Saturday, December 30, 2006

Bollywood Comes to Kabul

Indian "Bollywood" movies have traditionally been very popular in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, like so many other forms of free expression, they were banned by the Taliban. So it is fitting that not only are Bollywood films again being shown in Afghanistan, but that one has actually been filmed there. According to a December 18th piece in the Guardian:

Bollywood broke new ground this weekend with the release of the first international movie filmed in post-Taliban Afghanistan. Kabul Express, a tale of two Indian journalists out of their depth on the trail of Taliban, is set among the country's spectacularly scarred landscape of gutted buildings and pitted flatlands.

Starring two of Bollywood's most marketable men, model-turned-screen star John Abraham and comedian Arshad Warsi, as well as American, Afghan and Pakistani actors, with a million-pound production budget, Kabul Express has been screened at high-profile film festivals in Toronto and Dubai.

Shot over 45 days in and around Kabul, the Bombay film crew arrived in September last year during the resurgence of Taliban violence that saw three suicide bombings and the beheading of an Indian construction engineer.

Although Hindi movies are very popular in Afghanistan, Bollywood's joie de vivre did not appeal to the Taliban's austere moral code and the Islamic government banned the films.

The article notes that the Taliban used death threats to try and prevent the filming of Kabul Express. Fortunately, they were unsuccessful:

The film's director and writer, Kabir Khan says that it took just two weeks before the Taliban sent death threats to the movie set.

"I was told by the Indian ambassador in Kabul that there was a five-man death squad sent by the Taliban. Everybody was pretty nervous. The Taliban wanted to send a message that you cannot have a normal life here. But the Afghan government really helped. They gave us 60 armed commandos and we used to roll around in 35 SUVs. In fact we looked like a militia."

The climate for intellectual freedom in Afghanistan is anything but perfect. Still, the current situation is far superior to the radical Islamist dark age imposed by the Taliban.


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