No stunt master/manager worth his salt has any qualification or has undergone training from a certified institute on how to use explosives during film shoots. All of them learn on the job, taking tips from the seniors.
This is how Jolly Bastian, a stunt master credited with conducting more than 300 blast sequences in Telugu and Tamil films, summed up the state of stunt direction in Kannada films.
Blast sequences entail blowing up a vehicle by propelling them with compressed cannons (metallic cylinders).
The competence of stunt masters/managers has come into focus after a woman and her five-year-old daughter died when a cylinder exploded as part of a car blast scene during the shooting of Kannada film Ranam in the city on Friday. In November 2016, two stunt managers had drowned after jumping from a helicopter into the TG Halli reservoir during the shooting of Maasthi Gudi.
According to Bastian, blowing up a vehicle is all about precisely calculating how much nitrogen you fill into the compressor. Such blasts are called cannon blasts. Usually, five or six cylinders do the trick but as many as 15 cylinders were filled up with nitrogen for Friday’s shooting. The compressor exploded during the filling stage itself while the car didn’t blow up. “The incident occurred mainly because of miscalculation,” Bastian said. “The stunt master clearly wanted to blow up the vehicle so that it flies high up in the air to ensure more visibility but it ended up in a disaster.”
During these blasts, a piston is placed under the car and a pipe is attached to it. There would be a compressor filled with nitrogen. No more than six cylinders should be filled up with nitrogen. The stunt manager should know the capacity of the compressor, how it works and its effect on the height to which the vehicle has to be lifted up in the air. The amount of gas to be filled and its resultant effect should be precisely calculated according to the capacity of the vehicle. Even a small mistake can lead to a disaster. In Bastian’s opinion, the fact that the car didn’t blow up in the air possibly saved many lives. “Many people were standing right next to the film venue, watching the shooting. They would have certainly come in the line of fire had the car gone up in the air and exploded,” he added.
Different Danny, another stunt master, pointed out that film crews usually do not take permission from the police or the fire brigade for carrying out cannon blasts. “We just call the experts and conduct these blasts. Such blasts were conducted in public in the past. This explosion is surprising,” he added.
M N Reddi, DGP, Karnataka State Fire and Emergency Services Department, said fire clearance was must for using more than two cylinders in cannon blasts. Reiterating that the film crew hadn’t taken any permission, he said necessary action would be taken against them.