It was early October. It was just another day of action for John Abraham in Budapest. The sequence they were filming for ‘Force 2’ had the villain racing down a corridor with John, a RAW agent, running parallel, breaking through doors.
He burst through seven doors and since they were in Hungary, they didn’t have a set designer to create flimsy artificial doors so these were solid wood doors sawed through. “While running I had to protect my eyes and face from the flying wood splinters. I flew through at such speed that the old woman stationed near the seventh door, with a camera on hand to catch his expression, was still looking behind me and didn’t react,” the actor smiles.
The smile disappears as John recalls that he tripped on the handle of the last door and was hurtling towards the wall six feet away. He had to take a split second decision: Save his head or his knee? He slammed his knee on the ground and knew instantly that it was damaged. In the hospital, the doctor plunged an injection into it and aspirated the blood clot. “I returned to the shoot, sliding down a rooftop, without realising I was rupturing the knee even more in action,” narrates the 43-year-old actor.
The next sequence required him to zipline at 150 feet up, between two buildings, with bad guy, Tahir Bhasin, cutting the zip. John was asked if he wanted a double but afraid that it wouldn’t look as convincing, he chose to pad up himself. And when Tahir cut the zip, went swinging like a pendulum, crashing through glass, hitting the wall with such impact that he bounced off it, rolled off the roof and fell 20 feet down. “My first thought was, ‘I think the knee is gone!'” he says.
That evening he was back to the hospital. The doctor looked at his knee, said he was an idiot and told him he’d have to cut it open. “He was Hungarian, I was speaking in English, so he didn’t understand when I told him I felt pain. I have a factor in my blood whereby I don’t react to local anesthesia. So while it takes just one injection to numb someone, I have to take eight to desensitise 15 per cent of the area,” he explains, remembering his agony as the young, bespectacled doctor cut his knee open, the blood splashing his face and glasses.
For the next six days, John went back to the hospital every day and they drained out 80 ml (two fistfuls) of clotted blood. His haemoglobin level fell from 16 to six. “I was put on morphine, I could barely see. On the sixth day, the doctor told me they’d have to amputate the leg and I went blank,” he shudders.
When he could think, he called his doctor, Dr Rajesh Maniar, in Mumbai to inform him that he they were talking of taking his leg off. The doctor told him to slam a drainpipe into his knee, strap it up and take the next flight out. “The third surgery in Mumbai saved my knee, else I would have spent my life on crutches,” confides the actor who’s given the Force sequel his blood and sweat, literally.Today, when he looks back, he realises how big a risk he took but the injury didn’t scare him . The day he returned to the sets, the first shot required him to break a door with his leg. He did it effortlessly and promises to jump off more buildings and break more doors next time.Why does he take such risks? Because John believes that if you’re an action hero, you can’t be cute…You can’t fake or force action. You go out there and do it for real and live with the lines on your face and the scars on your body. “Action will always be a part of my DNA. I like flirting with danger. When you are living on the edge you don’t waste space,” he signs off with a smile.