‘KH234’ will be an action-packed feast: Stuntmasters Anbariv on the Kamal Haasan-Mani Ratnam project

‘KH234’ will be an action-packed feast: Stuntmasters Anbariv on the Kamal Haasan-Mani Ratnam project
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Stuntmaster duo Anbu and Arivu with Kamal Haasan
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Anbariv — as stuntmaster twins Anbu and Arivu are popularly known as — have lost count of the number of times they listened to the popular ‘Thenpaandi Seemaiyile’ track from Nayagan (1987) while growing up.

“I would start the first line….” says Anbu. Arivu chimes in, “And I would complete it.”

This Ilaiyaraaja song from the Mani Ratnam-Kamal Haasan cult classic remains one of their favourite tracks. Today, 35 years after the release of Nayagan, Mani Ratnam and Kamal Haasan have again joined hands for ‘KH234’, and Anbariv are in the thick of action.

The teaser of this film, expected to be released on November 6 close on the heels of Kamal Haasan’s birthday, will be an ‘action-packed feast’. “It will be of Hollywood standard,” is all they are willing to say as of now, “KH234 will be a pure action film.”

This is their second full-length film with Kamal Haasan, having worked on the 2022 hit flick Vikram directed by Lokesh Kanagaraj. “We considered being called for Vikram a huge accomplishment.” And now, the stakes just got bigger, as Kamal Haasan and Mani Ratnam working together again is considered a watershed moment by many observers of Tamil cinema. “While we were excited, we know that it is a big responsibility to deliver the goods. We started working on the action possibilities the minute we got the call.”

Anbariv with Mani Ratnam on the sets of ‘KH234’

Anbariv with Mani Ratnam on the sets of ‘KH234’
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

Fight club

Anbariv are among the biggest stunt coordinators in South Indian cinema today. While Pa Ranjith’s Madras and Kabali fetched them fame, their growth in the last few years has been staggering to say the least, with projects like Sarpatta Parambarai, Beast, KGF, RDX and the latest Vijay-starrer Leo.

So, what’s their secret?

“We try keeping up with the taste of audiences,” they say, elaborating, “When we started working in the film industry a decade ago, people were mostly watching English TV channels to get a dose of action films. In the last few years, due to the influx of OTT platforms, the exposure to action films is high. They watch action sequences done anywhere in the world, and well, action does not even need subtitles! So, the question we are always asked is: if it’s possible there, why is it not possible here?”

This is probably why they collaborate with the directors right from the scripting stage. “As action choreographers, our job is not just to stage the sequence. We read the entire script, and suggest places where the ‘heat’ is missing. We sometimes even suggest characters and dialogues in the lead up the fight. Ten years ago, we would listen to just a basic storyline and work on action scenes. Today, we have to get involved with the lead to the action, which basically refers to the why the hero is fighting at that point of time in the film. Only then can we satisfy audiences, giving them an impression that if they were the protagonist, they would do the same as well.”

Anbariv with Kamal Haasan and Mani Ratnam

Anbariv with Kamal Haasan and Mani Ratnam
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

Their latest works feature in Malayalam film RDX and Tamil film Leo starring Vijay. “Every stunt sequence is memorable to us, but the car chase scene in Leo was special as it was tough to execute. The entire scene was done inside a set involving just one car and one bike. All this was possible due to exciting technologies we have today.”

Anbariv are trying to adapt to changing technologies and exploring ways to use it to aid their craft. “Earlier, a hero or the action dupe jumping from 10 feet used to be a big event and was planned carefully. Today, such sequences can be shot easily, using technology and other tools available on set. We also employ robotic arms and cranes to make life easier on set while filming intense fight sequences.”

While the Kamal Haasan-Mani Ratnam project is on top of their mind now, Anbariv have other exciting projects as well. That includes work on director Shankar’s Game Changer starring Ram Charan and the climax portions of Indian 2 and another film starring Kamal Haasan. They also have two Rajinikanth projects — both Thalaivar 170 and Thalaivar 171 — lined up. “Someone recently described us as ‘game changers’ of Tamil cinema. It gives us great joy hearing that.”

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