Bollywood ‘Stunt Doubles’, the unsung heroes of the Industry

Here we take a look at the underpaid, unrecognized and the unsung heroes of Bollywood, who take all the risks for the leads by acting as their body double for action scenes.

Stuntmen are the unsung heroes in Bollywood, who work in the shadows of the main actors, but make them look like superheroes by pulling of dangerous stunts. They don’t hesitate to take risks, but many feel that their rewards do not match the risks they undertake.

Stuntman Habib recounted: “My father died while shooting as a double for Anil Kapoor. The scene required him to be in a car that was to sink in water. Due to some problem, the car’s door did not open and he died.

As you can imagine, because stuntmen have to be fit and carry out challenging physical tasks, they don’t have a long working life in the film industry.

A point comes (much earlier than what they think) where their body is no longer to withstand the pressure and risks associated with this dangerous profession. The film industry only provide basic safety measures like ambulances and fire extinguishers on the sets; For jumping from big heights, they still use mattresses.

“Yes, generally a stuntmen can actively work for six to seven years. After that you need to
retire or remain as a C-grade stuntman. The premiums charged by insurance companies are high in comparison to our income. In case of an incident, only luck can save them,” says a senior stuntmen.

The Sholay Girl revolves around a body double to yesteryear female actors like Hema Malini, Sridevi, and others.


Producer had budget for chopper, but none to provide safety, cost 2 lives

Producer gets chopper to shoot climax scene but spends no money on basic safety measures. Provides safety gear to the lead hero but nothing to the two small actors (they end up losing their lives). Sorry state of affairs in the film industry.

For a long time, leading actors in India had been voicing concern about the poor safety cover available to stuntmen in the various film industries, including Bollywood. The recent incident where two stuntmen/actors were drowned doing an action scene for a Kannada film reveals that much is needed to improve the safety standards on shoots.

It was a case of sheer negligence on the part of filmmakers. No life jackets were provided to the actors, there’s was no rescue team, and not even an ambulance.

The filmmakers had money to hire a helicopter but did not spend anything to provide a safe environment. The makers of Mastigudi have now been booked.

Television footage revealed the two stuntmen and Duniya Vijay (Kannada cinema’s top actor and he’s the only won wearing safety gear) jumping from a height of about 30 feet, and surface in the water after a few seconds. However, only Vijay (being a good swimmer) managed to swim back to the shore safely.

Before the shot, the two actors had openly stated their discomfort at doing the shot, because they were not good swimmers and had not jumped from such a height before. However, they didn’t have much say in the matter.

Akshay Kumar Wants Insurance for Stuntmen, the Unsung Heroes of Bollywood

Khiladi Akshay Kumar has a soft corner for the stuntmen in Bollywood. After all he’s the action hero of Bollywood and can better understand the risks that these guys take on behalf of the star actors. Akshay Kumar wants the film industry to provide insurance cover for the stuntmen in Bollywood.

Akshay says the safety aspect is not up to international standards. And although ambulance and doctors are available on the sets nowadays, he’s surprised that the stuntmen in Bollywood have no insurance cover, considering their hazardous profession.

  • Although Akshay Kumar does most of his stunts, he uses a body double in case of bad health
  • For Mary Kom, a professional boxer was hired to make Priyanka Chopra’s blows look as real as possible.
  • Aamir Khan used a body double for Dhoom 3, for all the bike scenes in Downtown Chicago
  • French stuntman Jawed El Berni has done stunts for Salman Khan in Ek Tha Tiger, and for Akshay Kumar in Housefull 2.
  • Shahrukh Khan used a body double in Fan to do all the action scenes in Croatia. He even had a body double in Chennai Express.

Stuntmen in Bollywood

Stuntmen’s Association of India

This is the nodal body that represents stuntmen in the film industry and has several hundred members. The association looks after the welfare of the stuntmen (any changes to wages, insurance schemes, and special awards).

Generally a well-known male stuntman gets around Rs.4000 – Rs.8000 for eight hours shifts (which is much less compared to their Hollywood counterparts).

The Stuntmen association have been pressing for an ‘award ceremony’ for recognition of their efforts, and an insurance cover from the film industry, to help them during the bad times (accident).