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Kabir Khan has been one of the most prolific filmmakers of Indian cinema since the past decade. He has not only given us great content but also has managed to serve some of the best performances from our superstars. However, not many know that Kabir Khan himself had a very near-death like experience during a few of these shoots. Recently on Neha Dhupia‘s ‘No Filter Neha’, Kabir Khan spoke about the same.
Even Neha Dhupia spoke to Bollywood Bubble recently about the whole experience. Have a look at her interview right here:
When Neha Dhupia asked Kabir Khan about hearing from others that he has faced near-death experiences in his real life, Kabir Khan said, “Ya people have asked me what has been the most dangerous moment in your life. Was it in Afghanistan, was it in Bosnia, was it in Kashmir and I said no, it was in Bihar where I was doing this documentary as a camera person for channel 4 and it was on the gun culture of Bihar. It was basically on the rising sort of Nexus between politicians and gangsters. We were filming with this one gangster who went on to become a member of parliament. We landed up there aiming to film him with his 40-50 gunmen but he thought this crew has come from the UK because it was channel 4 and I need to project my clean politician image and he told all his gunmen to go away. There was only one gunman with him and the producers were getting very antsy as to where are the gunmen but he took us to a village and now while we were doing this, his rival gang who also went on to become a member of parliament in some years realized that he was travelling without any gunmen. He did not know that we were with him and when we went to this one village, to the little hamlet, it was like rice paddy fields all across and then there were forests surrounding these paddy fields and one mud embankment going up to this hamlet of 5-6 houses. We went in there and he had obviously trained the villagers to speak very highly of him and all that happened and while coming back which was around dusk. The film actually got renamed shootout at sunset and we were coming back and I remember I was in the first car and the woods, the trees had become pretty dark because the sun was setting. Suddenly I saw 8-9 flashes go off in the trees and a second later 10 bullets slammed into our car. The first one went through my driver’s neck and he died on the spot. We did not know what the hell is happening and, of course, the guy started screaming and shouting and we realized that it was an attack by the rival gang. We jumped down and hid under the car, we had Ambassadors at that point and the cars were getting slammed by bullets. Another guy was lying right next to me and I remember, I could actually feel a bullet take my hair off and this guy next to me rolled over and I thought oh shit this guy has also gone and he fell into the paddy fields. But it had just gazed at him and with the shock, he fell over. This lasted for almost an hour and a half and I don’t know what prevented them from coming in and finishing us off. Maybe it was a fact that they realized there was a crew there. The villagers came with their bows and arrows and were trying to fight back, so that was the closest I have come to death.
Kabir Khan went on to also talk about the time when he got stuck in a minefield. He said, “And this is very important especially for people who want to be documentary filmmakers of how when you going to conflict zone, a war zone, how you really need to be very very careful about what you are doing. I mean I have survived to tell the tale, but I’ve some closed shaves, but I have also thought I had that sixth sense of knowing how much to push and know more because some of our friends have lost their lives in Afghanistan while they were filming with us because sometimes you push too much. This minefield thing happened pretty earlier, one my first documentary trips to Afghanistan and as we all know Afghanistan is one of the most densely mined countries in the world. There were like some 10 million mines last count in Afghanistan, so we were travelling to the Afghan Tragic border to meet General Ahmad Shah Masood and it was a beautiful place, it was winter, it was February, and it was really cold. We stopped at this place and I knew that if I walked away from the Road, I would get these lovely shot of these vehicles moving with the Hindu Kush mountains in the background, so I said let me do that and without thinking walked away. Now, most places in Afghanistan where there are mines which are detected have these red stones which show that ok these are mines and only when they are de-mined, do they paint it white. I didn’t see those stones, apparently, there were some over there and I walked away. I must have gone about 100-150 feet inside the field when I saw Khebar, my dear friend and he was also our guide and driver at that point in time in Afghanistan. He started screaming and shouting and it was windy, I couldn’t hear what he was saying and I just heard – ‘Khatra e mine’ and I realized, I walked into a minefield and it was -15 to -19 degrees at that point of time and I was sweating. And a good 100 ft in, not just a few feet in. But fortunately for me, it was loose mud and I could see my footsteps very clearly and so I very carefully sort of literally retraced my steps placing my feet in the places where I had already made the marks with that footsteps and got out of that. Yes because it won’t trigger the mine so that would be safe and that’s how I got back.”
When asked about how Bollywood saved his life, Kabir Khan narrated the story. He said, “That’s the day I realized the power of mainstream Bollywood cinema and I say that’s the day Bollywood saved my life because this was actually when we were trying to go into Afghanistan. This was post 9/11 and because I already had prior experience in Afghanistan, a lot of international channels got in touch with us saying would you go back and make a film about Afghanistan coming out of the shadows of the Taliban and the war was still on, I mean the bombings were still on, the Taliban regime was crumbling. So we decided to go in. Now being Indians we go through the usual route which is Pakistan and then you go through Peshawar, Khyber Pass so we had to overfly so we went to Uzbekistan then Tajikistan and then we got stuck in Dushanbe, trying to go into Afghanistan and we were there for about fourteen days and everything we tried. It was Murphey’s law, we wanted to drive across, there was like a landslide, an avalanche and we had to come back. There was a helicopter that they has said would take us to the Tagic airforce, two days before it got crashed and destroyed. Anything and everything that we tried to get into Afghanistan was just not happening, still, one day I think that was the last day, Rajan and I decided that we will make just one last push and if it doesn’t happen we will just go back to Delhi. That day there were these Russian helicopters going in with medical supplies into Afghanistan and at that point of time, the Russian economy was not as rich as it is now so it was very easy to use our Indian juggad and we took the Russian helicopter pilot aside and he agreed to hide Rajan and Me as contraband amongst the medical supplies and it’s a short 40-minute ride through the Hindu Kush mountains to Dushanbe to Kabul and it was a spectacular territory. But then suddenly before Kabul comes, the pilot brings the chopper down, just 20 feet above the ground and he says to jump out and I said what do you mean jump out dude, he said ya Kabul is just 10km away from here. You jump here because you are contraband, we can’t land at the Afgan airways with you guys in and that’s how it happened. We had to literally hang from the helicopter and jump down with our luggage and our cameras and this helicopter takes off and we’re in the middle of nowhere. Like 360 degrees there were these snow-clad mountains and we don’t know where Kabul is and in a distance, we see this one guy coming towards us very menacingly because he is a mujahideen and he has just seen two guys jump off a Russian helicopter and fly away and he doesn’t know who we are. We could’ve been special forces, we could have been spies, you know all like war zone. He comes charging towards us and he is 6ft 4 inches. I thought that’s it, this is the way it’s been written for me, I am dying somewhere here in the mountains outside Kabul, nobody will know where our bodies are because it’s impossible and all we could do is, we kept saying Hindustan Hindustan because we knew that the northern alliance Mujahideen had a soft spot for Indians because we had helped them in their fight against Taliban, so they were warm towards Indians, so we kept saying and he was cocking his Kalashnikov and coming towards us and suddenly when he heard us saying Hindustan he just stopped, this guy and smiled and he started singing a song –‘Mere Sapno ki rani kab aayegi tu’ and that’s the day Bollywood saved my life and he called for a tank and that’s the way we rolled into Kabul.
Kabir Khan says that some of the scenes from his film ‘Kabul Express’ was a replica of what he had experienced in real life. “It’s actually exactly the same where I made Arshad and John enter Kabul in ‘Kabul Express’. I promise you the chopper was bought down lower for them than it was for me. So loosely, Arshad and John are actually playing what Rajan and I did and what happened with us over there and some of the scenes are exact like word by word what happened with us in Afghanistan.”
We must say, it’s indeed a great story.