COLUMN: Location Diary
Director Mecartin talks about his experience with a stunt man in 'Punjabi House'
It was the suicide scene in the evergreen Malayalam film, 'Punjabi House'. Feeling burdened by debts, Unni (played by Dileep) stands on the edge of the 150-year-old pier at Allapuzha Beach. The jump was 20 feet. But there was nothing to worry.
A stunt man, Ravi, had come all the way from Chennai. He quickly changed into the same costume that Dileep was wearing: a maroon shirt and black trousers. Although Ravi was bald, he slipped on a black wig. “From a distance, he looked like Dileep,” says director Mecartin.
Things were going smoothly, till Mecartin asked Ravi whether he had jumped from a pier. He replied in the negative. Then Mecartin asked him whether he knew swimming. “No Sir,” said Ravi. “This is my first time.”
Ravi belonged to an union in Chennai. At that time Mollywood only used these men, who had health and life insurance. So, in case something untoward happened, it would be paid for. “These people had been trained to do shots where people can break a bottle over their heads,” says Mecartin. “Or they can jump through a glass-paned window. At that moment, I did not have the option of asking for someone else.”
But Mecartin began to feel nervous. He looked at the sea. “It was very rough,” he says. “I did not know what to do.”
Several youths were standing nearby hearing the discussions. Soon, they came up to Mecartin and told the director that they knew how to swim in these swift currents and could rescue Ravi after he jumped. After a brief talk with his crew, Mecartin agreed. He told them to wait beneath the pier, out of camera range.
Meanwhile, as Ravi stood on the edge, cameras were placed on either side of him. All was ready. “Action,” shouted Mecartin, as Dileep watched keenly from a distance.
Ravi jumped perfectly, hands and legs splayed, like a man who is about to commit suicide. Once he landed in the water, the director shouted, 'Cut”. On cue, the local boys swam forward and rescued the stunt man and brought him up to the surface.
That was when Mecartin got a shock. “It was not the same person,” he says. “This man had a beard.” A frightened Mecartin thought, 'How did this happen? And where is Ravi? Has he drowned? And who is this man?'
But when the man was brought to the shore the answer became clear. In the water, Ravi's wig had slipped off and got stuck to the face. So that was how he looked different.
A relieved Mecartin, co-director Rafi, Dileep and the crew had a hearty laugh.
(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram)