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Body Doubles: The Unsung Heroes Who Never Saw The Limelight

Praveen Kulle |Saturday, 26 Nov 2022 - 12:49 PM

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Body doubles The Unsung Heroes-6

Recognising the daring and dashing talent working as body doubles in the Indian Film Industry

Have you ever watched a breathtaking action sequence that made your jaw drop and turned you into a fan of the actor for life? Did a sensual scene impress you so much that the image of the actress was etched in your mind long after you’ve left the theatre? In all likelihood, the credit for the on-screen extravaganza should go to the body double that stood in for the actor. 

But seldom is their contribution acknowledged by the theatre-going audience for the simple reason that they are not aware of the efforts and gargantuan risks these unsung heroes take on-screen. On most occasions, they do not even get a mention in the screen credits. Against this background, let us look at a few body doubles of famous actors and those who worked for some notable films:

1. T Prem Kumar and Nagender

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Prem Kumar works as a teacher at a private school in the town of Palakollu in the West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh. He also doubled up as a dupe for Megastar Chiranjeevi for many of the latter’s films culminating with the 1994 film Mugguru Monagallu. His brother Nagender worked as a double for Venkatesh. Speaking about his work Prem Kumar said, “It’s not a very lucrative profession and we come to Hyderabad whenever we get the call. Also, we had to fork out money from our own wallets on many occasions. They would use me for a long shot, back-of-head shot or silhouette in action sequences. It’s purely passion that kept me going.”

2.  Kiran Raj

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He has worked on many films of Prabhas and gained recognition after the massive success of Baahubali 2. Following this, he came to be known as ‘Prabhas Kiran’ and even played the hero in a Telugu movie called ‘Karaali’. “Baahubali is a blockbuster for many people, but for me, the journey of five years was like studying at a university. Working with a director like SS Rajamouli has shaped me into a disciplined and determined professional. I owe everything to that film,” said Kiran Raj.

3. Sagar Pandey

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He worked for Salman Khan in at least 50 of the latter’s films including ‘Dabangg’, ‘Tubelight’, ‘Dabangg 2’, ‘Dabangg 3’ and ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’ among others. He first worked for the superstar in 1998 starting with the movie ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’. Sadly, Sagar Pandey passed away recently from a heart attack he suffered while working out at his gym in Mumbai. He was rushed to a hospital but efforts to revive him went in vain.

4.  Mansoor Ali Khan

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He has worked for Hrithik Roshan’s latest release ‘Vikram Vedha’ but their friendship goes back to 2012. Speaking about his experience with Hrithik, Mansoor said, “Hrithik was keen on having me as a double body as my physique was quite similar to his but he asked me to make sure that I don’t have a paunch.” Speaking about his job, he further added, “There’s a specific kind of training we undergo to ensure that we don’t touch the artistes yet make the punches seem absolutely real.”

5. Javed Gauri

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He has worked for the likes of Prabhas, Aamir Khan, Salman Khan, Tiger Shroff, Sidharth Malhotra, and Vidyut Jammwal. Speaking about the challenges in his profession, Javed who had worked for Salman Khan’s 'Bharat' said, “We are told one month in advance if we are working for a certain film. We have to transform our physique accordingly to suit that of the actor and it means either increasing or decreasing our weight. It’s a constant process, and we must be nimble and constantly in the gym.”

6. Hasit Savani

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Shah Rukh Khan recently played a cameo in Ranbir Kapoor-Alia Bhatt starrer Brahmastram. Shah Rukh played the role of scientist Mohan Bhargav who wields the Vanarastra. Hasit Savani played Shah Rukh’s body double in the Ayan Mukerji directorial. Hasit posted a throwback picture with Shah Rukh from the sets of the film on Instagram which he captioned, “A real pleasure to be the stunt double for the legend Shah Rukh Khan, for his cameo sequence in the Bollywood film Brahmastra.”

7. Jorian Ponamareff

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International stunt master from France Jorian Ponamareff, who had worked on films such as ‘Mission Impossible’, worked for Ajith Kumar’s smash hit Vivegam (Vivekam in Telugu). Apart from working as the stunt master for the film, Jorian also stepped in as Ajith’s body double for a couple of scenes. Later, remarking on his Indian experience, Jorian said it was a truly humbling experience and that he was impressed by Ajith Kumar's simplicity.

8.  Prashanth Walde

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Hailing from Nagpur, Prashanth Walde has been the official body double of superstar Shah Rukh Khan for the last 15 years. “I have worked on all kinds of scenes for Shah Rukh Khan including action sequences and that is basically because of the trust he has in me. Sometimes, people call me ‘duplicate’ and question whether I have a personality of my own; but whatever I am today is entirely because of Shah Rukh Khan and I am very grateful to him,” said Prashanth who first met Shah Rukh on the sets of ‘Om Shanti Om’. Director Farah Khan did an audition and selected Prashanth and since then, there was no looking back for Prashanth, a trained choreographer.

9. MS Balram

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There is a death-defying stunt in the Abhishek Bachchan–Aishwarya Rai starrer Raavan in which Abhishek dives from the top of an 80-foot cliff into a river. Initially, Abhishek said he had done the stunt himself but this boast was debunked when former national diving champion MS Balram stated that it was he who had done the action sequence. At the time of the movie’s release, Balram said, “I don’t want any publicity, nor do I want to create any controversy since I am a great fan of the Bachchans. Moreover, it is Mani Ratnam sir’s movie. I only want the movie to do well. But it is true that I performed this thrilling stunt for Abhishek and was paid for it. I feel proud to have done this stunt.” In fact, Balram got special credit as Abhishek’s boy double in the rolling credits.

10. Reshma Pathan

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She is India’s first stuntwoman and has worked in more than 400 films for the likes of Waheeda Rehman, Rekha, Hema Malini, Sridevi, Dimple Kapadia and Meenakshi Seshadri. She started out at the tender age of fourteen in order to financially support her family by playing Lakshmi Chaya’s double in the 1972 film ‘Ek Khiladi Bawan Patte’. “I started with 175 rupees per day. I got 100 rupees in hand. I was swindled of the transport money. But I was happy. I wouldn’t have been able to make this amount even if I was a graduate. Fulfilling the needs of my family was my priority,” said Reshma. In the iconic film ‘Sholay’, lead actress Hema Malini is being chased by Gabbar Singh and his men and she spurs her tonga on to escape from them. It was Reshma who did the scene and ever since she came to be known as ‘The Sholay Girl’. On March 8, 2019, International Women’s Day, the movie ‘The Sholay Girl’ was released by streaming platform Zee5 as a tribute to Reshma. It was directed by Aditya Sarpotdar and was based on the life of Reshma.

11. Geeta Tandon

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She walked out of an abusive marriage with her two toddlers and worked as a stuntwoman while being a single mother and eventually realised her dream of buying her own flat. Geeta has done stunts for Deepika Padukone, Katrina Kaif, Bipasha Basu, Parineeti Chopra, etc. and her movie credits include ‘Chandni Chowk to China’, ‘Chennai Express’, ‘Hasee tho Phasee’, ‘Ragini MMS’, ‘Welcome’, ‘Corporate’, ‘Singh Saab The Great’ and ‘Lamha’. Contrary to popular perception, Geeta says that pay disparity does not exist in her line of work although the preference still is towards employing males over females for certain scenes because they believe men can handle pain better.

12. Parvez Kazi

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He has worked as Salman Khan’s body double in films like ‘Tiger Zinda Hai’, ‘Dabangg 3’, ‘Race 3’ as well as films like ‘Prem Ratan Dhan Payo’, ‘Bharat’ and ‘Radhe’. The Parvez's social media account is replete with pictures of him taken with Salman and he also expressed his gratitude to the latter in a post saying, “After Allah, the man who made me stable in life, love you, Sir.

Updated date:  Saturday, 26 Nov 2022 - 12:53 PM

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