Filmmaker Kabir Khan is one of those who has extensively worked in Afghanistan. Known for his documentary film before starting his Bollywood journey, he has spent a lot of time in Afghanistan for his projects. Through his first feature film Kabul Express (20006), he narrated what he had witnessed during his time there. In a conversation with Bollywood Hungama, the director shared his experiences as now after 20 years Taliban has once again taken over Afghanistan.
“When I was a documentary filmmaker in Afghanistan observing that period, these are all the learnings. It is sad that the Taliban, after 20 years, has come back,” Kabir Khan tells Bollywood Hungama. “I distinctly remember one moment in the documentary that we were doing; we were in this prison in Panjshir which now everybody is getting to know about it as one place in Afghanistan where the pushback has started. It is the area which Ahmad Shah Massoud owned. We were filming Taliban people who were captured over there. There was one Taliban man who was refusing to speak to us on camera. While we were finishing, he looked straight into the camera and said ‘They think we are gone? We will be back!’ I remember a chill going down my spine 20-21 years ago. Unfortunately, that old man’s words were prophetic. They are back.”
Speaking of Kabul Express and some things in the film are now the reality of Afghanistan, he adds, “It’s my first film; in certain sense, it is autobiographical. It is based on what was happening with me and my friend Rajan Kapoor in Afghanistan. That film never leaves me. The reason why it was my first film is that my experiences in Afghanistan had a profound effect on me. I always thought it was an incredibly human story to tell. Ofcourse, we set it up with a lot of humour; we set it up as a thriller. The whole point of telling that story is what you are now reading into it and in certain sense, trying to tell the world that a lot of it was shown at that point of time the international news, we only consumed only western media so we only had a distorted view about what was happening over there.”
“This is one of the greatest education that I had as a documentary filmmaker is that when you actually go to a place and stay there, you realise the huge gap between the story that media tells you and actually what’s happening – the on-ground reality that well all fell for. For the last 20 years, we all believed that the Americans are winning this war; the Americans themselves believed that they are winning this war. They were never were because the attempt was never really genuine. It’s so strange that President Biden actually says the agenda wasn’t nation-building. So, if it wasn’t nation-building then what were they there for, for 20 years? Because if the agenda was to dismantle the Taliban, that really didn’t happen. If it wasn’t for nation-building then, I have no idea what they were there for,” he further adds.
“Kabul Express was written completely out of my personal experience. Almost every scene is a version of what happened with me in real life. Every person in Kabul Express is a version of every person I met,” he added.
Talking about conflict zones in Afghanistan, he further said, “I’ve observed in a lot of conflict zones. What also happens is that when we see conflict zones through the news, then we only see one aspect of it, and we tend to think that the whole place is burning, there can be no normal life. But actually, when you reach these conflict zones, within a very short while, you realize the resilience of people, the resilience of human beings, they still are trying their best to lead, you know, normal lives. And one of my photographs and that photograph went on to win the international photo of the year. For me, that photograph really told me that even Wars have limits. In fact, that’s the title of the photograph.”
He further recalled, “I remember I was in Afghanistan, and we were being shelled and rocketed. And we were under, in almost like a bunker, hiding from that shelling, and then the shelling stopped. I waited for about 10-15 minutes to make sure that the shelling had stopped and I came out. It was a cold day in December, and I came out, and there was this broken down tank. There were these kids who must have been almost 7-8-9 years old, they had hung one wire from the tip of the barrel of the tank, and they were swinging on it. So it just took 10 minutes of relief from shelling and their lives back. They wanted to play; that was their playground. That moment made me realize that a child wants to play and even 10 minutes between shelling, the children will go back to play and therefore I said, you know, even wars have limits. The human spirit will always transcend anything you throw at them. This is something you see in all conflict zones. Despite all the trauma, all suffering, they still want to cling to normalcy they still want to lead a normal life and I’ve seen this as a family as in Afghanistan as in Kashmir, that’s in it. In Beirut, when I was filming there and maybe more so because I think they want to then celebrate the sort of what they think are the normal moments even more because they don’t know how many of those a level get in their lives.”
More Pages: Kabul Express Box Office Collection , Kabul Express Movie Review
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