Kabul Express Kabir Khan

The TIFF inclusion of Kabul Express is proof of one thing: that festival bigwigs often program while drunk. How else to explain the presence of this absurdly campy Indian "drama,” which manages to profane its very serious subject with low humour that belongs in a Hope/Crosby "road” picture? Our heroes are a couple of Indian TV journalists who’ve been assigned to bag themselves a Taliban interview, but though the devastation of Afghanistan is immense, they’re not above cracking wise and leering at the busty American photographer across the way. At any rate, the pair (along with their Cheaplaffs Johnson local guide) is taken hostage by a Pakistani Taliban who wants them to drive him to the border, a situation that attracts said Yank photog and ends up in melodrama heaven. Is the Talib friend or foe? And is Imran Khan the best cricketer or not? The film recalls some of the loopier travesties of ’80s schlock factory Cannon Pictures, but even that would-be studio wouldn’t stoop so low as to actually go to Afghanistan to profane the deaths of its people. Of course, the awful dialogue — blindingly apparent whenever there’s English dialogue (compounded by that American’s atrocious performance) — is side-splitting, as is the total lack of verisimilitude and the hokey "tragic” ending; I should either warn straight audiences to flee in terror or let camp enthusiasts know their prayers have been answered. If nothing else, Kabul Express seems to suggest that America isn’t the only country to fumble the ball in making message movies; Bollywood has a head start and is sprinting for the finish line. (Yash Raj Films Pvt. Ltd.)