Find out how John lifted this bike

A still from 'Force'

Veteran action director, Allan Amin reveals secrets of his art and talks about his most challenging stunts


Hindi films have always been known for mindless action sequences. Be it the low gravity kind or the racing bullet variety. In either case, there is usually a person scripting these bone-smashing, skull-crushing scenes. And while most only credit the actors delivering massive blows that reduce brick walls to rubble, the real heroes are the ones who strategically plan these marvelous feats. In a conversation with Yahoo! India, veteran action director Allan Amin reveals some of the secrets of his art and even points out the most challenging action scenes that he has crafted for some of the biggest Bollywood blockbusters.

1. In your career, can you point out some of the most challenging stunts that you've choreographed?
 The most difficult sequences were in ‘Dhoom’ - jumping through a running train on a bike, the scene required John to jump through a running train on a moving bike. It was very difficult to shoot because both, the train and the bike were in motion and it becomes difficult to maintain balance even if you have a harness attached. Then another challenging scene was in Dhoom 2, where Hrithik and Abishek Bachchan’s body doubles were supposed to jump from a cliff and grab each other in mid-air. It was again very difficult because the cliff was 4000 feet high and grabbing each other during a free fall is scary and difficult no matter how much precautions you take. Even in ‘Force’ we have shot for a very difficult scene, the scene was where John was supposed to jump from a cliff and land on an air bag. During such scenes if at all the air bag gets punctured, it can cost him his life. So while doing this sequence, we all had our fingers crossed.

2. What kind of action sequences were required for 'Force' based on the brief from the director? How did you visualize them?
Nishikant was very clear about what he wanted. His brief to me was that he wanted some hardcore muscular action stunts with maximum intensity possible. We sat and planned with John on till what extent can we exploit his body for physical action. In the film, John plays an anti-narcotics officer and we had to design his actions accordingly. My brief was to show off John’s sheer muscle power. The stunts we had in mind were as raw as lifting a bike, chase sequences on top of moving trains, breaking somebody’s head, nose etc without using any prop.
 
3. What are the things that an action director need to keep in mind when conceptualizing a fight sequence?

Two things- script and the character. The action has to be in sync with the script of the film. What I was explained for ‘Force’ was that John is a narcotics officer; a good cop, the look that was explained to me was that of a huge muscular man. My actions were designed around these two pieces of information. I knew that to exploit the body, I need to involve more and more physical action unlike film that use gadgets and bikes and guns like ‘Dhoom’ or ‘Race’.

A still from 'Force'
 
4. In Force, you have made John lift a bike, how did the idea strike you and how did you execute it?
As I said earlier, my brief was to show off John’s muscle power as much as possible and remain as raw as possible so we thought of the bike sequence, where John will just pick up a bike randomly and throw it on a guy. Actually, it was John’s idea to lift the bike himself without the ropes. We had arranged for a lot of safety measures to lift the bike because if at any moment the bike would have dropped or the lifting process would have gone wrong, it could have been not less than a fatal accident for John. So the ropes and harness were to be in place. Before doing the actual shoot with John, we first did a mock scene with one of my team members to check on the safety measures, once we were through with the mock shoot; we started shooting with John. But while doing the scene, he decided to try and lift it himself. We were little apprehensive in the beginning but later we decided to let him try and he pulled it off.
 
5. What were the challenges in directing the action sequences in ‘Force’ and how did you overcome them?
 The biggest challenge was that I had to direct most of the sequences with John performing everything physically. We haven’t used any of those suave gadgets in our action, most of it is as rough and raw as possible. So to design everything keeping that in mind was a challenge because you have to keep the actor’s body and limitations in mind but thankfully, John had developed a body which carried off heavy-weight sequences also quite skillfully.
 
6. There has been a recent trend of exaggerated fight sequences in films, right from 'Dabangg' to 'Singham', why do you think this trend has become popular? Have you ever subscribed to trends or altered your art to match up with the trend? If not, why?
This trend has become popular because of the actors who have performed the sequences with conviction. I have never subscribed to these trends and will never alter my art to match up to it because I have got my own style of working, which has evolved over the years from ‘Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar’ to ‘Satya’ to ‘Mission Kashmir’ to ‘Dhoom’, ‘Dhoom 2’ and now ‘Force’.
 
7. What are the plus points of crafting an action scene for John? Are there action sequences that cannot be created for John or wouldn't suit John?
As I just mentioned, the biggest plus point of working with John is his physicality. His height and body allow him to pull off most stunts suavely and physical action sequences quite easily.

8. As an action director, which are your favourite films that had fight/ action scenes that you thought deserved to be applauded?
I would say ‘Bandit Queen’. It’s action sequences were as real as it can get.

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John and Allan Amin on the sets of 'Force'