TV shows

‘Iron Fist’ TV show has lots of martial arts and then some

Brett Chan, the show’s stunt co-ordinator, says that the Netflix show is nothing like ‘Daredevil’, ‘Luke Cage’ and ‘Jessica Jones’.

The newest defender of humankind joins the ranks this week. Following the successful Netflix-Marvel productions of Jessica Jones, Daredevil and Luke Cage, Iron Fist has made its debut on the streaming platform on March 17, introducing us to the final and fourth defender and readying the streets for an eventual bigger fight in The Defenders, also set for release in 2017.

Scott Buck’s Iron Fist tells the story of billionaire Danny Rand (Finn Jones), who returns to New York City 15 years after surviving a plane crash. Danny has spent the years training in martial arts in the mystical city of K’un L’un. Having plunged his hand into the molten heart of a dragon, he has gained the powers to invoke the iron fist when needed. On his return, Danny tries to reconnect with his legacy and his friends, but is forced to use his kung fu skills and superpowers to fight a new enemy.

Previous Marvel-Netflix adaptations of the Defenders series have been consistently breaking out of the superhero action genre, and similar things can be expected from Iron Fist.

But not all the noise surrounding Iron Fist has been positive. The show was first called out for cultural appropriation, and for missing an obvious opportunity for diversity and representation. Jones and Henwick have defended the series, hoping that viewers will look at the context before judging it. And it is being judged – early reviews do not promise the binge-worthiness of Jessica Jones or Daredevil.

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Iron Fist.

But there is a lot to look forward to here – a good cast, an interesting origin story and elements of the mystical. The series is based on martial arts, but it isn’t all action, stunt coordinator Brett Chan told Scroll.in. “The grounding of the episodes, and what the producers wanted was definitely different with regard to how we tell the story,” he said. “They were trying to diverge into Danny’s character, to give the character more substance. They really play a lot on the characters around him who help build his character, to exemplify or to amplify the good and bad around people. It is also different in the aspect of how it looks. Daredevil, Luke Cage and Jessica Jones are very dark, whereas this is very different.”

Finn Jones played Loras Tyrell in Game of Thrones, where he didn’t get too many opportunities to wield a sword. But as Iron Fist, Jones had big shoes to fill. “This was a little bit different for him because what he had to do was really train for some things,” Chan said. “He had a very hectic schedule, so it was hard for him to even to be able to get to do a lot of training. Martial arts isn’t something you can just pick up, or train for every once in a while. It’s something you need to be really involved in, it’s a lifestyle.”

Finn Jones (left) on the sets of Iron Fist.
Finn Jones (left) on the sets of Iron Fist.

Iron Fist isn’t Chan’s first project with Netflix. He has been stunt coordinator for the company’s original series Marco Polo, which relies heavily on martial arts. But the preparation for the two shows couldn’t be more different.

“The Chinese martial arts evolved,” Brett explained. “When we were doing Marco Polo, it’s the 13th century, so only certain martial arts were developed by then. It was easier for us to navigate that, to see which kind of martial arts we can teach, and alter what is being practised for a war combat situation, when needed. With Iron Fist we put aspects of the older styles, Wing Chun, animal styles, and the Wushu style.”

Since the series producers wanted to minimise wire work, Finn and his stunt double had to work hard to make the stunts convincing. “With wire work you can do fantastical things that are very superhuman, which they [the producers] wanted to keep away off, to keep Danny Rand/Iron Fist very real,” Chan said. “But we were able to play with his martial arts more and make it more modern and still use the elements of older forms to give it some authenticity of K’un L’un.”

The real star on the sets was Jessica Henwick, who plays Colleen Wing, the katana-carrying Japanese martial arts expert in the show. “She trained six hours a day with us,” Chan revealed. “Whether she was training or not, she would make it to class.”

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Jessica Henwick as Colleen Wing in Iron Fist.

Chan has several action movies and TV shows to his credit, having worked in The Last Samurai (2003), X-Men 2 (2003) and Underworld: The Rise of the Lycans (2009). What would he like to do next? The Bourne Series, or a production of an epic scale like Mulan or The Raid: Redemption.

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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.