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She’s a Daring Baaz

Getting bummed by a moving car or jumping off it, stuntwoman Anu Shahzad Shaikh (27) has done it all, Priyanka Talreja reports
How did you get into doing stunts?

My career started 12 years ago with Chote Sarkar. I used to accompany my dad, who was a stuntman, on the sets. Coincidently, on one such occasion, Divya Dutta refused to do a scene and I ended up playing her body double, as our height and body matched. That stunt was my claim to fame, as many stunt masters noticed I was a ‘daring baaz’. I became a recognisable name in the industry.

Have you ever hurt yourself while doing a stunt?

Yes, in fact I am currently injured. I hurt myself in the movie Agyaat, where I was a body double for Nisha Kothari last year. I consider it my bad luck. All I had to do was jump into a small puddle, but I ended up fracturing my ankle. I have a screw in my leg that will be removed only in August, after my second operation. This mishap had left me a bed rest for six months, and I still cannot run.

Tell us about your most dangerous stunt?

There are two. The first one is a dream sequence for a forthcoming movie. I had to jump off the eighth floor of an under construction building. In spite of being attached to a harness, I was really scared and I couldn’t talk for a long time even after the stunt was over. The second was for Happy Journey. I had to fall off a bridge into the deep waters at Ulhasnagar. I executed both these stunts after my leg injury, so it was really intimidating.

Is your family supportive?

I have a bunch of stuntmen in my family! My husband, who is the son of famous stuntman A Mansoor, is also in the same profession. My mami saas is the legendary stuntwoman Reshma, who has body doubled for Hema Malini in Sholay. Apart from this, my dad was also in the same field. However, my parents have always been very scared for me. My mother keeps asking me to discontinue. However, stunts give me the much needed financial help.

How much do you earn per shift?

I earn Rs 3,000-4,000 per shift (9.00 am to 6.00 pm) plus conveyance of around Rs 300 to Rs 500 in cash at the end of each shoot.

Do you stick to stunts alone?

No, I have played various characters. I have acted in Lagaan and Asoka, and also played Rani Mukherjee’s friend in Saathiya. Very recently, I played the role of the maid in Phoonk 1 and 2.

Are the work timings erratic?

Yes, it is quite erratic, but until sometime back, things were different. We used to have good work, thanks to Balaji serials. Our work has taken a hit, as many of them have been discontinued. Earlier, some female character would always be jumping off a moving car or her house would catch fire. But now, serials mein koi zyada girta padta nahi hai.

Is this field male dominated?

Yes, but rightfully so. In soaps, an actress is rarely offered action sequences. It is only when they fall off a cliff, or bang into a car do they need a stunt double. In movies, there is a higher scope – for example Aishwariya Rai’s role in Dhoom 2. I had one such experience while playing body double for Urmila Matondkar in Pinjar. I had to between a herd of horses, which was very challenging.

Which is the easiest stunt you have performed till date?

Personally, I have become an expert at rolling. I know each and every trick required to perform this act. I have tumbled down various hills, mountains, staircases!

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