Millennium Discovers: The Stuntmen of Bollywood

Discovery / Entertainment

They are unknown and underpaid, but Bollywood’s stunt performers take life-threatening risks to entertain movie fans.

This documentary from Al Jazeera’s 101 East series explores why so many young Indian stunt performers are drawn to the bright lights of Bollywood for little reward.

India’s stunt performers put their bodies on the line for the country’s biggest film stars, for a meagre wage.

“If action films are a hit, the main reason is the stuntman but no one knows him,” says Javid Gauri, a stuntman from Saharanpur in India’s north.

Stunt work has given Gauri a pathway out of poverty, but he says being a stunt double for big action stars can be bittersweet.

“We don’t even get a credit … In a scene, when the character takes off their helmet and shows their face to the audience, the hero gets all the glory and we feel bad.”

Sometimes, stunt work can be a matter of life and death. Accidents are common, and some are fatal.

Balaji Raghav’s brother Uday jumped to his death in an incident at a lake outside Bengaluru in 2016.

Uday and another stuntman had to jump 60 feet (18 metres) from a helicopter into the lake, but instead of a spectacular action scene, the camera recorded the two men drowning.

“It was far from the shore. Uday tried to swim but he couldn’t,” says Balaji. “He was yelling for help but nobody came.”