The Indian Television Program That Killed 62 People

On February 8, 1989, a tragic accident devastated the studio where an Indian T.V. show was being shot (via India Today). The cast and crew of "The Sword Of Tipu Sultan" had planned to shoot 52 episodes, and had only just begun filming the second episode. But at Premier Studios in Mysore, a hazardous workspace would threaten everyone in the building.

Per the Times of India, lots of film studios are full of hazards. Sets might be created with flammable paint or wooden props. Sometimes explosives are needed on set, which pose a hazard if there is not adequate supervision. For some film studios, an electrician works onsite at all times to prevent hazards with wiring.

But, as Deccan Herald reports, Premier Studios was a supposedly modern film studio, with seven floors where hundreds of movies had been filmed before. Permanent sets were assembled so that up to seven productions could shoot at the same time, but producers had the sets made as cheaply as possible (via The Star of Mysore).

The start of the fire

On February 8, the cast and crew were set to film a wedding episode (via India Today). A 60-foot by 120-foot room had been decorated for the scene, taking place in a courtroom. Director and actor Sanjay Khan wanted to film footage of fireworks going off during the wedding scene.

The studio was extremely unsafe, with the potential to be highly flammable, reports the Times of India. Here's what happened: The day of the shoot, the set was scorching hot, reaching 120 degrees. The bright lights needed that day boosted the temperature to an unsafe level in the unventilated studio. The lack of exhaust vents wasn't the only issue, because there was loose wiring throughout the space. The studio was not fireproofed on the walls, but gunny sacks were hung up instead. India Today reports that the large wedding room had been sound-proofed by the crew, who lined the wood set with paper, mats, and rope fibers called coir.

It all went horribly wrong when a few "flower pot" style firecrackers were lit. At least 100 cast and crew were gathered and ready to film in the hot, soundproofed set. The room was immediately engulfed in flames as the fire ate up the masses of flammable materials on set. There were two exits, but one had been blocked by equipment, leaving a single exit point for 100 panicked people.

Director gets badly burnt

According to India Today, some people raced out of the studio and jumped into an outdoor water fountain. But 27 people died before ever reaching the door. In total, 62 cast and crew members died, either in the fire or as a result of their injuries.

 Sanjay Khan, the director and actor in the movie, was among the most severely burned (via the Times of India). India Today reports that Khan had burns on 65% of his body. His head swelled to three times its normal size, and his hair had melted onto his scalp; medical staff initially refused to give Khan a mirror to view his third-degree burns (via Rediff). In total, Khan underwent 73 surgeries and numerous skin grafts. And he was hospitalized for over a year. He described the unbearable pain he endured, which made him delirious. He later penned a memoir about the experience.

Premier Studios was closed following the tragic fire, per the Deccan Herald. As for the survivors of the accident, 17 victims of the fire were given 50,000 rupees ($652 USD) per person, by the Parliament of India.