Kabul Express (Hindi: काबुल एक्स्प्रेस, Urdu: کابل ایکسپریس) is a Bollywood film that was released on December 15 2006. The film stars John Abraham, Arshad Warsi, Pakistani actor Salman Shahid, Afghan actor Hanif Hum Ghum and American actress Linda Arsenio. The film is produced by Aditya Chopra under Yash Raj Films and is directed by documentary film maker Kabir Khan.
Kabul Express is the first feature film for director Kabir Khan who has made several documentaries over the years in Afghanistan. According to him Kabul Express is loosely based on his and his friend Rajan Kapoor's experiences in post-taliban Afghanistan. However, the movie has been criticized as derogatory of one of the ethnic groups of Afghanistan: the Hazara.
Kabul Express is the story of five individuals linked by hate and fear, but brought together by fate to finally recognize each other. Five people from different worlds, their paths are destined to cross in a country devastated by war – Afghanistan. The film takes place after the events of 9/11, when America has invaded Afghanistan, which was then under the control of the Taliban. The survivors of the old regime are trying to escape the wrath of the Afghans. At great risk Suhel Khan (John Abraham) and Jai Kapoor (Arshad Warsi), two Indian television reporters, enter Afghanistan with a dangerous aim: to film a documentary on the condition of Afghanistan. They attempt to get an interview with a Taliban soldier captured by the Afghans. Helping them is their Afghan driver, Khyber (Hanif Hum Ghum), with his Toyota utility vehicle called Kabul Express. They soon come across Jessica Beckham (Linda Arsenio) who is a photo journalist.
Their road trip becomes hell when the group are kidnapped by a Pakistani who was once part of the Taliban regime. Jessica is soon captured by Imran after she follows the Indians thinking they have found a huge story. The film follows the next 48 hours of the five individuals.
As the film unfolds, a special relationship develops between the Afghan, the Pakistani, the two Indians and the American.
In early January 2007 the government of Afghanistan banned the movie, Kabul Express(although the movie was never officially released there). The official banning by the Afghan Ministry of Culture followed protests over the film's racist portrayal of the Hazara nationality of Afghanistan. The Hazara people, one of the four largest nationalities in Afghanistan, who have suffered greatly under the Taliban's oppressive rule in Afghanistan, and have faced oppression and discrimination throughout the modern history of Afghan polity, are described in the film by an Afghan member of the crew and the "Pakistani Talib" as "worse than the Taliban", "dogs", "bandits", "dangerous", and "savages". In January 05, 2007, in a large gathering in Kabul, people of Kabul denounced the film as "an insult to all the people of Afghanistan". In the gathering one speaker pointed out that after decades of internecine conflict when all ethnic groups of Afghanistan are working towards building a fraternal peace in the country, such provocations should not be allowed to derail these efforts. The gathering is reported to have been peaceful and the organizers are determined to follow the legal course of action to seek redress through the governments of India and Afghanistan. Many people are adamant over Afghan Film's role in making the movie and expect that the Afghan organization should not have let the remarks pass. The Afghan actor responsible for the racist remarks has reportedly apologized, so has the Indian director of the movie Kabir Khan.
On January 14, 2007, a demonstration was held in the city of Quetta, where a large number of Hazaras reside. They demanded an apology from the director and a complete ban on the movie because "They (The Hazaras) have been offended and hurt by the movie.