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Kabir Khan gets candid with Neha Dhupia on #NoFilterNeha Season 5

Here’s the interview of Kabir Khan on Neha Dhupia on No Filter Neha Season 5



Kabir Khan

Kabir Khan talks about his lockdown experience

You know at a personal level Neha, there are no complaints, because we live such privileged lives that we get completely detach from what’s happening at the street level. So at a personal level, it’s been a good time, it’s been, for me, very good because I was for the last 3 years, very busy with my web series ‘The Forgotten Army’ and then my film ‘83’, but I am so glad that we were all together as a family. My mother is also with me and then of course my two kids and Mini and it became like an enforced holiday. So yes there is a bit of dismay and apprehension when you see the misery that’s happening on the streets but at a personal level no complaints, it’s been a holiday.

Kabir Khan on how he went back to becoming a freelance camera person for Mini Mathur

I haven’t shot a lockdown film. I have been shooting for her, actually. I have gone back to my roots, after film school I was a freelance camera person, so Mini sent me back to my roots of becoming a free freelance camera person for her when she was doing her video chats.

The Kabir-Mini love story

Mini and I have actually, made a conscious decision of not really working together because we are both from similar fields, but we said that okay let’s keep our professions apart. But having said that we have shot together, we met on a shoot. There was a channel called Home TV and they were doing this very big show at that point in time where the first prize for that show was like a flat in Bombay and that’s how we met. I was a freelance camera person and Mini was a presenter and actually, we both went to the production house office to say that we might not be able to do the show because we both had date issues.


We didn’t know about each other’s date issues, we met for the first time in that office, in that meeting, and in the course of that meeting our date issues sort of disappeared and we decided that we do want to do this show and that was fun because they made us travel all over India together and we got to know each other in the course of that journey and that’s how it started.

When Kabir Khan stole a goat from school!

Actually, I didn’t take the goat from school, the goat was already in the school ground. This was in Modern School Barakhamba, Delhi. So ya, I was pretty notorious in school, but I think by the time I reached college, we had done everything. So in college, we became like a very regular studious sort of guys because we had more or less done anything that we wanted to in terms of doing wild things in school, so this goat incident, I was actually pretty young.

I think this goat incident happened when I was in class 7 or 8 and I don’t know why I did it but, I just picked up this goat from the football field and brought it into class and the little goat came in and got so scared with these 40 screaming children that it shat all over the classroom before we could pick up the goat and get it out of the classroom, the teacher walked in. I think I got suspended for that for a couple of days.

Kabir Khan talks about his crazy college days and his gang called ‘KARS’

This was later. This was in class 12, this is when we had this group or gang called ‘KARS’ starting with K which is Kabir, Ashish, Rajan and there was Samir. Rajan is still the executive producer of all my films, so we have continued all these years. You will see his credit as an executive producer in all my films. It was Ashish actually, the mad one, who decided to steal his father’s car and bring to school and stupidly we went and sat in it and Ashish had been seeing a lot of that action films and he decided that his Maruti 800 could also probably do what those other cars were doing and he tried to do this stupid sort of a 180-degree turn in the middle of the football field and before you knew it we were upside down.

We were turtle in that car. It was a Maruti it wasn’t like some sturdy car and touchwood none of us got hurt. I think Ashish had a small little scratch but we jumped out and saw the car and Ashish was not hurt but he saw the car and said “my father will kill me” and he fainted. So that was the only extent of the injury, so ya that was a close one.

Kabir Khan near death experience!

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 traveling 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 onemud 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.

When he was stuck in a mine field!

And this is very important specially 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 think 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 mine field 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 traveling 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 mines which are detected have these red stones which shows 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.

Kabir Khan narrates the story when Bollywood actually saved his life

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 yaKabul 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.

Kabir Khan talks about his crazy opportunity of meeting Nelson Mandela

So, Saeed Naqvi at that point in time was known as the head hunter of politics because he used to go and interview all the heads of the states so he is the first journalist outside of Soviet Union in the world to actually interview the then soviet president Gorbachev, he has had interviews with the scores of heads of states and politics. So, in my innings with him, we used to travel extensively, and meet you know, Yasser Arafat, Mandela is of course one of those meetings that I will never forget.

Then there are some people who have the charisma that can physically touch, it’s just that they have aura that you can almost see when they walk in. And Mandela was one of my heroes while growing up. I grew up as I said in a very politically charged household where Mandela and Yasser Arafat were our heroes while growing up. So when I got the opportunity to go South Africa with Saeed and we were going to meet Mandela for a documentary we were doing which is actually about the role that the Indians played in the African-National Congress struggle for freedom.

So, I remember that day so clearly, I went and bought myself a t- shirt which had, ‘Mandela for President’, went in and he came in, he is a tall man even though he was very old at that point of time, he was slightly bent, but he was a tall man. He came in, he saw my t-shirt and laughed and said you could be arrested for that and then I said, ‘sir, please sign this for me’ and he did that, he autographed that t shirt for me which I still have as one of my prized possessions and he gave me a copy of his autobiography which also he inscribed my with name so that was one of the high points of my several trips with Saeed.

Kabir Khan on similarities and differences between M.S.Dhoni and Kapil Dev

There are huge similarities I mean, they are both legends right and there is something that makes legends in a certain sense similar, it’s that absolute focus on what you want to achieve and nothing ever lets you waver from that target and I think that is something both Kapil and Dhoni have in common in the stories that I approached in terms of the Dhoni documentary, it was more about the comeback in the IPL how they went on to win after they were banned and with Kapil Dev it’s about this completely uncelebrated Indian team that lands up in London who nobody has hopes in and they actually win the World Cup.

One thing that is very common is the strong belief that they had in themselves. You know, when everybody was saying this cannot happen, when everybody was telling Dhoni guys that it cannot happen, you cannot make this comeback especially with this team he had put together because everybody was talking about how old the team is, with Kapil Dev everybody was saying that these bunch of guys they have never won any significant one day match ever. They are not gonna have a chance in World Cup. But they believed they could do it, both of them had this belief.

I don’t think it’s about them just saying it after they have won it, it’s about us speaking to people around them and that time when nobody believed it they could do it. And that I think is a big similarity. The difference of course will be in the way they approach the method. See, in the case of Dhoni, I didn’t spend as much time with him, in case of the documentary as I did with Kapil Dev. I know Kapil Dev much more that I got to know Dhoni, I couldn’t spend that much time with him, unfortunately.

But with Kapil Dev, there was this, the whole process was something, he was 24 years old at that point of time, they all thought they were coming for a holiday, 7 to 8 of them were prepared to go for these extended honeymoons after that and they were all hoped to travel out post the group matches because never had India reached the semi finals of the World Cup so they were all definitely were not going to be the first ones.

And then how slowly one by one because of Kapil’s belief and what Kapil was doing and what the others were also doing on the field, they started cancelling their trip to the US. But, Kapil really led from the front and that is something really comes across in this story, how he just never let that belief slip and he truly played a captain.

When Kabir Khan and Ranveer Singh landed in Kapil Dev’s house!

We just took our bag and baggage and landed up in Delhi. I really don’t know, so see, Romiji and Kapil Dev are just the most gracious hosts, I mean, for them they would always say, our house is always open for you, a lot of people say that and I don’t think, you’re supposed to take that seriously and ‘hey! You said your house is open’ so Ranveer and I just landed there’.

No it a was fabulous time to be able to trail Kapil Dev everywhere. I remember when Ranveer Singh went like, sir, hum beth jayenge, aap meeting kariye, we’ll be fly on the wall. He said, Ranveer Singh mere kamre mein betha hai toh koi fly on the wall nahi hone wala. Like, koi meeting nahi hogi.

How Ranveer got into the role of Kapil Dev

Both of them are very health conscious, Kapil sir just loves playing Golf, he can spend 10 hours in a Golf course. In fact, what he was really unhappy about was that we were stopping him from playing Golf enough. But one day I remember going with him and it was hot in Delhi and Ranveer and I were walking with him for 4 hours and Ranveer and I were just looking and this guys is going to stop walking or he is just gonna keep playing Golf.

But I think it was a very important stage for our prep, those two weeks that we spent over there specially for Ranveer, is what really made all the difference in the film to Ranveer’s credit of course not taking anything away from Mr Gaikwad, who has done the look for the film but today, if people are reacting in certain way and saying that how did Ranveer Singh end up looking exactly like Kapil Dev.

Of course, it’s what we have done in terms of make-up, it is also expressions and that is those 10-14 days is what Ranveer really caught on. How to hold those expressions. Because I really believe it’s about getting the expressions right and is something I told Ranveer right in the beginning of the film that it’s not a look-alike contest you know, its not about how close you are gonna look like Kapil Dev, in 10 minutes the audience needs to forget that its Ranveer Singh and you need to go with the character and it’s about you taking on the persona and that something that Ranveer has really cracked.

Kabir Khan tells us something about Ranveer Singh

Absolutely, it’s a very difficult one, because what happens is, specially when its peculiar accent, the danger with something like that is that you  can easily make it caricaturish and that was big trap for us, do we fall in that trap and end caricaturing Kapil Dev? That is totally all credit to Ranveer and that is something as a director I could only observe and see and comment is it right or wrong, the process of getting that is totally Ranveer.

Ranveer is an actor has realized on this course of journey that he loves the process, he loves as an actor the process of getting into a character, he is not very happy if he it’s a character he can’t do much about and he just has to get on to the set. So, for him, this was a challenge. The process and complete and total immersion into the project, when he is in the project he doesn’t like looking left or right, he just is in that project, eating, breathing, sleeping that character. Everybody took on the mantle of the character they were representing, So, Ranveer truly became the captain of that team.

Kabir Khan says ’83 will not release on OTT at all!

No, not at all, you know ‘83 is once in a lifetime story. I often say that sometimes I feel that you don’t choose stories, stories choose you. Why for the last 37 years was the story not made, it’s staring us in our face the greatest sporting triumph for India ever, but it waited 37 years for me, for whatever reason and I’m really glad it did. So, it’s a once in a lifetime story and it’s been designed for the big screen I mean, we were very sure that for’83 every cinema hall is going become to a stadium when ‘83 comes out on the screens.

So, I don’t want to rob myself and rob the audience of that experience, I am gonna wait, I’m an optimist and I know this lockdown is here and this virus is not going away in a hurry but I think we are patient people, we’ll sit, we’ll wait, nothing’s gonna change. ‘83 is a about story that happened after 37 years ago, we can see it 38 years later also.


One thing Kabir Khan would change in these people (in good humor, of course!)

  • Salman Khan – I mean, famously, for time, punctuality, if he can start early in the day, nothing like it
  • Katrina Kaif – She is so gorgeous, she shouldn’t bother about how she is looking in a shot. She doesn’t need to come across to the monitor and say how am I looking? You’re always looking gorgeous Katrina. Just go and do the shot
  • Deepika Padukone – Nothing, what can you change about Deepika Padukone, its perfection over there
  • Saif Ali Khan – What will I change about Saif. I think Saif also in terms of caring about his hair, the only thing I noticed about him, he cares a lot about his hair. He has got good hair so I Don’t think needs to care about that. Again, he looks very nice whichever way his hair is
  • Kareena Kapoor – Again, nothing to complain about and again, these are all people I have had fabulous times working with. Again, maybe very conscious about clothes that come with the character, again I feel she can look great in a sack also, I mean, she is brilliant, she is live wire on set, the moment Kareena on screen and the whole screen comes alive.

Cricket game:

  • Who according to Kabir is a catch (did he just agree to her being in a relationship?)– Katrina Kaif. She’s been caught though, huh.
  • Who is a no-ball – In a positive way, Ranveer Singh
  • Hit-wicket – I can’t say this, I’ll get in trouble for this
  • Bouncer – Saif Ali Khan. Because Saif is always with his big think books talking about Central Asian History or the rise of the Moghuls and for a lot of people it can be an absolute bouncer. Personally I love that aspect about Saif
  • All-rounder –Again lots of people but I’d say Ranveer Singh
  • Clean-bowled – Madly in love – Shah Rukh Khan