I think we are currently in a phase of the Indian Film Industry (steering clear of the menial “Bollywood”) that film historians will write about as revolutionary times in the years to follow. I say this because of the shift from candy floss garbage movies we were making during the turn of the century. The fact that films like Yahaan, Khosla Ka Ghosla, Black, Black Friday etc. are being made and appreciated, even if, by a small section of the audience, bears testimony to this.
One such film is Kabul Express, made by Kabir Khan, an erstwhile documentary film-maker. The story revolves around a few days in the lives of two Indian journalists, played decently and superbly by John Abraham and Arshad Warsi, respectively. The movie begins with a chopper dropping the protagonists off somewhere within the borders of
The main plus point of the film is Khan’s use of local people for the fringe roles and the liberal use of the local language by the same, and casting actors from their respective character’s background. As far as the characters go, Abraham’s Suhel is not bad, but doesn’t stand out, especially next to the perfect comic timing of Warsi’s Jai, which cuts the tension in the film as successfully as a good actor like Warsi can, making good use of catharsis. However, I must mention Abraham’s one scene, the one in which he stands up for Indian Muslims and gives Salman Shahid’s Imran a pat reply to his under the belt blow. However, both Abraham and Warsi are completely overshadowed by Shahid. He plays the loyal veteran Pakistani Army officer to the hilt. In fact, I am really curious as to what he is like without the whole get up and the Pushtoon accent. Hanif Hum Ghum manages to convey the anger the Mujahideen feels towards the Taliban with aplomb. Linda Arsenio has no major role, and is only in the film as a source of sex appeal, and reaction from the other characters.
Anshuman Mahaley’s cinematography is very good, justifying that you do not need architecture to beautify a place. Very early in the movie, he wakes you up in case you were drowsy, with a scene where Suhel invites an angel-like kid to exercise with him only to find that the kid has only one leg. I guess the credit should really go to the director Khan, but Mahaley manages to capture the emotion of the moment with his camera very effectively. The bright blue sky against the yellowish dirt brings back memories of Ray’s shots of the desert in Sonar Kella, and also conveys the pointlessness of the whole Mujahideen-Taliban conflict. I think the Buzkashi sequence could have been shown better, like in Rambo III, but maybe that was done on purpose, so as not to come off as flashy. The scene where Imran is showered with Pepsi cans serves as a humor element and is beautifully shot, and also shows off the clout of the huge corporation in style.
The lack of substantial music in the film had its pros and cons. While I agree that songs would have been redundant and unnecessary, a stronger background score would have been effective, especially in shots when our adventurers are scampering across the country in the Kabul Express. Like most modern films, it has a song that is not in the movie – a peppy number called Kabul Fiza.
In totality, a good film, barring a couple of holes in the script, such as the sudden arrival of Khyber on the scene and his (as far as I can tell better that mine) Hindi and the fact that Suhel and Jai spend a few days in the remains of a castle when it gets pretty cold at night without any apparent blankets or even Jai’s unending battery supply for his camera. It makes a very slight bow to Coppola’s Apocalypse Now in that the protagonists have to undertake an adventurous journey, but one of the big differences is that the larger than life character travels with them, unlike in Apocalypse Now, where the protagonist undertakes the journey to meet the demigod. I would recommend this movie to all off-beat film lovers, and being one myself, will give it a 7.5/10.