Kabul ExpressFilm: “Kabul Express”; Cast: Arshad Warsi, John Abraham, Salman Shahid, Hanif Hum Ghum and Linda Arsenio; Director: Kabir Khan; Ratings: ***

First thing first – director Kabir Khan’s directorial debut will not appeal to those looking for candyfloss kind of entertainment. But one should see it for its absorbing intricacies and intelligent narration. It is a thought-provoking film.

“Kabul Express” is a socio-political comment on the post 9/11 war ravaged Afghanistan. The director has deftly used his experience and expertise to put out the tragic situation in the country abandoned by its staunch supporter Pakistan after the attack on the US.

As the film progresses one can see a beautiful country reduced to ruins, disappearing human civilisation and vegetation and haunting silence, which is often disturbed by gunshots.

One needs courage to make a hard-hitting film like this and kudos to Kabir for treading an untrodden path.

The film is about the journey of two Indian journalists – Jai Kapoor (Arshad Warsi) and Suhel Khan (John Abraham) – in war-torn Afghanistan for an exclusive interview with a Taliban.

Just few days after landing in the disturbed terrains of Afghanistan they are taken hostage by Imran Khan (Salman Shahid), a Taliban, who is trying to escape to Pakistan to save his life. Imran is a Pakistani soldier, who becomes a victim of the political nexus between his native country and the US.

On their way Jai and Suhel bump into an American photojournalist Jessica Beckham (Linda Arsenio), who also becomes Imran’s captive! And Khyber, an Afghan, who is Jai and Suhel’s guide and translator, drives all of them to Pakistan border in his Toyota jeep called Kabul Express.

But Khyber and Imran cannot see eye to eye on the Taliban phenomenon, and through their views the director brings forth the controversies surrounding the formation of the Taliban and its effect on the country.

The film takes a critical look at the Islamist fundamentalist movement, which ruled most of Afghanistan from 1996 until 2001, and faulty US policies exploiting developing nations.

Most shocking revelation in the film was the Taliban’s treatment of women. Most of them are widows. Taliban does not permit women to work and, therefore, all the widows are forced to beg for food and shelter.

The film, however, has lighter moments too. The conversations among Jai, Suhel, Imraan and Khyber (Hanif Hum Ghum) make one laugh heartily. Their rigid views on cricketers Kapil Dev and Imran Khan, actress Madhuri Dixit, and Uncle Sam’s country are quite amusing. Jai and Imran’s one-liners are hilarious.

The director has full control over the narration and not even once he deviates.

However, there is one flaw in the film. Despite all the violence and prejudices and intolerance, “Kabul Express” turns out to be a soft film focusing mainly on emotions. Kabir stresses on the fact that it is the socio-political situations that force people to pick up arm and turn into terrorists.

Performance wise, Arshad is the show stealer. He effortlessly slips under his character. Hanif and Salman are impeccable and often moving.

John is a misfit and looks out of sync and Linda Arsenio does not have much to do. But her presence certainly adds glamour to an otherwise dry drama.

Some of the scenes are gripping. For instance when Imran goes to meet his daughter but cultural restrictions forbid him from expressing his emotions for his daughter. Also when he reaches the Pakistan border to escape death but ironically is shot down by his own countrymen.

“Kabul Express” interweaves stories of different individuals put together by unfavourable circumstances into a relationship, which is moving as well as revealing.

A must watch.

— IANS

 

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