By Sameer Wadekar, Bollywood Trade News Network
There’s a scene in KABUL EXPRESS in the beginning when Jai and Suhel, the two Indian journalists are having a chat while Suhel is doing a little push-up to straighten out a bit. There’s a little boy who watches them from nearby. The two guys call him over and that little kid, (we come to know then) has lost his leg and holding his clutch by his side he looks at them with a smile on his face. This scene makes you numb.
Director Kabir Khan’s film KABUL EXPRESS is filled with quite a few such situations will leave you numb, sometimes even cold. Because the film is almost like a diary wherein you find numerous such occasions and you go on reading them turning the pages over and over. And this is exactly what makes the KABUL EXPRESS a difficult film to review because it’s not your usual Bollywood film.
Director Kabir Khan makes his feature film debut here, this being his first narrative movie. And he has done a commendable job. What he has done best is that he has maintained a humorous rhythm for this film despite the fact that it’s a serious subject. In doing so he makes sure that he does not drift away from the essence and the real grain of the film. He creams the movie with constant splurges of humor and good befitting comedy making the movie look less grim. It almost turns out to be an adventure ride which is both hard-hitting and entertaining.
And what a splendid job by cinematographer Anshuman Mahaley. The rough terrains and the desolate mountains of Afghanistan become a character in the movie. Mahaley captures the location in all its melancholy and despair instead of making it look scenic and charming. This was very important taking into account the mood and atmosphere of the film. Mahaley makes it appear like a mute witness to the proceedings and all the anguish and sufferings it has undergone over the years. And the background score elevates the feel further, complementing the movie thoroughly.
The movie has no precise story. It’s a docu-drama or treated like a docu-drama. It’s about five individuals Jai, Suhel, Jessica (who are journalists), Khyber (their Afghan guide) and Imran Khan Afridi (Talibani). The director wants the audience to witness their journey, their experiences, the fear, the hate, the trauma they undergo and still try to hold their nerves in that war-ravaged territory. It all culminates into a strange bond which is quite indefinable.
The director has done his research deftly and that shows. He has worked hard on the script and has done his best to make a film that is thoughtful as well as thought-provoking. Kabir Khan’s background as a documentary filmmaker has come in handy and he has utilized his experiences to the hilt. Not that the movie is without flaws or errors but that is negligible. What is important is the spirit of the film which should be kept a little far from dissection. The actors too have done a brilliant job playing their respective roles sincerely.
The film reminded me of that Hollywood classic THREE KINGS. That movie too was set against the ambience of the Gulf War and took a realistic stab on the consequences of the conflict. There the director did so by ingraining it with lots of humor but keeping the real core of the film intact. This is a tough job to do, mind you.
KABUL EXPRESS too works in a similar vein. It is clear-cut, straight and touching. Kabir Khan has said that he has jotted all his experiences in this film while he was in Afghanistan during his documentary days. One should feel glad that he decided to share it through this film which should surely remain unique experience for many of you as well.