Stuntman: The unsung hero

Muhammed Afzal Khan Baloch talks about the perils of being a stuntman.

Sher Khan March 06, 2012


At the Crew Films studio in Lahore, stuntman Muhammed Afzal Khan Baloch sits uncomfortably because the physical and emotional wounds given by his profession are still bothersome. Commonly known as Baloch by his peers and most popular for playing iconic Sultan Rahi’s double, the 57 year-old Bahawalpur-born daredevil is a living, breathing archive of stories about an underappreciated career and the stoic world of Lollywood, that didn’t pay any heed to his life-altering injury.

Starting out

Baloch started out as a daredevil; driving motorcycles and cars around the Well of Death (Maut Ka Kuan) in 1974 and later went on to participate in a tour with a team of stuntmen called the ‘9 Commandos’ across Pakistan.

Following the success of his tour, Baloch was casted in a commercial of Honda MD 100 and later was given a chance to prove his worth in the Pakistani film industry. His first venture was a Pashto film, the title of which he can’t recall, but what he can recall is the fact that the film was shot at the famous Shahnoor studio. Baloch played the role of a police officer who engages in several thrilling action scenes.

Action on the rise

During the 1980s, Pakistani film industry had started focusing more on action-oriented films which required numerous action sequences. Actors like Sultan Rahi and their popularity boosted the action-thriller genre resulting in more job opportunities for extras and stuntmen. By the end of the 80s, dodging jeopardy and earning money by performing lethal stunts had become a routine activity for Baloch.

Baloch’s big break came to him by chance as another stuntman Mahmoud Shah had injured himself while doing a motorcycle jump through a glass door and Baloch had to step in his place. “Since there were very few stuntmen at that time, Shah told me that if I don’t step in as a subsitute, the producers and directors will force him to do the dangerous acts in his already frail state,” says Baloch. “There was never really a question of rights for stuntmen,” says Baloch who recalls earning Rs1,500 for each film. “Back in those days, directors would get the agreement signed and there was no way to back out of it. As a result, we were doing difficult stunts without any facilities or proper medical care,” he adds.

Twenty years and several injuries later, the former stuntman works as an engineer at the studio and occasionally served as a cameraman, like for example, in the music video “Koi Dil Mein” for the film Tamanna.

Sultan Rahi to the rescue

One positive thing that happened during the 1980s was the discovery of “people’s man” Sultan Rahi. The iconic actor had increased the demand of stuntmen and provided work for the lower-paid technical staff by getting them more and more films. Baloch explains that Rahi was a people person, who had the ability to relate to the masses and understand their plight. While missing Rahi’s generosity, Baloch says that Lollywood does not have professionals like Rahi anymore and ulterior motives and conflict of interest has left the industry moth-eaten and corroded.

A career-ending accident

Baloch’s last film was Qismat in 1982, during the shoot of which, he permanently damaged his foot while performing an almost impossible stunt. On the director’s insistence, Baloch ended up in a pit of 2,000 live snakes, the result of which was an incurable limp and perennial unemployment.

“The whole set was filled with people but Rahi was the only one who came to my help and made sure I got medical attention,” recalls Baloch, who was left without work following the accident. “The director and producers never asked how I was after the incident and I was left without a job and income.”

The director of the film acknowledged the stuntman’s sacrifices — after a newspaper gave him coverage — and expressed the will to help, but by then, Baloch had made an exit from the film industry. Even today, Baloch laments the decline of the industry and says that he would open a studio for stuntmen if there was work to be done.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 7th, 2012.


Riz | 9 years ago | Reply

Another great article from Sher Khan! Keep bringing us such interesting profiles of the industry, the history, the characters and the exciting stuff happening nowadays.

Citizen | 9 years ago | Reply

sigh . we need to appreciate such people . They are risking their lives and what they get in return ? just zero appreciation and damaged life :(

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