Parkour master from northwestern Pakistan lands role in Hollywood action short

Mashood Alam, standing second from left with the cast of Hollywood action short-film The Cure in Los Angeles, USA. (Photo Courtesy - The Cure, Los Angeles, August 2019)
Updated 29 August 2019

Parkour master from northwestern Pakistan lands role in Hollywood action short

  • Mashood Alam moved to the US in 2014 to pursue professional training for freerunning and parkour
  • Turkish-American director Ahmad Atalay approached him to star in The Cure after seeing his stunt videos

PESHAWAR: When Mashood Alam moved to the United States in 2014 to pursue professional parkour training, he never expected that just five years down the line, he would play a leading role in a Hollywood film. 
But clips of the 29-year-old free runner from Karak in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province caught the eye of Turkish-American film editor and trailer creator Ahmad Atalay who cast Alam in The Cure to play a man who tries to save the world from a deadly virus. The film is set for release in 2020 and has also been submitted at a number of film festivals around the world, including Cannes and Sundance.
In an interview to Arab News at his house in Peshawar, Alam said he felt proud to have gotten the opportunity to present a positive image of Pakistan to people around the world, particularly the United States. 

Pakistani-origin Hollywood actor Mashood Alam in a promo photograph for the Hollywood short action movie The Cure. (Photo Courtesy - The Cure, Los Angeles, August 2019)

“It makes me feel proud when people in the US tell me they never knew Pakistanis can be so nice. In fact, some asked me how and when should they visit Pakistan,” the shy, six-feet-four-inches tall sportsman-turned-actor said. “I tell them my nation is the most loving one.”
“I am proud of being a Muslim and a Pakistani and can’t thank Allah the Almighty enough for showering fame and blessings on me.”
The Cure, a 37-minute-long action film, is Atalay’s first attempt at production and direction. In the past, he has been involved in several major Hollywood projects, including doing editing work and making the trailers for blockbusters Mission Impossible Fallout and Transformers. 
Alam said he credited his parkour, taekwondo and freerunning skills with bagging him the lead role in The Cure. 

Mashood Alam, Hollywood actor from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan with a young fan in Peshawar on August 28, 2019. (Photo Courtesy - Asfandyar Alam)

Freerun, or parkour as it is also known, is fast growing into a recognized and respected international sport-cum-art able to attract big-brand sponsorship, blockbuster movie appearances and pop megastars like Madonna. 
Parkour involves running, climbing and jumping acrobatically around buildings and over terrain, Freerun has the same core principles, but its practitioners place greater emphasis on individual expression, creative flow, and artistic merit.
“A Turkish friend introduced me to Ahmet after watching my stunt gigs,” Alam said. 
He said he had moved to the United States to get a sponsorship for professional parkour training after being approached by a freerunning academy called Tempest.
“There I had a chance of getting valuable tips from professionals like Parkour world champion Jason Paul, another known athlete DK, and Spiderman movie’s stuntman William Spencer,” Alam said. 

Hollywood debutant actor of Pakistani-origin Mashood Alam talks to Arab News at his home in Peshawar, Pakistan on August 28, 2019. (AN photo)

He said he developed an interest in freerunning after watching the Discovery Channel program Jump Training in 2003. In 2005, when Internet speeds started to improve in Pakistan, Alam began to watch videos of athletes on YouTube regularly.
“I would practice with my younger brother and a friend at forgotten, under-construction buildings,” he said. “The security guards would often hush us away from there as they thought we might hurt ourselves.”
Asfandyar Alam, a gemstone dealer, and Alam’s elder brother said the family always knew Mashood would make a name for himself in freerunning. 
“This Hollywood fame has come out of nowhere,” he said. “We are proud of him for bringing a good name to Pakistan.”
Recalling Alam’s years of training, his brother said: “There was literally no door, no window in our house that he didn’t break while training. Our mother would always worry for him as he once broke his foot, has injured his arms and back many times and even got 15 stitches for a head injury. It was his passion; he wouldn’t stop practicing despite regular scolding by mom.”

Hollywood debutant actor of Pakistani-origin Mashood Alam photographed at the Taekwondo training facility managed by his Taekwondo trainer in Peshawar, Pakistan on August 28, 2019. (AN Photo)  

Mashood’s Taekwondo instructor, Naveed Habibi, a 5th den black belt master and official team coach of the Pakistan International Taekwondo Federation, said Alam was “one of my best and most talented students.”
“The spark I saw in him has today become a fire, making him shine in Hollywood. His style is genuine and with his abilities, he will one day stand with the likes of sportsmen-actors like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone,” Habibi said. 
Alam is already a household name in Peshawar, where he said strangers greeted him regularly, offered free meals and made requests for selfies. 
“I wish to do something big for them in return,” the actor said. “My biggest aim is to promote parkour in Pakistan. I wish to establish a modern training facility in Pakistan to promote the sport.”
In the future, the freerunner also hopes to work with well-reputed Pakistani film producers: “However, I will always prefer roles that portray the goodness of Pakistanis and Muslims.”
When asked if he had plans to get married, the Hollywood-newbie blushed and said: “I haven’t thought of that yet. There’s no one in my life and I have many goals to achieve before giving this serious thought.”

South Africa's Du Plessis says bubble life is not sustainable for players

Updated 23 January 2021

South Africa's Du Plessis says bubble life is not sustainable for players

  • South Africa's Du Plessis says bubble life is not sustainable for players
  • The South African player beleives Babar Azam and Shaheen Afridi can pose problems for his team

ISLAMABAD: South African cricketer Faf du Plessis believes spending months in a bio-secure bubble could soon become a major challenge for players.

“We understand that this is a very tough season and a tough challenge for a lot of people out there, but if it’s back-to-back-to-back bubble life, things would become a big challenge,” du Plessis said during a virtual news conference on Saturday.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, cricketers have to adhere to strict procedures for an international series. In countries like Pakistan, international games are being played in empty stadiums and players' movement confined to just their hotel and stadiums.

Du Plessis is one of those South African cricketers, along with captain Quinton de Kock, to have experienced life in a bubble over the last few months. He played in the Indian Premier League in the United Arab Emirates and home series against Sri Lanka. Now he has a two-test series in Pakistan, starting Tuesday in Karachi, followed by the second test at Rawalpindi.

“The main priority is to play cricket, to be out there doing what we love instead of being at home … so I think that still remains the most important thing. But I think there would definitely come a point where players would struggle with this (bubble)," du Plessis said.

“If you look at a calendar of the last eight months, you’re looking at about four or five months in a bubble, which is a lot. For some of us (being) without family, it can get challenging. Right now, I’m still in a good place. I’m still feeling really motivated and driven, but I can only speak for myself.

“I don’t think it’s possible to continue from bubble to bubble to bubble, I’ve seen and heard a lot of players talk about it. I don’t think it’s sustainable.”

The South African team practiced at the National Stadium -- the venue for the test opener -- for the first time on Saturday. Before that, the visitors had been practicing at a stadium close to the team hotel for the last four days where they played intra-squad matches.

“For now, (I'm) enjoying the four walls of my room and then the pitch outside where we can get to do what we love,” du Plessis said.

The 36-year-old du Plessis, who has appeared in 67 test matches for South Africa with a batting average topping 40, will be playing his first test in Pakistan since making his debut against Australia in 2012. Pakistan last hosted South Africa in 2007. In 2009 international cricket’s doors were shut on Pakistan after an attack on the Sri Lanka cricket team bus at Lahore.

Du Plessis has played seven test matches against Pakistan that included two in the UAE and five in South Africa.

Du Plessis is South Africa’s most experienced player touring Pakistan, but wasn’t sure what type of wickets will be prepared for the two tests.

“I think that’s possibly the biggest thing that we are unsure about,” he said.

“As a team we try to prepare for everything and anything, overprepare, spin conditions, reverse swinging ball … if I have to call it, I probably said I think that wickets will be a bit more subcontinent like than it used to be back then (in 2007), so spinners would probably be more a little bit more in the game.”

Du Plessis has picked fit-again Pakistan all-format captain Babar Azam and fast bowler Shaheen Afridi as the two players who could pose problems for the tourists. Babar has regained fitness from a fractured thumb — in his absence Pakistan lost both the Twenty20 and test series in New Zealand.

“Obviously, having Babar back is massive for them,” du Plessis said.

“Afridi has been getting a lot of wickets, so probably someone like him would be pretty dangerous.”