With a rise in action movies, car suppliers in Bollywood have a hectic time sourcing rare models and modifying vehicles for action sequences, only to send them back to junkyards.
For a film set in Kolkata’s crime world of the ’70s and ’80s, the production team of Yash Raj Films’ Gunday needed for its protagonists Bikram and Bala — played by Ranveer Singh and Arjun Kapoor respectively — a car that would belong to the period. It needed to be flashy enough to be owned by the mafia, and in running condition for chase sequences. When Lal Balooch, a car supplier for Bollywood, received the request, the choice narrowed down to Chevrolet Impala. However, only few of these old cars, a status symbol in the ’70s, are available in running condition in India, and even fewer that can be used for action sequences. After much search, Balooch tracked down a garage that had the near-junk remains of Impala and over the days that followed, his team rebuilt the car.
Action no longer revolves around the hero and the baddies alone. Filmmakers Abbas-Mustan and Rohit Shetty have taken the trend of action sequences beyond car chases — with vehicles that fly, topple, burn or blow up. Sourcing cars, a job that was earlier on the periphery of filmmaking, has therefore become a full-fledged profile in the last few years. Agents such as Balooch often spend days together to source the required vehicles.
Ejaz Gulab of action director duo Javed-Ejaz explains that the model of the cars used in films depends, for most part, on the script. If the film is contemporary, it is easy to source the cars, which are often rented. “But if the scene requires the car to be destroyed, we buy either new or second-hand cars,” adds Feroz Shah, a supplier who purchased a second-hand Sonata and Gypsy for the drowning sequences in Talaash. This, he says, explains why the budget of films with elaborate action sequences is so high.
While it is easier to dispose off the cars used in action sequences, those that have escaped major damage during shooting can come in handy in the future. “Bejoy Nambiar’s upcoming David, for instance, has a few scenes where cars bang into each other and topple over. In such cases, one can build a metal cage inside the car’s body, the way rally drivers do. This helps protect stunt performers and also retains the shape of the vehicles. These are then fixed in a garage,” explains Gulab.
Most car suppliers, therefore, have their own garages. Mehboob Khan recounts that for Chaalis Chaurasi, where the police van was in itself an important character, director Hriday Shetty had a set of specifications. “The van belonged to the police and was rented only for the shoot,” he says. Khan’s team brought it to the garage, modified it to include a platform in accordance to the shoot requirement and fixed a stand for a camera. Later, he repaired it to look the same as before.
The job of car suppliers and mechanics is doubled in most cases because most action directors prefer to have an identical back-up vehicle. “After the major sequences, it is, in fact, the back-up vehicle that comes back to the garage whereas the original is disposed off,” says action director Allan Amin, who had, at hand, nine Mini Coopers as opposed to just three that were shown in Abbas-Mustan’s Players early this year.
It is, therefore, crucial for car suppliers that they maintain a strong network of garage owners and car enthusiasts. This comes in handy when a film belongs to a particular period or has special requirements. “For Anand Rai’s Ranjhana, the scene needed to show a rally car speeding down a hillock, destroying huts along the way. Our supplier had to use his network to source two rally cars of the same make that the owners would be willing to part with,” recounts Gulab, adding, “It took some convincing and some reworking on them, but it was worth it.”