Kabul Express is a 2006 Indian Hindi-language adventure film written and directed by documentary film maker Kabir Khan and produced by Aditya Chopra under Yash Raj Films was released on 15 December 2006. The film stars John Abraham, Arshad Warsi, Pakistani actor Salman Shahid, Afghan actor Hanif Hum Ghum and American actress Linda Arsenio Kabul Express is the first fictional 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.
Suhel Khan (John Abraham) and Jai Kapoor (Arshad Warsi) are Indian journalists working for Star News who are sent into Afghanistan to create a report on what life is like in the country following the US Invasion of the country in September 2001. The two are shocked at the state of the country and the ruins that remain due to years of rule by the Taliban Regime. They take a tour of the country in a Taxi starting in Kabul. This follows an escape from capture by the Taliban.
On the way, they stop in the village of Ishtar along with the Taxi Driver Khyber (Hanif Humghum) who has watched his country fall apart over the decades. They stop in a small cafe selling Kebabs where they meet American journalist Jessica Beckham (Linda Arsenio) who is working for Reuters in reporting on the US side of the War in Afghanistan. Suhel and Jai then invite Jessica to join them on their tour of the country which she does. However, shortly after leaving Ishtar, they are caught by Taliban official Imran Khan (Salman Shahid) who has hitched a ride at the back of the Taxi in disguise as an Afghan woman. Imran demands they listen to him and travel straight to the Afghan border with Pakistan or he promises they will be killed. Imran is attempting to cross the border, get past Pakistani troops and negotiate with his Taliban associates in Pakistan.
The four of them (Suhel, Jai, Jessica, Imran and Khyber) travel through various villages where they see horrific sights of poverty before reaching the southern city of Kandahar where Jessica gets the chance to interview US troops who are fighting to regain control of the city from the Taliban who occupy the area. In the meantime, Suhel and Jai attempt to interview Imran yet are unsuccessful when Imran threatens to shoot them. Once leaving Kandahar they travel through a farm and manage to capture a bullfight on film before stopping off at a stream coming closer to the Pakistan border. While Imran and the rest are out exploring, Jessica, discovers Imran's passport as a Pakistani passport. She discovers that he is not a Taliban, but in fact a member of the Pakistani army named Wassim Chaudrey sent to Afghanistan to support the Mujahadeen rebels in their war against the USSR back in the 1980s before he settled down in the country as a member of the Taliban Regime. When Imran discovers the break-in, he takes Suhel, Khyber and Jessica hostage and forces them to continue the journey to the Pakistan border. At one point, Imran abandons them for hours when he hears a noise. Gunshots are fired and the three travellers discover Imran to have 10 US soldiers who attempted to kill him. With Imran distracted, Suhel grabs a gun from one of the soldiers and points it at Imran threatening to kill him if he doesn't answer him in his interview. They leave Imran at the side of the road and start their journey back to Kabul. However, they stopped in their path when Imran manages to leap onto the Taxi and demands they continue their journey to the border. They soon arrive at the border where Imran bids them farewell. On the way, they stop at the village where Imran lived and Imran meets his long lost wife and daughter Zoya. But before Imran can reach anywhere he and the rest of them are attacked by the Mujahideen. Imran tells Suhel, Jessica, Khyber, and Jai to go while he uses his fighting skills to fight them off. Imran later travels on his own to the border and tries to persuade Pakistani troops to allow him entry into the country and that he is a Pakistani. However, they do not listen and Imran is shot on the border by the troops.
The film has received mixed reviews. It has been reviewed that the movie is so far away from real war like reporting.
The film opened to a decent response. According to Box Office India, Kabul Express grossed ₹12.25 crore (US$1.7 million) in India. As of February 2007, the film grossed $4,523,110 at the Indian box office,$53,104 and $212,617 from Australian and British box offices respectively for a worldwide total of $5,091,289. On the whole it was averagely received.
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 allegedly racist portrayal of the ethnic Hazara Shia minority of Afghanistan. The Hazara Shia 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 and Pakistani polity, are described in the film by an Afghan member of the crew and the "Pakistani Talib" as "worse than the Taliban", "bandits", "dangerous", and "savages".
On 5 January 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 organisation should not have let the remarks pass. The Afghan actor responsible for the allegedly racist remarks has reportedly apologised, so has the Indian director of the movie Kabir Khan.
On 14 January 2007, a demonstration was held in the city of Quetta, where a large number of Hazara Shia reside. They demanded an apology from the director and a complete ban on the movie because "They (Hazara Shia) have been offended and hurt by the movie.
The album featuring 9 tracks including three remix and two instrumental. All tracks were composed by Raghav Sachar, one instrumental was composed by Julius Packiam. Lyrics were penned by Aditya Dhar, Swaratmika Mishra and Vijay Kumar.