Directing an action sequence for a movie is not an easy job where a small avoidable mistake from the director's part can have grave repercussions. But for Peter Hein, the celebrated stunt master, it is something more than that. His works for movies, like Bahubali, Ghajini, Anniyan and Enthiran, stand testimony to his exceptional talent.
He directed action scenes for Rajinikanth's epic movie Enthiran sitting in wheelchairs, with injuries in eighteen places of his body. Now after composing, breathtaking action-packed scenes for Mohanlal's currently running Pulimurugan, he has become the heart-throb of Keralites.
In an exclusive interview with the Senior Entertainment Editor at SouthLive, Maneesh Narayanan, he narrates his experiences of working with Mohanlal.
Viewers usually see your name associated with 50-crore and 100-crore big-budget flicks. But now you have won the hearts of Malayalis through a comparatively less-budget movie Pulimurugan. What do you want to share with the readers while the movie is successfully running in the theatres breaking all box office records?
The language of the movies I work in, is none of my concern. Let it be Telugu or Malayalam, as an Action Director, I am looking for a complete perfection in doing action sequences. Working for Pulimurugan was truly a refreshing and reassuring experience for me. There was an inexplicable bond between the entire crew of the film, throughout the shoot.
When the producer and the director of the movie approached me for this project, what they wanted of me was to compose a first-of-its-kind action scene for it. I knew that Mollywood is a small industry when it comes to the budget, in comparison with Tamil and Hindi movies. However, producers of Pulimurugan had the compulsion that such limitation should not affect the perfection of the making.
We worked like a family for more than hundred days together.
Having had the experience of working with many South Indian actors and superstars like Rajinikanth and Amir khan, getting a chance to work with Mohanlal was not that super exciting for me . But he literally stunned me throughout the shoot. I found in him the politeness and humbleness that I saw in Rajini Sir. If you ask me to explain Mohanlal in one sentence, I must say that he is an acting professional who gives his hundred percent to the work he does. I will never forget the days I spent with him.
As an action choreographer, what is Peter Hein’s USP?
I am very strict when it comes to the work. I won’t mind saying things straight forward on the faces of people. And to be frank, I become very reserved when at shoot.
Since directing action sequences need more attention and care, I can’t be easy.
When the producers call action directors, what they expect from us would be composing it differently and interestingly.
To make it that way, I follow certain rules and plans, which are closely related to Hollywood style of making. I love following them, since they are uncompromising when it comes to planning and executing action scenes.
Mohanlal had said before the release of the movie that Pulimurugan has tears ( both of happiness and hard work) of Peter Hein in it
What was it that dragged you to the project the most?
I was busy with Bahubali action choreography when I first heard the story of Pulimurugan from Vaishak. I found it very hooking as it tells a story of an unseen fight between a man and an animal. That unusual story in the movie made me sign to it, rejecting Bahubali 2 offer. I still remember what Vaishak told me when I signed the project. “We would be thankful for trusting us,” he said. There was that trust between us throughout the shoot and even after that. They trusted me and my efforts. Happy that we are getting a standing ovation as the reward of the trust we exchanged.
You are choreographing a fight between a tiger and a man for the first time. How difficult was it to bring it out realistically?
It is entirely different from choreographing fight sequences between two men. The way one is taking on a tiger, his body language and action styles should stand out. The early days of my association with the project was solely dedicated to it. I and Lal sir went all the way to Vietnam to see tigers and to learn little and unlearn more of our presumed notions about animals.
Throughout the project, Mohanlal dump-founded me by his dedication to the work. I am not boasting about him just because we worked together. You can feel it when you watch the movie in theatres. While in Vietnam, he would wake up early in the morning for practice and would do all that was needed, like an enthusiastic child. He would also find some time in the evening to continue the practice. His stardom never stopped him from going to any extent for the perfection of the committed work.
He passionately reminded me that Malayalam industry is comparatively small and it is in dire need of a classic movie with an international touch. “that is why you are here,” he used to tell me.
I replied him that I am just a technician and my passion for the work makes it in better quality.
Tell me about the risk factor in involving an original tiger for the shoot?
In most of the movies I worked with, we used Computer generated (CG) images of animals instead of filming with them. This time, we took it as a challenge to go ahead with taking in an original tiger. We went to Vietnam looking for a tiger that matches the tiger in our mind after reading the script. First, we got a dangerously furious one. When we realized that it would be unsafe to manage it, we took another from South Africa. In the limited time span before the shoot, I and Lal sir along with director met many animal activists and tried to learn how to deal with tigers.
In the early stages of filming, we brought the tiger for the shoot with a chain on its neck, which was later removed as said by Lal Sir and Vaishak.
Another main obstacle in filming with the tiger was its mood. We could not finish filming the scenes until the tiger came in without any compulsion. This took a lot of time. I believe that we shot 80-85 percent of tiger’s scenes in the movie with the real one.
In most cases, dupes handle risky action scenes instead of film stars. However, director Vaishak said you decided to not go for dupes in the very first day of shooting?
To answer this question, I want to repeat what I told you about the relentless passion of Mohanlal to acting. It needs a lot of courage along with the passion for doing such high-risk scenes. He trusted me to take all these risks.
Usually, we Action Directors show actors how easy or difficult it is to do a scene before we insist them to take such risks. During Pulimurugan, Mohanlal first trusted me then stunned me. That was simply awesome. I was watching him do all adventurous scenes himself, though dupes who were brought in, they sat aside watching him take care of it so passionately. His craze for action is something beyond our imagination.
In many occasions, I told him to refrain from acting in heavy fight sequences and to hand it over to the dupes. But, he never allowed me to do so. This is the first time in my stunt direction career, I am seeing someone who has a huge fan base across South India, daring to take up all fight scenes alone.
In usual cases of action choreography, we shoot rope fight scenes with dupes, by bringing in the heroes at the landing shots. But , in Pulimurugan, Lal Sir did it all alone. He is such a great effort-taker.
What are your upcoming projects?
As of now, I am working on an A.R. Murugadoss’ movie.
After that, I would concentrate on my directorial debut. It will be a Vietnamese movie shot in China and Vietnam.
I am really moved by the response I am getting from people of Kerala who truly support good cinemas. My Facebook page is flooded with their gestures of love and appreciation. It is really overwhelming to see the kind of feedback I am getting for this 50-crore movie, which maybe equal to the recognition I received after doing the 200-crore flick Bahubali.