From Ranbir rehearsing for a week to the team building a special arena, Shamshera director breaks down how they shot the Kalaripayattu-inspired fight sequence
A still from the film
Ranbir Kapoor pulling off high-octane action stunts and fighting countless baddies is an unusual sight on screen. His choice of films has mostly seen him play characters that are rooted and relatable. That’s why director Karan Malhotra knew he could not hit a false note when presenting Kapoor as a larger-than-life hero in his upcoming release, Shamshera. The thought played on his mind when executing the movie’s action sequences, particularly the ambitious set-piece that sees Kapoor’s character Balli lock horns with Sanjay Dutt’s Shuddh Singh. For the sequence, action director Franz Spilhaus — who previously worked on Denzel Washington’s Safe House (2012) and Hrithik Roshan-Tiger Shroff starrer War (2019) — decided to incorporate moves from Kalaripayattu, a martial art form that has its origins in India.
The director explains that the scene had to be mounted on a grand scale, as it was to be one of the film’s highlights. The production design team built a large arena in Yash Raj Studios. In the sequence, Kapoor’s dacoit character is seen fighting the ruthless army general, with a wooden log as their choice of weapon. “Shamshera is rooted in Indian culture and traditions. With the story being set in the 1800s, it was important that the action set-pieces look from that era. Ranbir, who is playing the [classic] Hindi film hero, had to pull off incredible action scenes. We shot the Kalaripayattu-inspired fight sequence on a dusty field, constructing an arena that resembled one [prevalent] during those times.”
Malhotra’s biggest advantage is that he found a leading man who is deeply committed to his craft. “As an actor, Ranbir jumps at anything new. When we explained the scene to him, he wanted to ace it,” he says, recounting how the actor rehearsed for a week before setting foot on the set. “He put in many days, rehearsing the scene with Franz and his team. It was a challenging shoot. It was hot, humid, and dusty. To make matters worse, it was also windy. Hats off to Ranbir for pulling this off!”