Heroes of Mumbai: Why being a Bollywood stuntman is a high risk job?
We showcase Bollywood stuntman Dildaar Singh's life story in the second part of our series "Heroes of Mumbai" and enlighten the readers about the struggles and hardships in the lives of movie stuntmen
Dildaar Singh, 28, from Malvani, Malad has made it big in the Bollywood Film Industry. Dildaar performs dangerous and daring stunts as a stuntman and body double for the stars of Bollywood. Some of the breathtaking action scenes that we see on the big screen, which keeps us literally on the edge of our seats, are performed by these stunt persons, the faceless action stars of movies. We showcase Dildaar Singh's life story as part of our series "Heroes of Mumbai" and enlighten our readers about stuntmen and their profession so that people begin to appreciate these often neglected heroes for their contribution to the Hindi film industry.
Dildaar Singh started doing stunts as a young teenager in the bylanes of Malad. Driving bikes and performing stunts is something that he strives as a stuntman. Since 2008 Dildaar has been performing stunts and still continues to serve the industry. Dildaar has worked in popular films such as Dhoom 3, Bullet Raja, Phantom and much more. Dildaar mainly performs dangerous stunts on bikes and cars.
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He states that it has been a roller coaster ride for him from the time he started learning the tricks and trades of the profession. He recalls an incident that took place when he was an upcoming stuntman. Dildaar says, "Back then when I practice stunts on the roads of Mumbai, the cops were on my toes as it is illegal to perform stunts on the streets of the city. But somehow I always managed to run away from them. Once when I was performing stunts with two friends, the police suddenly came from nowhere and blocked the way from both the sides of the road. Somehow we escaped from the cops."
From performing wheelies to landing cars from 40 foot above in the air, Dildaar has done all the death-defying stunts. A stuntman's job is very dangerous and it's not that easy as the public and movie viewers perceive it. Although safety equipment is used; it is not enough to prevent accidents and injuries to the body. Some of the dangerous stunts performed by the stuntman are flipping cars, crash a car, jump out of a moving car and stunts performed on two-wheelers. A stuntman's life is all about risks and no fear.
Dildaar Singh showing his martial arts skills and how he goes about with his action sequences
So, what are the risks that come along while being a stuntman in the fast-growing Bollywood Industry?
Dildaar says, "I have been working as a stuntman since the age of 18. Some people think it is a very easy job but only a person with courage and the heart to take the risk can become a stuntman. One needs to know the bikes and cars very well in order to perform the stunts. Timing is a very important aspect of a stuntman's life. If the action director demands that the actor jump from the fourth floor of a building then it’s the stuntman who acts as a body double for the star and performs the stunt and on the screen, it is made to look that the actor has performed the stunt. A mishap-free incident for such a stunt will depend on the stuntman's judgment on how to land on the floor and when to time the jump. If the landing is wrong then there's a possibility that the stuntman may suffer serious injuries like fractures and broken limbs."
So did you break or injure your body anytime while doing stunts? We ask Dildaar.
Recalling an incident, he says, "In a scene, four villains were following a girl and the hero was set to rescue the girl by performing a daring bike stunt. I was doubling up for the hero for the stunt and I had to make sure that I land the bike from a particular height and land on the ground to her rescue. Unfortunately, while performing the stunt, my bike landed a bit further and skidded and I broke my leg. I was on bed rest for three months."
Since his college days, Dildaar has been practising stunts on bikes and cars. His dad who used to also work as a stuntman inspired Dildaar to do something different in life but Dildaar always wanted to take up the profession of a stuntman. At the age of 18, Dildaar applied for a stuntman card to get entry into the Bollywood Industry and that is when it all started to happen for him. From observing on how stunts are performed to mastering tricks and techniques, Dildaar has carved a career for himself in the Entertainment Industry as a stuntman. Dildaar says that his father played a very important role in his career so far. From judging how much risk a stuntman should take for performing a stunt to learning the skills of a stunt director and film director; Dildaar has got all the guidance and knowledge from his father whom he considers his true hero.
Dildaar with the bike that actor Uday Chopra rode in Dhoom 3
So is the work profile limited for a stuntman in the entertainment industry?
'No' comes the answer from Dildaar. He quickly adds, "There are other avenues that a stuntman can explore. It’s not necessary that if one remains a stuntman for life in the industry. The stuntman can even go on to become an actor, or an action director and so on."
In Dhoom 3, Dildaar played an important role as a stuntman. He performed the stunts for actor Uday Chopra. From planning to executing and then performing the stunt in Dhoom 3, Dildaar was the go-to man. Dildaar says he gets a big kick out of performing dangerous stunts like flipping cars and doing stunts on bikes, which have become his daily routine.
Are there any safety precautions that the stuntman and the stunt industry adhere too?
"Safety and precautions are the first and foremost thing that is taken into consideration while performing stunts. As a stuntman, if I am performing a stunt then I can demand the safety equipment depending upon the stunt and the risk that is involved for that particular stunt. For example, if I am performing a fire stunt I would require a bodyguard with a fire extinguisher and a fire safety jacket, the bodyguard makes sure that the fire is doused immediately after the director says cut', to prevent burn injuries. It's all about what the stuntman wants as he is the one who is required to perform the stunt."
He says that all the fears of stuntmen go away once the director says 'Roll, camera and action'. Small accidents such as cuts and bodily bruises are part and parcel of a stuntman's life. According to the rule set by the stuntmen's union, if I stuntman is injured during a stunt then the company has to pay him his daily pay as he was injured while working. Akshay Kumar, Saif Ali Khan, Uday Chopra, Kangana Ranaut are few of the top Bollywood actors with whom Dildaar has worked with as a stuntman. As the stuntman risk their lives, they are given a lot of respect and are well treated by the cast and crew of films.
“Most stuntmen come from not to do well families. No one from a well-to-do family will come to the industry to become a stuntman. When I don't have work as a stuntman I work as an assistant director. I have made sure that I learn all the skills in the industry. From working as a cameraman to assistant director and directing films I have learned it all." says Dildaar
He says in his career so far he rejected one stunt because he didn't know how to swim.
Performing stunts for 10 straight years is no cakewalk. Dildaar who has been working as a stuntman also doubles up as a body double for popular actors of the Bollywood Film Industry. From performing stunts to being a body double the stuntman also have to make sure that they get into the skin of the actor's character so that they look convincing as a body double. If the sequence demands the stuntman to have a heavy body then they have to build a physique and if the action demands the stuntman to have a lean body then the stuntman needs to shed weight.
So what does Dildaar have to say to people who consider the actors as the real heroes of the movies?
He humbly says, "A stuntman is a person who performs the action and he is the true hero of the film because he takes the risks. In this job, there are so many risks that the stuntman can even lose his life. This is why the stuntman is considered as a real hero."
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Heroes of Mumbai: How Bollywood stuntmen risk their own lives for films