BANGALORE: Ravi Verma has become the flavour of the season in Bollywood and the South Indian industry because of his action smarts. He is the master of the genre and makes everything from bike and car stunts to spectacular crashes look easy. Ravi says action adds commercial value to films and makes them larger-than-life. City Express recently caught up with the stunt choreographer who spoke to us about his career graph. “I don’t how it happened, but it is definitely my parents’ and god's blessings. I have learnt the art of action with a lot of effort and honesty, which has kept me going. Whatever little name I have earned at a national level, I owe it to a lot of directors and actors of the film industry. More than anybody, today, whatever I am is because of my team.My boys have remained my strength,” he says.
Prabhu Deva helped me to pace myself in Bollywood
I am here in Bollywood because of two people. One is camera person Venu and the other is director Chi Gurudutt. The person who took me even higher is Prabhu Deva. This happened when Prabhu saw the film Jackie and wanted to know who the stunt master was, and then Venu’s positive words about me influenced him. That turned out to be an advantage for me. Whatever name I have in Bollywood today is because of Prabhu Deva. Most importantly, I was recognised as a good stunt director by actor Darshan. It was he who gave me a chance in the beginning.
Working with the top stars of Bollywood
As a stunt master, I have done around 200 films in Kannada and Telugu before I stepped into B-Town. I have completed five projects in Hindi including Salman Khan’s film Jai Ho, Shahid Kapur’s film R... Rajkumar, a comedy film with Arshad Warsi and Ajay Devgn’s Action Jackson. My next will be with Shah Rukh Khan. My presence has been given importance in Bollywood because they wanted something different from the regular fights and they saw a different style in me. They tried to give a southern touch to their Hindi films, which people are enjoying today. Likewise, earlier, a few stars in Bollywood were not upto taking risks. Now when we do it with safety measures in place, they come forward to do the stunts on their own.
Bollywood respects a technician’s work
What I really feel happy about is that big stars like Salman Khan, Shah Rukh Khan and Ajay Devgn have never questioned me about why or how I have conceived a shot or asked me to change it. They respect a technician’s work. Salman used to get up when I went on the sets. I liked his simplicity. Ajay, who is the son of great fight master Veeru Devgan, was so cooperative that he even agreed to shoot in sub-zero temperature. Shahid Kapoor never uses a body double. Since he is a very good dancer, he always came forward to do every stunt on his own. Likewise, Darshan and Puneeth Rajkumar in Kannada have given a free hand to me.
Action differs in every region
When it comes to the Kannada industry, we first listen to the story and then work within those boundaries. It becomes a waste if we do something out of context. We try to do better within the limited time and resources available here. In Bollywood, they explain a sequence to us and ask, “how much time do you need?” They don’t have a time limit. I can shoot and re-shoot till it gets perfect. We get around 15 to 20 days for one fight sequence. They give so much importance to fight sequences and interestingly, they feel that we have completed the work before a deadline. Usually Telugu industry demands a fight sequence right from the hero’s entry! Kannada directors want it natural and Hindi cinema wants some uniqueness, more punch and action. It all depends on the quality of each film. That also depends on the number of people involved in fight sequences. A big sequence usually needs 50 people. While 25 people get involved in fight sequences, the rest will be working backstage.
Fights are mandatory in the commercial context
When people watch a film, they put themselves in the hero’s shoes and they get involved with songs, emotions and fights. It all depends on how people get into the character. Action has become a value-booster in commercial cinema. It has become expensive, though. For example, a stunt guy who came from London for a chase scene in Jai Ho was paid in pounds, which came up to `15 lakh in Indian rupees .
Upcoming works in Kannada and Telugu
Right now, I have taken up Puneeth’s Dheera Rana Vikrama and Yash’s Mr and Mrs Ramachari. I have agreed to be a part of Darshan’s Airavata. I have taken up a couple of Telugu projects and discussions are on for Vijay’s upcoming film. If I get an opportunity, that will be my first film in Tamil.
Ravi to direct soon
I should have been a director by now, but I have postponed it because I have accepted Shah Rukh Khan’s film. I have three stories ready. One is a superhero subject and is all action. Then I have a love story and the third one is a commercial family drama. I will definitely take it up after I complete Shah Rukh’s project. I didn’t want to miss the opportunity of working with one of the top stars of Bollywood. Even after I turn director, I will still remain a stunt choreographer. The kind of satisfaction I get as a stunt master, I don’t get in any other field. I can’t think only about myself as I have a team that depends on my projects. It's just that girls avoid talking to me as they are scared that I am a fighter. But it is my audience that has recognised my work.