Indian actresses Disha Patani, Amyra Dastur in awe of childhood idol Jackie Chan

Amyra Dastur.
Amyra Dastur.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR
Disha Patani.
Disha Patani.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR
Mu Qimiya.
Mu Qimiya.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Jackie Chan may never get to play the British secret agent codenamed 007, but that has not stopped him from acquiring his own version of the Bond girls.

He romanced Maggie Cheung in the first three instalments of Police Story in the 1980s and 1990s; met his match in tough cookie Michelle Yeoh, who performed her own daredevil stunts in Police Story 3: Super Cop (1992) ; teamed up with American actress Jennifer Love Hewitt in spy comedy The Tuxedo (2002); and picked Singapore's Fann Wong to star in his 2003 Hollywood movie Shanghai Knights.

His latest action-comedy Kung Fu Yoga has not one but three beauties - Chinese yoga starlet Mu Qimiya and Indian actresses Disha Patani and Amyra Dastur.


Pranked by Jackie Chan

Who: Amyra Dastur, 23

Occupation: Model, actress Dastur, who starred in Bollywood movies Mr. X (2015) and Issaq (2013), says it was a refreshing change for her to audition for an English-speaking part, but she did not know it was for a Jackie Chan movie. So the Indian actress was elated to nab the role of feisty princess Kyra, the younger sister of Ashmita (Disha Patani) who tags along for the treasure hunt - she says Chan is her hero.

What was your reaction when you first met Chan?

I've grown up watching his movies such as Rush Hour, Rumble In The Bronx and Armour Of God... and to meet him in real life, it was insane. I was star-struck the first time. It took me about a week to talk to him normally, without looking at him and thinking, "Oh my god."

 

What were the fun moments with him on the set?

He kept scaring me. He would come up behind me and go, "Boo." Once, he did it while I was holding a tray of vegetables and the tray flipped over. Director Stanley Tong said: "This is going to take a long time to reset."

What was the toughest stunt you had to execute?

I had to climb a wall of ice in Iceland. I had cloth gloves on and they got wet. I was hooked to a wall of ice, more than 7.5m up in the air, and my fingers were starting to turn purple. I thought to myself: "S***, what have I gotten myself into?" We did the glacier-climbing for three days. I used up a lot of strength and I could not feel my thighs and arms after the whole thing was over.

Did you sustain any injuries on the set?

Disha and I do not have any martial arts background. There was definitely a danger when doing stunts, but nothing serious happened to us. Except for a few bumps and bruises, we had no broken bones.


Just like a Bond girl

Who: Disha Patani, 23

Occupation: Model, actress A model and first runner-up in beauty pageant Femina Miss India 2013, she made her film debut in the 2015 Telugu film Loafer and her Bollywood debut in M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story (2016), the biopic of an Indian cricketer. In Kung Fu Yoga, she plays princess Ashmita, who needs archaeology professor Jack's (Chan) expertise to find the lost treasures of her kingdom.

Did you know of Chan when you were growing up?

He is very famous in India. We used to watch the animated series Jackie Chan Adventures. We watched him do stunts in his movies and wished we could do things like that one day.

He is such a legend, so doing a film with him is a dream come true. I remember the first day of filming with him and I couldn't stop smiling the whole shoot.

He has a penchant for casting beautiful women in his movies. How do you feel being labelled one of Chan's beauties?

I feel it is like being a Bond girl. It is not so much about being the girl, but you learn so much just by being around him, such as how he is always cleaning the environment. He has this positive energy. It makes you want to work hard yourself.

Did he have to push you to do some of the more intense scenes, such as plunging into the icy-cold waters in Iceland?

He didn't push me. I pushed myself. I was a huge fan and I wanted to impress him. I look up to him.

It was really cold. I couldn't move my toes and fingertips because of the cold. We are not used to the environment conditions in Iceland.


Yoga Goddess of Asia

Who: Mu Qimiya, 29

Occupation: Yoga practitioner, actress When yoga was incorporated into the action movie, director Tong had the perfect candidate in mind to cast - Mu, a Yunnan native who is touted as the Yoga Goddess of Asia after pictures of her practising yoga went viral on social media. She plays Nuomin, a teaching assistant to an archaeology professor (Chan).

Mu has built up a huge online following promoting yoga via videos and mass yoga sessions and parlayed her popularity into show-business opportunities, such as starring in Chinese thriller Tomb Robber (2014).

What was Chan like on the set of Kung Fu Yoga?

He is like a big kid - he is the most enthusiastic and hardworking. He even picks up trash and carries props. He gave us tips for fight scenes, on how to make the actions look beautiful and how to achieve comic timing.

Do the actresses get special treatment from him?

Big brother (Chan) takes care of every person on set. In cold weather, he buys us heat packs. In hot weather, he would treat us to popsicles. When the cameras are rolling, he expects his actors to give their all during action scenes.

He doesn't like girls to be delicate flowers. The female actresses are all tough cookies. He also doesn't like "xiao xian rou" (Mandarin slang for handsome young men) to complain about hard work. His positive working attitude is an inspiration to the next generation of actors.

Did you teach him any yoga moves?

Rather than say I taught him yoga moves, there was an exchange of knowledge between us. Chan has a solid martial arts background and I've just been practising yoga for a longer time. I advised him on breathing techniques that will result in better flow in movements. But he taught me many more things.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 25, 2017, with the headline 'Jackie Chan’s bevy of beauties'. Print Edition | Subscribe