Teaching Hrithik and Ash how to fight

Published On: 2016-07-22

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Teaching Hrithik and Ash how to fight


Source: Rediff 

Date: Jan 31, 2008 


Ashutosh Gowarikar was not the only one in the Jodhaa Akbar team, who had a huge responsibility ahead of him. Stunt director Ravi Dewan had to make sure that the war sequences in the historical looked larger than life, and of course, real. And that’s a tough job if you have to make an elephant follow your steps. He tells us how the war sequences came alive on screen. 


How he bagged Jodhaa Akbar 

I had worked in Ashutosh Gowarikar’s first film Pehla Nasha. We have been friends for a long time. Whenever we meet, we exchange ideas. One day, he offered me Jodhaa Akbar and I could not refuse. Doing a period film was not difficult for me. I had done period projects before — the television serial, The Sword Of Tipu Sultan and Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s film, 1942- A Love Story. I am quite inspired by history. Besides, Ashutosh had done a lot of research for this film, and the art director Nitin Desai is one of the best in India. So there was very little for me to do. I was part of Nitin’s team when they were making the preparations of arms and ammunition, and armour. I had to make dummy swords so that people would not get hurt. I also had to make the cannon fire. Nitin made a cannon out of fibre and I inserted iron on the inner side, so that it would fire and not get damaged. Initially, the sword was made of wood and fibre. But Hrithik and Aishwarya found it difficult to maneuver it. So I made light fibre swords that were easier to maneuver. So it was the actors’ job to show that extra effort while maneuvering the sword. 


Taming elephants 

The most difficult stunt was taming the elephants. When Ashutosh told me about this particular scene, I refused immediately. Elephants are very difficult to tame. You can do a scene with a tiger and horse using dummies. But you cannot have a dummy for a big animal because it would look funny. And that would mean that we had to use real animals. That was very risky, so I rejected it. We did not have any reference, as no one had attempted to film a fight like this in the movies. So we had no idea as to how to go about it. But Ashutosh was adamant. So I had to invent a way to do it. We called an elephant trainer who trained them for months. I should say hats off to Ashutosh that he stuck to his decision. It was very dangerous, risky and difficult but still, we did it. All credit to Hrithik as well, who did the sequence himself without using a dummy. Hrithik would feed the elephant bananas and jaggery before and after the shoot. In the scene, the elephant is supposed to be wild and angry, and Hrithik has to tame it and finally, sit on it. It was not difficult to convince Hrithik because he was already convinced by whatever Ashutosh said. 


The rehearsals 

We rehearsed everything before we started shooting for the film. Training for horse riding started a month and a half in advance at the Mahalaxmi race course, in Mumbai. We trained all the actors, including Hrithik and Aishwarya. After that, we started sword fighting training in Mehboob studios, in Mumbai’s suburban Bandra. We rehearsed with my fighters; then choreographed the fight sequence and shot it on camera, edited it and locked it. That gave us an idea how each scene would look and how we would handle it. We went on the sets fully prepared, so it was quite easy. There was no training on the location. Everyone knew how to ride a horse or fight with swords by then. I took 250 stuntmen to Karjat and Rajashthan. Plus, we had 5,000 villagers. The battle sequences were quite big, and it took a lot of time. We would start preparing for the scene at 3am every morning, and would be ready for the first shot only by 7am. 


Shooting the climax 

Sonu Sood plays Aishwarya Rai’s brother in the film. His death scene is superb. Sonu has done a great job. This scene, as well as the climax, was quite difficult to shoot. In the climax, Niketan Dheer’s army marches towards Hrithik’s army, and then the two fight. It was difficult because the rest of the people have to watch them fight. The first two rows were filled up with my 250 stuntmen, so that nothing would go wrong. The climax was shot over 20 to 30 days, because Ashutosh wanted it to be perfect. The 5,000 villagers, who were also part of the army, would get tired, and it was tough to get them in the same position through the day. They had to stand, and not even move in those scenes. Sometimes, they would not turn up the next day. 


Shooting in Rajasthan 

The battle sequences were done in Rajasthan. It’s difficult shooting there because the weather is in the extremes — sometimes extremely cold and sometimes, extremely hot. Out of the many locations in Rajasthan, one was in the desert. The sand kept flying in our eyes, plus walking up and down sand dunes was quite difficult. It is not easy to shoot in deserts. But thankfully, nobody was hurt. There is a fight scene between Hrithik and Aishwarya. But that was a romantic, masti fight, where they tease each other. That has come out really well. It was not difficult to teach Aishwarya, as she knew horse riding and sword fighting from her earlier English film, The Last Legion. 


Taking a walk into the past 

Every stunt director is a stuntman first it’s the stuntman association’s role. And to become a stunt director he has to be a stuntman for 8 years. Before I became a stuntman, I was a junior artist, way back in 1975. I failed Standard 9, and was asked to leave school. My father was a junior artist; he did some character roles as well. So he would take me for shoots. In 1975, when I was 16 years old, I enrolled as a junior artist. After working for two-three years, I did not enjoy work any more. And I knew there was no future as a junior artist. My father’s friends and senior stunt directors Ravi Khanna (Reshma Aur Shera), and Shetty (Amar Akbar Anthony) told him to make me a stuntman because that would pay well. They took me under their wing and encouraged me. I became stunt man in 1978, and became a double for Dharamendra and Dilip Kumar. Dilipji would always recommend my name to his directors. I was quite friendly with Jimmy Allen, who was working in Sholay. So he would call him to his shoots. I gained a lot of camera knowledge from him. In 1986, I became a stunt director. My first film was Pankuj Parasher’s Jalwa, starring Naseeruddin Shah and Pankaj Kapur. We finished the film in six months. Jalwa’s action was very good, and many directors like N Chandra (Tezaab), Vidhu Vinod Chopra (Parinda) and Subhash Ghai (Ram Lakhan) and Mukul Anand (Hum) signed me up because of that film. I have done more than 200 films as a fight director. I have also directed films like Vinashak, Anarth and Khabri: The Informer.