First things first, the red carpet premiere of Kabul Express during the Dubai International Film Festival is one of the best premiers organised and the film rightly deserved a rousing ovation and thunderous applause at the end of the film.
Aditya Chopra deserves a pat on his back for deviating from the usual candy floss romance and popcorn action flicks. He backed the vision of debutant director Kabir Khan's recreation of his personal experiences in Kabul and the result is spellbinding cinema. The film narrates a contemporary tale in the most realistic manner.
Post 9/11, TV journalists Suhel (John Abraham) and Jai (Arshad Warsi), are in search of a rare interview with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Helping them in their pursuit of a Talibani is Khyber (Hanif Hum Ghum), an Afghani guide and driver.
Their lives change when the trio gets kidnapped by a Talibani fugitive, Imran Khan Afridi (Shahid Salman).
Jessica Beckham (Linda Arsenio), an American photojournalist, is also taken hostage by Afridi and together, they embark on a two-day journey from Kabul to the volatile Afghan-Pakistan border.
Khan deftly narrates his tale, oscillating between hilarious situations and horrifying incidents. The turbulent relationships between the characters unfold beautifully making us fully immersed in their emotions.
Khan has used his immense experience of shooting documentaries in Kabul to brilliantly portray the pathos and ground reality in Afghanistan. The film subtly raises some serious political and ideological questions.
But the scene when Afridi performs his ablutions before his prayers with Jessica around is too subtle giving unintended wrong signals and needs to be interpreted maturely.
The best part of the film is that all the actors are cast keeping the characters in mind. Abraham has given a decent performance but Warsi triumphs with a brilliant execution of his role. His one-liners draw laughter even in the most impossible situations and proves why he is considered one of India's best talents.
The real scene stealer is Salman with a powerful performance. His eyes radiate emotion, keeping us glued to his character right from his dynamic entry till the last scene of the film.
Ghum has done full justice to his role and his cherished dream of acting in a Bollywood film has turned out to be a memorable one. Arsenio's character is sketchy, but effective.
The dialogues are the film's mainstay. Anshuman Mahaley's cinematography is first-rate and gives us the best opportunity to view war-torn Afghanistan through the lens.
Kudos to the cast and crew for risking their lives to make a gem like Kabul Express. A highly recommended watch.
Critic's Advice: Some sensitive and violent scenes require parental guidance.