Mumbai, Jul 30: Paying tributes to Parvez Khan, who died on Monday following a massive heart attack, filmmaker Sriram Raghavan said the action director was blessed with an ability to convince actors to perform potentially dangerous stunts, without any fear.
Khan, 55, began his career by assisting action director Akbar Bakshi in films like Akshay Kumar’s “Khiladi” (1992), Shah Rukh Khan’s “Baazigar” (1993) and Bobby Deol-starrer “Soldier” in 1998. He started working independently with Ram Gopal Varma’s “Ab Tak Chhappan” in 2004 and went on to have a long-standing collaboration with Raghavan in films like “Johnny Gaddaar”, “Agent Vinod”, “Badlapur” and his National Award-winning “Andhadhun”.
Raghavan said Khan was a “valuable member” of his team. He was Raghavan’s go-to person for designing thrilling sequences that did not resemble typical Bollywood action pieces.
“One of his best qualities was that he made actors comfortable, whether it’s debutant Neil (Nitin Mukesh), or Tabu or a veteran like Dharmendra. He could charge them up to perform potentially dangerous stunts safely and without fear. Saif (Ali Khan), Varun (Dhawan), and Ayushman (Khurrana) all got along fabulously with him. “They were all ‘Sher ka bachhas’ to him. That’s how he used to encourage them during a stunt,” said Raghavan remembering his colleague.
The director said he always thought that Khan had a “hidden actor” in him and even cast him for a cameo in his “Johnny Gaddar”, which marked Neil Nitin Mukesh’s Bollywood debut. For the 2007 film, a low-budget thriller, Raghavan wanted the action to appear real, not filmy or exaggerated. In the scene, Mukesh’s Vikram wears a mask and chloroforms his tougher colleague, Shiva, played by Daya Shetty of “CID” fame.
“It’s almost a 10 minute-long sequence with no dialogue or music. And it was shot on a moving train. I still remember the collective gasp in the Chandan cinema audience, when Shiva in the middle of the fight suddenly falls and hits his head on the steel basin,” the director recalled.
“Our working method was that I would narrate him the story of the scene and he would gather his team of fighters and assistants and work out the entire sequence. He would show it to us in real time and then in slow motion. So that we could suggest changes if required. He understood the characters in the story were not ‘fighters’ or stuntmen so he would ensure the action is kept believable,” said Raghavan.
Similarly, in “Badlapur”, Khan helped the director design the opening sequence which had a bank robbery, followed by a car chase during which a child falls off a moving car and the mother is shot dead.
The action master also designed the jail escape sequence, a crucial one as it hides the fact that Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s character has aged and there is a time transition in the story. The entire sequence was done in long shots till the transition is revealed.
The director said he worked with many action masters in “Agent Vinod”, but his favourite sequence is the hand-to-hand combat between Saif and a thug, which is intercut with another such combat between them in the past in a different location. “We had a lot of fun figuring out the beats and transitions of that sequence,” Raghavan said.
The director and Khan collaborated last on “Andhadhun” and as the story revolved around a supposedly blind pianist, the action had to be designed “for a blind man and not make it the ‘Daredevil’ zone”.
“I remember Tabu was terrified when she had to throw the old lady off the balcony. Of course, we had a stunt girl wearing a wig and of course, we had safety nets and ramps and so on. But Tabu was still understandably nervous. ‘How do I do it?’ she asked. Parvez had a simple reply. ‘Just pick and throw!’,” he recalled. The director said he will always remember Khan’s “booming voice and strong, warm handshake”.
Film editor Pooja Ladha Surti, a long-time collaborator of Raghavan, said Khan “effectively goaded” actors to perform stunts and ensured that women on the sets felt comfortable around him and his team. While working on the “work-in-progress” edits, everyone “would hear Masterji shouting and exhorting and goading the actors. His running commentary, often with swear words was funny but hugely effective”.
“Parvez Bhai was a gentleman. Neither I nor any of the girls working on the set felt uncomfortable around him and his team. That was because he always treated us with courtesy and his team followed suit,” Surti said.