Saturday, December 16, 2006


Kabul Express

One can believe all the stories about the making of Kabir Khan’s Kabul Express—the life-threatening conditions, discomfort, illness, etc., and then wonder was all that worth it for a movie, which offers the viewer neither entertainment, nor any insights into the tragedy of the Afghan people.

Two very clueless TV reporters Suhel (John Abraham) and Jai (Arshad Warsi) land up in Afghanistan to find some Talibanis to interview in post 9/11 scenario. The Afghan people rising after years of oppression kill any Taliban member they see. A lot of the Taliban were actually Pakistani military men, though now the ones left behind have been abandoned by their own people. So the Afghans also hate the Pakistanis as much as they hate opportunistic Americans.

All this is conveyed mostly through dialogue. The India reporters are so dumb that they ask questions like “Why are women begging in Afghanistan?” and there is an equally dumb American photographer Jessica (Linda Arsenio), who wanders around the country alone, dressed in a jeans and a T-shirt with a plunging neckline, depending on the Indians to point the way to the Taliban she wants to photograph.

The Indians have hired an interpreter Khyber (Hanif Hum Ghum), and an unwanted passenger gets into the vehicle called the Kabul Express. This former Talib, Imran (Salman Shahid), wants to get to the border and hijacks them, so that their journalistic credentials will get him there safely.

You see a lot of the arid, barren, ruined Afghan landscape, but representing the people are some Buzkashi players, and some murderous types who loot and kill their victims by hammering nails in their heads. The recent troubled history is related by Khyber, but there is no attempt to actually understand or see the plight of the people from up close.

When Imran gets into the car, the Three Kings-inspired film becomes a road movie, with extremely silly humour--like Jai and Imran arguing about who is the best all-round cricketer. The director takes an anti-Pakistan stance, but has no moral position on the Taliban. In fact, he expects you to sympathise with Imran, because he isn’t such a bad guy after all—he just did his duty by joining the Taliban, he doesn’t actually go by their extremist ideology. Oh yeah? Tell that to the people who suffered under that brutal regime.

Why take all that trouble to shoot in Afganistan, when the movie that comes out has zero impact? John Abraham wears a befuddled expression and does very little. Arshad Warsi is there to come up with the comic quips. So it is left to the ‘ousiders’ Hum Ghum and Shahid to do the acting, and they are both excellent. Fine camerawork (Anshuman Mahaley), good music score (Julius Packiam) disappointing movie.

Aryan: Unbreakable

Sohail Khan, with all his muscles, is no Sylvester Stallone. In Aryan Unbreakable, a film about a boxer, inspired by Rocky and old Hindi film Boxer, directed by Abhishek Kapoor, he plays the college champ, who drops out because his girlfriend gets pregnant and he has to marry her.

For some reason Aryan’s coach (Puneet Issar) thinks that boxing and women don’t go together (he never heard of Mike Tyson!) and dumps Aryan after his marriage to Neha (Sneha Ullal) -- doesn’t bother the director that Aryan and Neha don’t look like they were the same college-going age!

Aryan gets a job with a sports channel, Neha with a music channel and life seems fine in their multi-coloured apartment, till the odious national boxing champ Ranjeet (Inder Kumar) insults Aryan in front of his little son. Aryan hits back, loses his job and turns into a frustrated alcoholic.

Then he gets a chance to compete as a boxer again and is up against Ranjeet in the finals. Is there any doubt about who wins?

The two lead actors are lacking in skill or charisma, and the script offers them no highs. The love story and its aftermath are tedious – including the vampish mother (Supriya Karnik) and nice dad (Satish Shah)—and there is no pain or suffering involved in Aryan’s battle to return to the ring; hence no drama and a very unexciting finale. When the audience should be getting up and cheering the underdog, they are looking at their watches and the exit door. Think Rocky and Raging Bull and figure out what Aryan is lacking.


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