When actor Jaya Prada saw the gleaming white stallion Kaajal, her eyes widened in appreciation. “It was a beautiful horse,” she says, while on a recent visit to Kerala, where she is acting in the Mollywood film, Kinar.
This was during the shoot of the Kannada megahit, Krantiveera Sangolli Rayanna (2012). Jaya Prada plays Kittur Chennamma (1778-1829), the Queen of Kittur, a princely state in Karnataka. Her army chief, Sangolli Rayanna, was played by actor Darshan Thoogudeep. According to historical accounts, Kittur Chennamma led a rebellion against the British East India company because they did not accept her chosen successor.
The shoot was being held in Dausa (55 kms from Jaipur). The scene was of Jaya Prada leading the charge against the British, accompanied by 300 warriors on horses. After receiving training from stunt master Sudarshan on how to ride Kaajal, Jaya Prada was ready. The early shoots went fine. But one evening, when Jaya Prada was sitting atop Kaajal, for some reason, the horse got scared. Suddenly, it set off on a gallop.
“I began screaming,” says Jaya Prada. Sudarshan immediately give chase on a desert bike, along with Darshan and a few warriors, who were all on horses. As Jaya began to panic, she remembered what Sudarshan had told her earlier. “When you are on a horse and it goes out of control, it is very important to put your arms around its neck,” says Jaya Prada. “I did this and shouted, ‘Please Kaajal, help me, please, don’t run’. I was literally crying at that moment.”
But the horse did not listen. It continued to gallop away furiously. Jaya Prada hugged it tightly. Kaajal ran on for a few more minutes. “But then, maybe, Kaajal felt bad,” says Jaya Prada. “The horse slowed down and finally came to a stop.” A shaken Jaya Prada stepped down and got onto Darshan’s horse and returned to the set.
The next day Jaya Prada begged the director Naganna not to put her on Kaajal. “I want to live, not die,” said Jaya Prada. Naganna laughed and reassured the actor that Kaajal was a good horse,
“The crew made me comfortable,” says Jaya Prada. “Then they made me sit on the back of the horse. We pampered the horse with sweets and biscuits. And the shoot went on smoothly.”
Unfortunately, in the film, Adavi Ramudu (1977), the shoot did not move smoothly at all. It was taking place in the Madumalai National Park in Tamil Nadu. Jaya Prada was the wife of a forest officer, Ramu, played by the late NT Rama Rao, while Jayasudha plays a tribal lady Chilakamma, who loves Ramu as a brother. There is a fight between the villagers and the smugglers of forest produce.
For this sequence, Jaya Prada and Jayasudha were sitting atop two elephants. When the shoot began, all the fighters started shouting and running forward holding bamboo sticks. Some petrol bombs were burst; there was smoke all around. “All this frightened the elephants and they began running,” says Jaya Prada. The sudden movement caused both the actors to fall to the ground.
“Jaya Sudha fainted immediately,” says Jaya Prada. “I was semi-conscious. Both of us sustained cuts and bruises on our faces, arms, and legs.” Jaya Prada lay on the ground with her eyes closed. But when she opened them, she got a shock. “The foot of one of the elephants was just an inch above my face,” she says. “I screamed and fainted.”
Thereafter, both were rushed to a nearby hospital. “But thankfully, there were no serious injuries,” she says. In the end, all these troubles were well worth it. Adavi Ramudu was a box office hit and ran for over 200 days.