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Kabul Express Movie Review Gallery Stars Arshad Warsi, John Abraham, Salman Shahid, Hanif Humghum, Linda Arsenio stills pictures gallery wallpapers showtimes

Kabul Express

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Language: Hindi

Cast: Arshad Warsi, John Abraham, Salman Shahid, Hanif Humghum, Linda Arsenio
Producer: Aditya Chopra
Director: Kabir Khan



Kabul Express is the first International feature film to have been shot entirely in Kabul after the end of the Taliban. It was shot over a period of 45 days from October to December 2005. The cast and crew were sent death threats by the Taliban to stop shooting but the Afghan government provided tight security and enabled the shoot to be completed in Afghanistan. On some days there were more armed soldiers than crew on the location. The film is inspired by the director, Kabir Khan’s own experiences in Afghanistan as a documentary film-maker. His encounters and exchanges with Taliban prisoners were the starting point for the script. Kabul Express is his first feature and is a thriller spanning 48 hours involving five individuals – two Indians (John Abraham and Arshad Warsi), a Pakistani (Salman Shahid), an Afghan (Hanif Hum Ghum) and an American (Linda Arsenio). Interestingly, all actors in this film have been cast according to the nationality of the characters.

Jai and Suhel – TV journalists from India in search of the ultimate news scoop: meeting Taliban. Imran Khan Afridi – soldier of the hated Taliban who needs to escape the wrath of the Afghans and run to his country, Pakistan. Khyber, a proud Afghan who has been the destruction of his country over the decades. Jessica Beckham – An American photojournalist ready to risk her life to photograph the Taliban. Five people from different worlds, their paths are destined to cross in a ruthless country devastated by war – Afghanistan. Set in post 9/11 war-torn Afghanistan, Kabul Express is a kidnap drama that is alternately funny and horrifying. This is the story of a unique reluctant bond that develops between people who are otherwise hostile towards each other but are compelled to understand one another in the time that they are forced to share together.


Hostility has its own burden to carry, and no country can ever feel the trauma of war as much as Afghanistan; the war-ravaged land with its barren expanse laden with land mines has a history that is difficult to encompass or for that matter even touch upon appropriately in a two-hour film; the crossed interests of Russia and America, with the much feared and discussed Taliban and their extreme ways, and the jihadis of the world lending a hand to a people that have been torn by poverty, ignorance and foreign invasion, are not easy topics to address. Alas, Kabul Express is a journey that doesn’t even make a sincere attempt to address this history, placing its protagonists against the disturbing times of an unfortunate nation, and playing up anti-Pakistan emotions to illustrate the meddling of Pakistan in another neighbor’s history, while other meddling nations’ roles that are far more significant have been conveniently ignored or simply made passing mentions of.

The film rings of jingoism, even through two Indian journalists, versus Pakistan, and plays to the galleries with scant regard for the ramifications of such an interpretation, with much of its humorous approach misdirected. It is set post 9/11, and attempts a satirical approach to the subject, commenting on everything, from the sensationalism of wartime journalism and its risks, to the human side of a religion misinterpreted and misrepresented by the western world, to the strange emotional bonds that develop when humans at cross-purposes spend time in proximity with each other. But while Danis Tanovic’s No Man’s Land illustrated ably the futility of war and conflict through its searing and smart narrative, the acidic black humor hitting bull’s eye between the viewer’s heart and mind, Kabir Khan’s Kabul Express (or should one say Yashraj’s Kabul Express, as this is one attempted artistic endeavor that appears to be driven by commercial needs to appeal to the lowest common denominator, which doesn’t really work for this kind of cinema) fails miserably.

To belabor the Taliban, oft references to them and their cruel ways, is strewn throughout the narrative; and the nation’s emotions towards the Taliban is also spelt out, when Afghanis are seen beating up Talibs with extreme cruelty, reducing the perpetrator to the inhuman level of the victim itself. Herein lies the problem, as more important and consequential dramatic points are overlooked in the process, which is a mistake a film like No Man’s Land never made, taking the Balkan conflict but addressing war and humanity on a metaphorical level.

Well, as the cut-line succinctly puts it, two Indians, one American, one Afghan and a Pakistani (the Talib) are on a journey together. So you have John Abraham’s Suhel Khan and Arshad Warsi’s Jai Kapoor teaming up with Linda Arsenio’s Jessica Beckham, Hanif Hum Ghum’s Khyber and Salman Shahid’s Imran Khan Afridi (superb casting, except for John, who is a bit of a misfit in this powerhouse performance club). Actors from their own region are playing the respective roles and this really works, with Salman Shahid giving an exceptional performance, closely matched by Arshad Warsi. The mix of languages, again like No Man’s Land, also gives the film its own realistic feel that hasn’t been seen in Indian cinema to-date. Without getting into the story details, this journey is spent in a limited amount of time, and is quite interesting, if all the minus points mentioned above can be overlooked; and a comparison with the vastly superior No Man’s Land may be a bit unfair, but Kabul Express so shamelessly borrows from the Oscar-winning film that this comparison is inevitable.

The film’s strength is its technical brilliance, with Anshuman Mahaley’s lensing simply superb, capturing the sand and the mountains of Afghanistan in all its sun-soaked glory. The direction is also sharp, with some great acting being extracted from the players effortlessly, but it’s the director’s writing that is a let-down.

The constant power struggles that are endemic to human nature, with the man wielding the gun turning victor or simply winning any argument, is not used well as a metaphor in Kabul Express, though one feel’s that the maker’s intention was surely there; and the balancing act of cutting finely between the heart-rending reality of the plight of the Afghans and the inherent humor of placing two quick-witted Indian journalists in this difficult terrain facing abduction, is largely messed up. Furthermore, the “who started it?” question that forever crops up in all conflicts is grossly misdirected. For an attempted satire of this kind, this is its greatest shortcoming.


Language: Hindi

Cast: Arshad Warsi, John Abraham, Salman Shahid, Hanif Humghum, Linda Arsenio
Producer: Aditya Chopra
Director: Kabir Khan

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