Filmmaker Kabir Khan spent a lot of time in Afghanistan when he was working on documentaries. But, when he went to the country to shoot his first Bollywood film, Kabul Express (2006), Kabir received a death threat from the Taliban.
In a recent interview with Mashable’s The Bombay Journey, Kabir recalled how he and his team were warned about a death threat 14 days into the shoot of Kabul Express. He said, “The Indian ambassador called us and asked, ‘Kya kar rahe ho?’ (What are you doing?) We told him we are shooting our film. So, he told us to come to his office once we are done. We packed up the shoot that day and went to meet him. When we reached there, there was the Indian ambassador and an Indian military attache. They told us that the American, the Afghan and our intelligence have told us there is a credible death threat on you, your actors and your film unit. Five people have been sent by a unit across the border in Pakistan to hit out at your unit. ‘Khoon sookh gaya ye sun kar (I was numb on hearing this).”
Kabir Khan first sent the film’s lead actors John Abraham and Arshad Warsi back to Bombay and locked his film’s unit in a well-secured hotel. While he was thinking about returning to India as he couldn’t risk his team’s life, the Afghans stepped up. “Afghans took it personally and said ‘How can the Taliban stop your shooting?’ The Afghan security minister came and said if you return to India tomorrow, it would be our defeat,” the filmmaker recalled.
Meanwhile, Kabir also got a call from the film’s producer Aditya Chopra who promised him that even if he returns to India, the production of his debut Bollywood film will not stop. “He said in the history of Yash Raj, no film has stopped mid-production and yours will not be the first,” Kabir shared.
And, when Kabir Khan decided to stay back, the Afghans did everything to ensure the security of the Kabul Express’ team. “60 armed commandos landed up on our doorstep armed by the Afghan standards. In the morning, we will leave with 40-45 SUVs. On our way, every window had a gun coming out of it, that’s how we reached our sets. Only I knew where we were shooting and the others used to follow me. There was no call sheet,” the filmmaker revealed.
Kabul Express, released in 2006, was loosely based on Kabir and his friend Rajan Kapoor’s experiences in Afghanistan.