Cast: John Abraham, Arshad Warsi, Salman Shahid, Pakistani
Direction: Kabir Khan
Two weeks after the heavily packaged, heavy on stars and unpretentiously mindless Dhoom 2 – Yashraj Films springs a surprise! It’s latest production, Kabul Express – a feature film debut for documentary film maker Kabir Khan is welcome, refreshing cinema which pushes the envelope, but yet remains within the parameters of commercial entertainment!
Kabul Express is the story of two Indian journalists Jai Kapoor (Arshad Warsi) and Suhel Khan (John Abraham) in post 9/11 Afghanistan. The Taliban regime’s been overthrown and this is a ravaged country. For a guide, they have a local Taliban hating Afghan, Khyber ( Hanif Hum Ghum).The trio is taken hostage by a Talibi, Imran ( Salman Shahid) who needs them to ferry him across to the Pakistan border. But as they discover, Imran is not your stereotypical Taliban member! Also in the proceedings, Jessica Beckham (Linda Arsenio) a cynical American photo journalist!
If the storyline seems to suggest that this is a heavy watch – you couldn’t be more wrong. In spite of its political comment, this is a film which is humorous, witty and even light hearted! And then there are moments which can make you cry – yes, Kabir Khan doesn’t do too much wrong in his debut.
Everything is deftly reined in – nothing ever goes over the top or becomes preachy – be it the America bashing, the Pakistani duplicity or just the stereotype of the Islamic jehadi. The reason Kabul Express works is because it is not finally a political film- it is a human film – clichéd as that may sound! The characters reach out to you, especially that of Imran, the talibi who yearns to meet his daughter – Salman Shahid is a super actor who gets in the right mix of pathos, desperation & bestiality. And even has a sense of humour! Hanif Hum Ghum is very good as well, and the tension between the two men of honour, playing for different sides is brought out well.
Which brings us to the Indian cast members. Arshad Warsi is brilliant – the perpetual scene stealer! After a disaster of an outing in last week’s Babul, John Abraham redeems himself. John is not a natural born actor, but he is a hardworking actor and in Kabul express, he comes across as a likeable enough bloke. Which is all the film needs him to be. Linda Arsenio is quite effective as the journalist who hawks images of war and violence, and then gets the occasional conscience attack! The only quibble which journalist in her right mind would be wearing a cleavage popping top in the middle of war –torn Afghanistan? Though to be fair , of course except for one memorable occasion – she is pretty much covered up!
The cinematography is first rate – bringing out the destroyed barren beauty of Afghanistan!
All in all – three and a half stars for Kabir Khan’s debut it is– and as we head to 2007, it just puts all of us Hindi Film buffs in a good mood!