Parkour Athletes Kicked Out of India for Filming Rooftop Stunts

A group of parkour athletes and filmmakers have been instructed by police to leave India after upsetting local residents by jumping between the rooftops of buildings in Mumbai.

India Today reports that six of the seven friends were told to take a flight home to London on Wednesday morning after the police received complaints from the residents of buildings in Prabhdevi. The police then ordered their departure for violating the terms of their visas.

Speaking to the Times of India, resident Jayant Nate explained that locals were concerned that children would replicate the stunts. Furthermore, “It was the 10th anniversary of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks and these guys were foreigners, so we panicked.”

With more than three million followers on YouTube and 560,000 followers on Instagram, UK group Storror is one of the foremost parkour teams in the world. The group has a reputation not only for creating impressive physical feats, but also for the high production values seen in their films. Widely acclaimed, their 2017 film Roof Culture Asia documented their explorations of numerous tall buildings in several Asian capitals, and a bigger production is said to be in the pipeline.

Parkour is a discipline whereby practitioners train to navigate obstacles, typically in an urban environment. The vast majority of practice takes place at ground level, but media portrayals inevitably tend to focus on the more spectacular feats performed at height. For the parkour community, this can be frustrating as many groups work hard to promote parkour as a means of encouraging people — especially those with little interest in conventional sports — to enjoy moving their bodies. The athletes and media that sensationalize more dangerous movements risk undermining the perception of parkour, painting it as reckless and antisocial.

Storror had been invited Mumbai to give a talk at the TEDxGateway event on the positive aspects of training parkour. Speaking to India Today, Cyrus Khan, a parkour coach from Mumbai who was at the police station with Storror, explained that the group were in India to promote exercise and health, saying that ”Parkour is a discipline and the group was creating physical fitness awareness.”

Very often in parkour, there exists a contradiction between inspiring people to move and practice safely through feats that are deliberately spectacular. Storror sits at the center of this contradiction.

Parkour community leaders have also raised questions about the colonialist attitudes of some practitioners and filmmakers, whereby Western athletes visit less developed countries and use their relative wealth and social status as a passport to creating media content. It has been argued that the trips to distant locations mean that local people are reduced to being exotic props for the athletic prowess of Western young men.

One of the Storror team members gave this account: “Indian authorities physically restrained us and detained us without arrest for over 15 hours overnight, then deported us, just for doing what we love. We’ve been doing the same thing all over the world for 12 years without a problem. It’s a very sad situation in Mumbai when you don’t have the freedom to practise a sport like parkour at its physical limits without it being a criminal offense.

“Some blame can lie on the media and paparazzi — they had an influence over the police and our situation that was far greater than any of us had expected. But above all that, the police handled us in disgustingly unprofessional and completely incompetent way. There was no legislative process, just a bunch of sour middle aged men bullying young foreigners because they can’t understand how we do what we do.”

Lead image by Andy Day

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Fritz Asuro's picture

So they filmed their sport without all of the necessary stuff like acknowledgement/permit from the local government and authorities, and now they are not happy they got deported because of it?


user 65983's picture

Oh yeah because there is a special parkour permit.

jayant ugra's picture

"Doing business on a tourist visa privilege" is real, this is getting called out my many photographers from my part of the developing world. I can't land up and dodge permit rules and fees in any US/UK city on a tourist visa and get away with it. Do realise the humungous advantage you guys have and be grateful.

user 65983's picture

You're video has nothing to do with anything.

Fritz Asuro's picture

No, what I meant with their quality of work and the type of video they intend to do, the sensible thing to do is to get the right papers for such shoots. A westerner or people from much more developed countries needs to understand that being "them" does not give you immunity from stupidity and to do anything you desire. At their caliber, I'm pretty sure they can pay for permission to shoot (it's probably not that costly).

user 65983's picture

But borders don't mean anything anymore right? Can't I do anything I want?

jayant ugra's picture

Borders matter when you belong to a list of countries arn't allowed visa on arrival. You can go a longer way when you choose to be respectful, get your permits and fees sorted and do what you want. RedBull does a fine job at this. Please do keep in mind that cops and civilians in terror struck cities like Mumbai react the same way the cops in NYC/London etc would, VonWong did get permits for his shoot, so can you. Not everyone thinks like an artist/street photographer in a post 9/11 world.

user 65983's picture

You clearly don't understand sarcasm.

JetCity Ninja's picture

"how to be the type of tourist everybody hates"

Matthew Saville's picture

(Insert "Grumpy Cat 'GOOD.' meme here...)

Try pulling this roof-to-roof nonsense in Suburbia in Southern California, and see how many thousand dollars you get fined by the city. (And hopefully, you're lucky enough to not get sued for tons more by the residents themselves!)

Get permits and be respectful folks. Just because you're wannabe-famous on social media, doesn't mean you get to do whatever you want.

Elan Govan's picture

Well if these individuals really want to experience "legislative process" for their work, they could always try jumping from one building to another between St James Park and Whitehall, LONDON

Elan Govan's picture

Is there a St James Park and Whitehall in London, Kentucky? Must be a identical twin city with London, UK.

Spy Black's picture

Hopefully they confiscated their footage, otherwise they got away with it.

Mark Fa'amaoni's picture

Having visited their youtube page, and seeing the first video that popped up were "Rooftop escape from HK Security" , "Testing London Police", and "Spanish Police took our gopro" I have no sympathy for these guys at all.

Roxanne D'souza's picture

Mumbai resident here! The cops are being cautious and doing their jobs well. Parkour is cool and awesome but when young Indians see parkour performed/enacted (not sure of the correct term here) in their local neighbourhood, they’ll try to do it too. I can’t imagine the injuries or deaths that could follow.

I mean our country has the largest number of selfie related deaths and it keeps rising, so the cops have to control what’s done and what’s posted on social media too. Because all of it creates an impression and they’ll be copycats. There are so many areas in the city that are no selfie zones, just to prevent harm and injury.

Not to mention, when the Kiki challenge surfaced, kids everywhere in the city started doing it. Infact a bunch of them tried to be different and used a local train in their video. To set an example and discourage others from following, the mumbai police arrested those kids and made sure no one would attempt something like that.

Also, when I go to click pictures in a garden or park, I get asked to stop and asked if I have a permit. Photography and videography laws and not very lax here and you need to have permissions and permits for most places.