Get a grip on the Action

hollywoodHe sets up the camera for that perfect shot that thrills you. Meet India’s leading ‘key grip’.

Sanjay Sami is not a name that rings a bell right away. Briefly, his is an interesting job that takes him around the globe to exotic locations, lets him brush shoulders with top filmmakers and stars.

Sami’s job title is that of a key grip, and his portfolio boasts plum Indian and International film titles as well as several ad-films. ‘Key grip’ is a familiar term if you are a movie buff who sits right through the final credits of a film. For the uninitiated, grips are specialist technicians who rig film cameras atop all kinds of mobile machinery to help the cinematographer get his desired shot.

Sami’s company, The Grip Works, is the only full-facility grip service in India that supplies state-of-the-art equipment and trained professionals to international film crew that shoot in India, besides the handful Indian filmmakers who have started hiring his services lately.

The Bourne Supremacy, The Fall, The Guru, The Cell and Marigold are among the international films his 16-member crew has handled. Bollywood projects include Dil Chahta Hai, Don, Being Cyrus and Kabul Express.

Sami is also responsible for rigging up the highest camera crane shot ever taken – at 17,796 feet in Taklangla, Ladakh – for Lakshya, Patrick Crowley, producer of The Bourne Supremacy, says Sami is one of the best key grips he ever worked with.

“Indian directors are increasingly waking up to specialist grip work,” says Sami, whose hobby as a young boy of tinkering with machinery led him into this fringe career. For Farhan Akhtar’s Don, he set up helicopter rigs, put up cameras for high-speed chases and on exploding cars. “Don is definitely at par with The Bourne Supremacy in terms of action.”

Sami’s forthcoming projects include Ashutosh Gowariker’s Akbar-Jodha and Wes Anderson’s Darjeeling Limited. His crew was also hired to work on the Johnny Depp-starrer Shantaram, the shooting for which has been post-poned.

Standing tall at six feet with a muscled frame, Sami does look like the man who can commandeer action that involves equipment, which weighs up to 4 tonnes.

Having perfected his skills on the job, assisting grips from Poland, The Netherlands, The UK and Australia, this 35-year-old has been at it for 10 years. “All good grips in India have been trained by me,” he concludes with pride.

Hindustan Times, October 2006