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Asim Khan: Transitioning Into Acting

by Nolan Hawk

Because free-running is not particularly profitable in Pakistan, Asim Khan has taken up a plethora of side gigs to support his family. 

While fitness coaching is his primary source of income, he has managed to also build an impressive resume as an actor and a stuntman in local productions. 

Asim mainly acts in commercials, as Pakistan’s feature film industry is relatively slim, but he aspires to take on action roles like his personal martial arts hero, “Rush Hour” star, Jackie Chan. 

What is the Film Industry Like In Pakistan?

The film industry had a stronghold in Pakistan until 1978, when Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq became the country’s leader. He began the process of Islamization across the country; seeing films as Western influence, his government imposed new registration laws that made it difficult for people to produce films.

For example, producers now had to hold degrees to make films. Since many of Pakistan’s top producers did not hold degrees, the film industry plummeted. Additionally, new tax rates created yet another barrier for filmmakers. 

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Things only took a turn for the worse in the 1990s. While the country once had several dozen studios actively producing films, by 1990, only 11 were operational, collectively producing about 100 films each year. This number would shrink as studios found it more profitable to produce television commercials. 

In recent years, there’s been a bit of a resurgence in the Pakistani film industry (though it is far from its pre-1978 golden age). The 2011 blockbuster Bol revived interest in Pakistani cinema. In the following decade, the two highest-grossing Pakistani films of all time were released: Waar and Main Hoon Shahid Afridi.

What Acting Work Has Asim Khan Done?

Asim Khan has acted in around 10 productions, most of which are commercials produced in the area. He mainly gets cast in roles that require actors to perform action elements, as he is a natural stuntman due to his experience as a freerunner.  

His parkour skills are featured in a recent ad for Due Body Spray, where he can be seen performing backflips with incredible ease. 

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In his latest follow-up, a Free Fire Pakistan commercial, Asim busted out his breakdancing skills, proving that his abilities are not limited to doing stunt work.

One of the highlights of his career was a fight scene he did for a feature-length film, where he coordinated and performed an epic fight scene on the top of a moving cargo plane. 

Just as he is when it comes to parkour, Asim is clearly fearless in his stunt work. His background in taekwondo, kickboxing, and, of course, freerunning has prepared him for the daring role of stuntman.

How Did Asim Khan Get Into Acting?

Because of his extensive history as a kickboxer, Asim already had the skills required to perform choreographed fight scenes. Couple this with his parkour abilities, and he has far more than what’s required of the average stuntman. However, his introduction to the acting world was accidental.

A casting director—who was aware of Asim’s free-running career—gave him the opportunity to do stunts in a commercial. The experience was so good for him that he signed up for a talent agency. Since, he has been a part of plenty more productions, and he has no plans to stop. An added perk is that, according to Asim, acting has paid better than kickboxing fights or taekwondo competitions.

Who Is Asim Khan’s Acting Role Model?

Asim’s favorite actors are Jackie Chan and lesser-known action star Tony Jaa. Tony Jaa is a Thai martial artist and actor who, unlike Jackie Chan, never really broke into the Hollywood mainstream, though he did land roles in 2015’s seventh installment of the Fast & Furious franchise, Furious 7, 2017’s Vin Diesel starrer XxX: Return of Xander Cage, and will appear in beside Jason Statham, 50 Cent, and Meghan Fox in 2023’s Expendables 4.

Asim’s adoration of Jaa’s body of work is indicative of his knowledge of lesser known fighting movies that are centered around spectacular brawls, rather than big name actors. Asim has an affinity for all martial arts movies, but is particularly fond of those that are produced outside of heavily stylized Hollywood, in China and Thailand.

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Asim’s extensive knowledge of martial arts cinema assisted his casting in the aforementioned feature-length action film. His dream is to follow the trajectory of his favorite action heroes and star in his own fighting flicks. 

However, unlike the high paid actors in Hollywood, taking roles as a film actor is rarely a reliable career in Pakistan, as the country’s film industry is severely lacking compared to other parts of the world. 

Still, Asim holds onto hope that more feature films will start casting in his area, and that his skills as a stuntman and coordinator will help land him roles on the silver screen.

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