"I have never jumped into a water body from a height. I am not a very good swimmer. But stunt master has ensured safety. I would have been worried if I had to jump along but all three of us are jumping together. We can look at each others face and drown", said Uday jokingly, just minutes before he took that fatal jump into T G Halli reservoir. He was talking to a regional television channel. Death made him spell out his fate for that is exactly how he went down while shooting for 'Masti Gudi'.
[Also Read: 'Masti Gudi' tragedy: FIR against crew members]
The death of 2 actors on the sets of 'Masti Gudi' came as a shocker to many but for some within the industry, this was a tragedy waiting to happen. The incident holds up the mirror to the industry that reeks of reckless arrogance, blatant disregard for norms, scant respect for human life and gross neglect of supporting artists.
3 men jumped from the helicopter. Only one of them, incidentally the film's lead, was rescued. There was one diesel boat and one coracle on standby to pull the actors out of water but both were of little help. Of the 3 men who jumped, only the film's lead actor, Vijay was a confident swimmer, yet the coracle went to him first and the diesel boat wouldn't turn on immediately. Anil and Uday had openly spoken about how they weren't good swimmers but were willing to jump anyway. "I am not scared. Choreographer is confident and that will take care of us. I will put my faith in God", said Anil to a television channel before the movie crew began shooting for the scene.
Why take the risk?
Why take the risk? "Fear of not landing more projects", said a senior actor. "Artists like Uday come from poor backgrounds and are willing to take any risks to leave a mark in the industry. They need more work and know that naysayers will be cut short. They are willing to take the risk because they know they need it to survive in the industry", he added. This 'need' is what leads to their exploitation.
Vijay was allowed to wear a life jacket under his shirt for the risky scene but both Anil and Uday were bare chested and hence couldn't wear life jackets. They had to take the jump from a height of over 100 feet with no practice, no rehearsal, no rope, no life jacket and no safety measures. With nothing but their faith in the assurances given to them by the crew and the stunt director and those assurances did precious little to save them from drowning. In a matter of seconds the camera that was supposed to shoot the climax scene was recording footage of Anil and Uday meeting their anti-climax.
No one meant for lives to be lost but lack of adequate safety measures and violating norms pushed 2 actor to their watery grave. The crew had waited for a month and half for permissions to be granted. Rs 32 lakh was being spent on this one-day shoot. The permission granted didn't allow aerial shoots, it didn't allow jumping into the water. The permission was granted for just a day and the crew was compelled to finish shooting before sunset. The actors had agreed to a live stunt with no prior practice, "We were informed of the shoot only last evening and we arrived at the location by 8 AM. There was absolutely no time for rehersal", Anil had told reporters before shoot commenced.
Industry insiders say that most often than not producers avoid practice and rehearsal sessions to cut costs. "The Kannada film industry doesn't invest as much as other industries. Our movies are made on tight budgets and cost-cutting takes priority. In this case I strongly believe that the water body wasn't tested. Divers should have been appointed to pull them to safety. It is sad that 2 lives were lost due to lack of preparedness, something that could have been easily avoided", said a renowned actor. "Choreographers sometimes get carried away by frames and backgrounds. They allow creativity to prevail over logic and force actors into risky situations during action or song sequences", she added.
Multiple teams of NDRF, Fire and Emergency Service personnel continued search operations for Uday and Anil's bodies in T G Halli reservoir on Tuesday.