Location Diaries: A very narrow escape
This weekly column details the fascinating encounters that often take place on the sets of a film and this week it is Mafia
Arun Vijay had to shoot several action scenes for Karthick Naren's Mafia. Not one to use body doubles, he insisted on doing all the stunts himself. In one sequence, the actor had to drive a jeep and skid it dangerously at an angle, bringing it to a stop before a truck on a road. This was near a bridge. "Having done several bike and car stunts earlier, I knew I could pull it off. I made some mental calculations about where to turn, skid and then stop, and we completed the shot perfectly." The entire unit applauded his precision.
For another scene, Arun Vijay had to do a similar stunt. This time the location was an abandoned container yard, and the conditions were tougher. "The surface was not a smooth tar road as before. It was totally uneven and sprinkled with gravel. This made the stunt dangerous because hitting some gravel at that speed could change the direction of my drifting jeep."
There were three Phantom cameras stationed at various places. Cinematographer Gokul was stationed at a distance of 150 metres. In order to avoid the sun's glare, Gokul had covered his head and the viewfinder with a black cloth. Due to this, he could not see the dangerous situation that he would be in shortly.
After making all the calculations, Arun Vijay started the jeep and began picking up speed. Just then, the wheels hit a few pebbles. Paying no heed, he started drifting the car and just at the right position, hit the brakes, simultaneously pulled up the handbrake, and turned the steering wheel sharply in order to come to a standstill on the designated spot.
Suddenly, his rear wheel hit a rock and all hell broke loose. "In the 5th second, I knew the jeep was out of control. It swayed dangerously and began swerving straight towards Gokul." The camera team thought it was part of the stunt at first. But as the vehicle hurtled forward, everyone realised it was out of control. "I could see the lightmen and camera assistants behind Gokul, running for their lives. But Gokul alone didn't move, because with his head covered, he couldn't gauge how close the vehicle was to him."
Those were among the most tense moments of Arun Vijay's life. But, he kept his cool. "In 15 seconds, the jeep, moving at a speed of 50 kms an hour and gaining momentum, would come crashing down on the camera in front of me. It took all my experience as a trained stunt driver to steer that jeep away from Gokul and avoid a crash. With a less experienced driver, anything could have happened that day."
When the vehicle finally came to a screeching halt, Gokul lifted the black cloth and looked up to congratulate Arun on the good shot. "That was when he saw that the jeep's back tyre was just a foot away from his camera. There was mud all over the vehicle and the camera. Only then did he realise how narrowly he had escaped, and was totally shaken up!"
Incidentally, the scenes are part of the Vedhan Vandhachoo song.