It is a truth universally acknowledged that a Tiger Shroff in possession of a large film franchise must be in want of several extras to beat up. Bad guys in the Tiger Cinematic Universe™ have been punched, roundhouse kicked, drowned, had their teeth knocked out, slammed into the ground, stabbed, shot at and even blown up by grenades. I’m not saying the actor’s popularity is in direct correlation to the number of asses he’s kicked per film, but in Baaghi (2016), Shroff battles his way through a building full of trained fighters. Compare this to the recently released third installment of the franchise, in which he takes on an entire country. From stuntmen only identified by their first names in the end credits, to some of our country’s biggest stars – Shroff’s punches are the great leveller. Given the ever-increasing body count in the actor’s filmography, his co-actors from War (2019), Student of the Year 2 (2019) and Baaghi spoke about what it’s like to be on the other side of his fist:
Rohit Dandwani – punched in the face, kicked by Tiger Shroff in Student of the Year 2
You’re 24, you’ve never had a days’ worth of martial arts training in your life and your first film role requires you to square off against Tiger Shroff – what do you do? “Shit your pants every day,” says Rohit Dandwani.
Student of the Year 2 has the distinction of being the rare film in which Shroff dances almost as much as he fights. He gets into two fistfights over the course of the film, is soundly defeated in the first, but turns the tables in the second. Dandwani initially tested for the role of Shroff’s kabaddi teammate, but beat out nearly 100 aspirants to land the role of his college rival’s friend instead. After a thorough examination by action director Sham Kaushal, he and a team of amateurs were prescribed four to six hours of kabaddi training every day at Aksa beach for nearly two months. That was followed by two weeks of rehearsals for the fight scenes, choreographed by Thailand-based team Jaika Stunts (which also did Baaghi). Dandwani then learnt the art of blocking fight scenes, which he likens to learning garba, from Shroff’s personal trainer. When Shroff did show up at training, it was for only 20 days, and to advise the rest of the team how to better their moves.
The bleachers fight scene, shot in Thailand, took nine days to choreograph and involved a lot of wirework. “For the other fight scene in which I had to drag him out of the college, I kept asking: Tiger bhai, am I holding you too hard? And he would say: Bro, go all out. Even if you scratch me, that’s okay. He’s just that good.”
Salmin Sheriff – drowned by Tiger Shroff in War
Early in War, Shroff’s Khalid breaks through the window of a villa to bust a drug dealing ring in Malta. In the scene, shot entirely in one take, he grapples with six henchmen in the living room before setting his sights on ringleader Oslav (Salmin Sheriff). The fight winds down in the backyard pool where Oslav is promptly drowned.
Sheriff has a 30-year-long career in theatre, which begs the question: How do you go from the stage to tackling Tiger Shroff in a pool? By having 44 years of martial arts training, particularly in the Wing Chun style of fighting, he says. “I don’t usually do small parts and this one had no dialogues. But I did it because I knew there would be martial artists from all over the world on set. Ron Smoorenburg, who fought Jackie Chan in a film (1998 released in Who Am I?) was there,” he says. The scene came together over the “very chill atmosphere” of three days of shooting. Sheriff’s work was cut out for him – run, trip and fall, get hit by a chair Shroff throws at him, stumble backwards into a grandfather clock. Having knife skills helped too. For a scene in which Sheriff attempts to stab Shroff, the actor was worried audiences would realize the knife was fake if it slipped out of his hand and began floating in the pool. The two quickly devised a solution. “I realized I had to dispose of it outside the frame. So I told him to twist my hand in a certain way. I jerked my wrist back and the knife fell out of frame,” he says.
The rest of the scene was much harder to shoot. Sheriff recalls falling sick after being submerged in the pool for an entire day. “I had to hold my breath for a long time. I couldn’t hear the word ‘cut!’ underwater and didn’t want to come up in case I spoiled the scene. There were a couple of times when Tiger was still holding my head down.”
Ron Smoorenburg – kicked to death by Tiger Shroff in Baaghi and War
Yes, that Ron Smoorenburg. In Baaghi (2016), he plays Lon, reigning champion at an underground fight club that Ronny (Shroff) infiltrates. Lon tenses his muscles, lets out a guttural growl and runs full tilt towards Ronny…only to be kicked squarely in the jaw and knocked out on the spot. Shroff, who became a fan of the stuntman after seeing him in Who Am I?, did advocate for him to play a bigger role in the film, but the stunt team from Thailand was insistent on a ‘one-hit-one-kill’ policy.
“The shoot was great, I just died too quick. I want a revenge fight – me vs Tiger. A good one on one,” says Smoorenburg.
The War villa fight, in which Smoorenburg plays an unnamed henchman, took a day of rehearsals to put together. He gets in a few hits of his own, kicking the incapacitated Shroff across the face twice. Things go wrong when he attempts to do a flying kick into the pool but misses by a mile. Shroff kicks him in the face instead, sending him headfirst into the concrete side of the pool, which kills him instantly. Far from being intense, the first take wound up being unexpectedly humourous, says Smoorenburg. “I had to show them how to do the flying kick but I landed flat on my back. So they called me ‘flatback Ron’ for the rest of the shoot.”