will power to fight against all odds. For producer-director Manmohan Desai, this accident helped make a mediocre film win huge stakes at the box office.
Desai’s subsequent films with Bachchan did not make a huge impact. Frustrated by his failures, the film maker became a curmudgeon and eventually jumped to his death.
2. Well known actor Shyam who acted with legendary actress-singer Suraiya (Tu Mera Chand Main Teri Chandni) in the Bollywood sleeper hit – Dillagi (1940) was thrown off a horse during a shooting sequence for Shabistan (1951). He was only 31 years old then. He suffered injuries on his head that proved fatal.
3. During the shooting of Baiju Bawara (1952), Meena Kumari who was rowing a boat in a river, was almost swept away by a massive wave. She had a miraculous escape. The film was a super-duper success that paved the way for Meena Kumari’s super stardom in the years to come. Her sublime performance in the film won her a Filmfare award too. The film is still remembered for its euphonious music.
4. In the mediocre Sunayana wherein Nasiruddin Shah uncharacteristically played the romantic hero opposite Rameshwari, who was injured while riding a horse that she couldn’t rein in. The actress who was known for her beautiful eyes had to travel abroad to get a surgery done on her wounded eyes. The Barjatyas, who had produced the film, were gracious enough to compensate her for the expenses.
5. 1973 saw the release of Raj Kapoor’s Bobby
that introduced his son Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia in lead roles. Kapoor was keen on making a successful teeny bopper romance. The film, a super hit, was about the hero’s father’s resistance to his son’s attempts to fraternize with a girl from a poor family. The boy and girl fall in love and elope. The climax sequence involved a scene in which the lead pair is saved from drowning in a torrent in a river. Pran and Premnath, who played fathers of the romantic couple, had a tough time when they were almost swept away by the current.
6. In the early 80s, Kamal Haasan was injured in the eye when a glass piece brazed through his eye during the shooting of Guru that also starred Sridevi. He had to take stitches under his eye.
7. Malayalam actor Krishnan Nair (known by his screen name Jayan) was known for his action sequences, macho image and unique style. Malayalam actress Jayabharati was his first cousin. While shooting for Kolilakkam on 16 November 1980, Jayan performed a dangerous stunt that had him boarding an airborne helicopter from a moving motor bike. A fastidious Jayan asked for another take.
The helicopter lost its balance and crashed fatally injuring Jayan who remains one of the most iconic heroes in Malayalam cinema.
In 1988, a massive fire on the sets of the television serial The Sword of Tipu Sultan caused severe losses to the production house owned by Sanjay Khan. The fire was apparently triggered by a short circuit. It also caused large scale death and devastation. Neena Gupta was with her 1-year old daughter Masaba (it was 1988) when she had a narrow escape. Sanjay Khan however wasn’t lucky. He was severely burnt in the accident and the once-handsome Bangalore-born actor had to undergo multiple surgeries to be back in shape.
It will be worthwhile if the Indian film industry, known for getting inspired by “Eastern” and “Western” flicks, can purloin the safe practices adopted on the sets of American films.
(After working in the corporate world for close to two decades, Bhagyalakshmi Seshachalam started her second career innings as a head-hunter. She is passionate about Hindi movies and loves retro music. When her family shifted to Chennai in the 80s, Bhagya had a taste of Tamil cinema too. In the long term, she plans a book on two of her favourite directors – Guru Dutt and K Balachander. She travels across the country on work and is based in Mysore.)