Indian producers need to be sensitised to the requirements of our stuntment and women and give this profession the importance it deserves
Sunil Rodrigues (Rod)
President, Movie Stunt
Artist’s Association (MSAA)
Of all the technicians in the industry, stuntmen not only give their sweat but also their blood to their craft. We don’t hesitate to take risks but, sadly, the reward for our hard work does not match the risks we take. Nor is there any institutionalised support or respect for what we do.
The Movie Stunt Artist’s Association, established back in 1959, represents stuntmen in the film industry. We look after the welfare of stuntmen in matters such as changes in wages or payments that are stuck, and the like.
The biggest problem our technicians face is lack of sufficient remuneration and low wages. This is also why we don’t have many young technicians entering the industry. As an association, we have started many initiatives and have begun to take care of the families where stuntmen were the sole breadwinners of the family.
We also provide retirement benefits by deducting `100 from each stuntman’s pay cheque and give back the sum on retirement.
But there is only so much we can do. The biggest support we need is from producers, who must understand that their cooperation will only ensure better work from us.
The biggest challenge the association faces is that no company is willing to give us insurance. It is easy to pay lip service to stuntmen but when it comes to actually giving this profession the importance it deserves, there are only a handful of producers who do that.
How ironic it is that we place our lives on the line for our work yet we are given no insurance cover. While stuntmen and women are insured in other parts of the world, in India, they have to rely on the generosity of the producer for whom they work. If they meet with an accident while performing a stunt, it is the producer who pays for treatment, and at times the expense is too much for them to bear.
Rohit Shetty paid `45 lakh for the treatment of one of his stuntmen who was injured on the sets of Chennai Express. But not many producers can afford that, especially small-time producers or television producers.
Lack Of Support From Producers
Everyone wants to see new, upgraded stunts but no one wants to pay for the hard work that goes into designing them. For instance, there is this new equipment that has been introduced overseas. If we bring it to India, no producer is willing to rent it if they want to use the machine.
Our wages are too little considering we put our lives on the line every single time, and that is something our association is working towards, to get the industry as a whole to understands that.
Preference To Foreign Stunt Artists
They (Hollywood) take three to four weeks to prepare a stunt whereas we don’t. We design and we shoot them impromptu. Our producers take us for granted and yet they want us to perform our stunts to perfection.
If a foreign stunt artist is hired, he would take a week or two to prepare for the stunt and practises the stunt over and over again to reach a level of perfection. On the other hand, we are given a day or two to prepare for a stunt, which naturally mars the quality of our work. Again, producers need to be sensitised to this. Worse, they then expect us to do our stunts with the precision of foreign technicians.
Apart from preparation time, producers are willing to pay foreign stuntmen a hefty fee but are very stingy with us. Again, our association is trying to raise these issues at relevant forums but we will make little headway without the support of producers.