Kabul Express

I don't know how many times I've said I don't watch war movies, so why am I compelled to keep putting them on the dvd player? Well, I suppose it doesn't hurt when Arshad's in it, that's for sure, but it also doesn't hurt when you have someone like Kabir Khan helming the wheel. Known mostly for his documentaries, Khan crafted Kabul Express from his own experiences in Afghanistan. He gives us a thought-provoking movie that still manages to make us laugh at the same time. As a mainstream film, Kabul Express does stretch the boundaries of what's usually considered 'traditional' Bollywood fare. There are no songs (at least not during the duration of the story), no dances, no picture post-card Swiss landscape complete with flowing saree and turtleneck sweaters, and the film is relatively short coming in at just over 100 minutes. However, with Aditya Chopra and Rash Raj Productions providing the cash, the quality of this film is top notch, and it shows in every single frame.

Kabul Express is a road movie, of sorts. It follows journalist Suhel Khan (John Abraham) and cameraman Jai Kapoor (Arshad Warsi) who have come to Afghanistan to film their own footage on the condition of the country. Circumstances land them in a position where they unwillingly become transport for a Taliban passenger (Salman Shahid). Their journey thereon – along with an Afghani driver (Hanif Hum Ghum) and an American photojournalist (Linda Arsenio) – is as much metaphorical as it is literal, for it’s as much about them getting from Point A to Point B as reaching a new understanding about one another.

With Yash Raj backing this film, you know you're going to get at least one leading Bollywood hero. That hero comes in the form of long haired John Abraham. I can admit that John's entrance into Dostana made me sit up and take notice, but he's one of those actors that I don't get that excited over generally. I imagine he was cast in Kabul Express because they needed a name to sell the film to the masses. While he did have one moment or two in the movie, there's not much substance to John's performance. The same could be said for Linda Arsenio. I find it immensely interesting that, as an American born and raised actress, 99% of her film roles have been in the Indian film industry, Tamil and Telugu mostly. That being said, I found her to be unconvincing in her role as a photojournalist. Something about her line delivery felt very rehearsed and unnatural to me.

On the flip side though, we have Hanif Hum Ghum, whose animosity towards the Taliban came across very convincingly. Though Khyber was not a character that I liked, I thought the part was acted well. In my recent review of Ishqiya, I failed to mention Salman Shahid's performance, which was a highlight to so many. However, in this movie, his portrayal of Imran Khan Afridi was complex and incredibly convincing. He has probably what is the most human moments in the film, the exchange between him and his daughter being one of those moments. Beautifully acted Salmanji!

Could be that I have boarded the "We Love Arshad" train, but (and I say this with completely unbiased honesty) Jai is brilliantly essayed by Arshad Warsi and is the soul of Kabul Express. If Salman Shahid gets the most human moments in the film, Arshad get the most memorable ones. In a film that has the potential to be a completely sombre experience, he gets the opportunity to shine, delivering witty one-liners and comical conflicts with that unique Warsi style. His character has more dissension with the others, and because of it he experiences the most growth. Jai and Imran's exchanges over the cigarettes and cricketeers is hilariously endearing.

This is one movie that really showcases the stunning beauty of a place that one doesn't necessarily think beauty exists. The cinematography by Anshuman Mahaley is really breathtaking, whether we're seeing flowing sand dunes or building ruins. Simply just gorgeous. Like I said earlier, there are no songs in the movie, however, if you check out the special features you will across a very strange music video created long after filming ended. Also, there is a very interesting featurette that gives some amazing insight as to what filming was like for the cast and crew. Not only were bullets flying overhead as they shot, but there were actual threats looming over the heads of several cast and crew that required immediate intervention. Either you have people that are crazy or insanely passionate about what they are filming!

It is a delicate feat to take something like the middle East post 9/11, what one would consider a very serious political topic, and very craftily treat with humor. Kabir Khan successfully gives us a movie that reminds us that behind all the preconceived notions that may exist out there, people are really simply just human. Go and watch it!

6 Response to "Kabul Express"

  1. Filmi Girl says:
    May 19, 2010 at 1:34 PM

    Vah vah!! Great review! I agree about Linda Arsenio - she just about matched John Abraham in the delivery department. Linda recently had a role as the "over-sexed gori" in Aftab Shivdasani's Aloo Chaat. Yeah.

  2. Shellie says:
    May 19, 2010 at 1:43 PM

    Thanks. Both of them were so stiff. That's okay. Let our boy shine away!

    There's a role of "over-sexed gori"! Could be a role I'd be interested in ;)

  3. ajnabi says:
    May 19, 2010 at 3:11 PM

    I think she was pretending to be the oversexed gori, as part of one of those weird filmi plots. This movie looks really cool, although I confess so far I've enjoyed Arshad more when I can see his true personality--well, as true as one can get on TV etc.

  4. Shellie says:
    May 19, 2010 at 3:50 PM

    I think I've seen bits of Arshad's "real" personality in some of the films I've seen him in lately, but I agree. I much much prefer this type of role than maybe the ones we see in the Golmaal movies. Is that what you mean?

    I don't know if we can truly assess who some people are off screen. I remember Shah saying before, and quite often, that he is always acting - ALWAYS - when he's in front of a camera, even for interviews and whatnot, but I think that Arshad does give off a sense of who he is offscreen.

    Holy long winded much!?

  5. Filmbuff Says:
    May 19, 2010 at 8:06 PM

    Kabul Express is a truly good movie. I really enjoyed it for Arshad's performance and also Salman Shahid. I think John's role was a good counter balance to Arshad's and the story in general.

    While there is no denying that John needs to improve in the acting department, he is not bad either. I liked him Taxi No 9211, Virudh, Water, Kabul Express and even Babul (unfortunately the story did not focus on his& rani's rani's relationship)

    I really want to congratulate you on your good and wide choice of movies in terms of content

  6. Shellie says:
    May 19, 2010 at 9:54 PM

    I've seen very few of John's movies, though I did try and watch Taxi No. 9211 (motivated mostly by the song Meter Down which I love), but for some reason didnt finish it. All I really wanted to do in this film was cut his hair!

    I really do try to watch a wide variety of films, but most of my choices are spurred on by who's in them. This one, for example, because of Arshad. That being said, I have a plethora of movies to watch that I've purchased simply because I like a song in it. I'm easy that way!