Kabul Express


Kabul Express is a film that depicts various serious political and humane issues, but it does this in a non preachy and non artistic method. Instead the film has portrayed the depth and plight of Afghanistan and Afghanis in an extremely distinct manner but has also used commercial aspects of wit, beautiful locales and prominent bollywood actors to make it more appealing. The story telling style is not the usual commercial bollywood style, but the fact that commercial aspects have been incorporated makes it a fairly enjoyable film to watch. Kabul Express depicts the journey of two Indian journalists through war ravaged Afghanistan for their own ulterior purpose, but they come across a country which is left in ruins and people who have been shattered by the aftermath of war. There are various social messages which come across but this is done in a subtle manner. Kabul Express is one of the few excellent films that manage to merge realistic thought provoking issues with commercialism.

The film has been produced under the Yash Raj Banner and has been directed by documentary filmmaker Kabir Khan. Kabul Express is a thriller, adventure film and stars John Abraham as Suhel Khan a director, Arshad Warsi as Jai Kapoor a cinematographer, Salman Shahid as Imran Khan Afridi a Pakistani, Hanif Humghum as Khyber and Linda Arsenio as Jessica Beckham an American journalist. The film has been shot in Kabul.

Suhel Khan and Jai Kapoor are television journalists, a director and his cinematographer they arrive in Afghanistan post the 9/11 attacks on America after which the Americans ousted the Taliban regime from Afghanistan. Suhel and Jai’s main aim is to be able to get an interview with a Taliban member. Here they meet Khyber, an Afghani national who agrees to be their guide, translator and even drives them around the hilly country in his Toyota jeep called the Kabul Express. They travel throughout the country and get to see a completely different picture of this war ravaged country, in their search to get that elusive interview with a Talibani, they brave various caves and mountains, bad weather and various other dangerous situations, but unfortunately they have no luck. In one such dangerous situation that Suhel and Jai get trapped into while the Afghanis are playing a game they are almost trampled upon by horses, but at the last moment are saved by another American journalist Jessica who herself is looking for the exclusive Talibani interview.

Finally they get to meet a Talibani member Imran Khan, but not in the manner they expected. Jai and Suhel are kidnapped by the Talibani who wants to return to his homeland Pakistan. He wants to use Jai and Suhel as his cover to reach the Afghan-Pakistan border safely. Khyber, the Afghani too is taken as a hostage. As the jeep Kabul Express with the kidnapper and the kidnapped is leaving, the American journalist Jessica spots them and thinks that they are leaving to get a big scoop and unwittingly she too becomes a part of the kidnapped lot. Now five different people of different nationalities are thrown together in an extremely volatile situation. They embark on a two day journey to reach the border, but on the way they discover different things about each other and the true person that their kidnapper is. Will Jai and Suhel survive this episode; will they make it safely to the border?

Director Kabir Khan has done a good job while constructing the screenplay, the immense research and effort is clearly evident in the plot. He has used humorous situations like bollywood and cricket debates, the funny donkeys etc to lighten the film which otherwise could have been just another serious film, nonetheless he has maintained the emotional moments too like the one where a little boy can’t play football as he doesn’t have a leg but nonetheless is smiling and also the reunion of the Pakistani kidnapper with his daughter. These little details make the film interesting and a delight to watch. The film has been edited well and does not steer off track at any point of time. Kabir Khan does not make his protagonists give long speeches but instead through the dialogues draws out a debate between his protagonists. Kabir has managed to give his interesting script a boost with his witty, sensitive and well crafted screenplay. The climax too is worthy.

As for flaws you tend to ignore the minor ones like the bit of cinematic liberty that the director takes at a few places, also not all characters tend to get an equal amount of attention and John Abraham, Hanif and Linda have not been used to their maximum advantage. English language is used liberally throughout the film which may be a hindrance.

Cinematographer Anshuman Mahaley does a splendid job which actually is an integral part of the execution, he captures the war ravaged country with a lot of depth and alacrity. Afghanistan’s hilly terrains, the shattered and crumbling buildings, the caves and even the zest of the Buzkushi sport are all captured with a rare finesse. Julius Packiam’s background music is good and in sync with the situations. Editing too has been done with remarkable precision. And dialogues are witty and good.

Performances by the actors can be truly appreciated. Salman Shahid the Pakistani kidnapper is excellent and switches from one emotion to the other with extreme ease and deftness. He has delivered a fantastic performance and will surely be appreciated for his performance. Arshad Warsi delivers his witty one liners and tongue in cheek humour. He has an accurate sense of comic timing. John Abraham does not get the scope he deserves but nonetheless he is able and apt in his performance. Hanif too does a good job, but unfortunately Linda Arsenio has very little scope.

Kabul Express is an enjoyable film to watch, however it will appeal only to a certain segment of audiences, mainly multiplex goers who enjoy different films. Also the aspects of Afghanistan, its people and their plight and the Taliban may not be an interesting topic to all audiences. In fact at single theaters the film may not really be appreciated. Nonetheless the target audiences of the film will find this one really interesting.