When it comes to the legends of Bollywood cinema,
actors and actresses aren't the only famous faces. Director Kabir
Khan - the man behind blockbuster hits like Bajrangi
Bhaijan, Ek Tha Tiger and New York -
has his own devoted followers and legions of fans. One of the
best-travelled and most successful filmmakers working in Bollywood
today, the Delhi-born Khan has shot films all across the
subcontinent, trekked through Afghanistan and even retraced the
ancient Silk Road.
Director Kabir Khan is one of
India's top filmmakers
We caught up with director Kabir Khan to learn more
about how he got his start as a documentary filmmaker, the most
incredible locations he's visited during his career, and his
penchant for photography and love of food.
Greaves: How did you get your start as a
documentary filmmaker? Was travel a driving force in your choice of
Director Kabir Khan: "For me, travel and work have
always been intertwined. I have a vivid memory from film school,
when a visiting filmmaker showed us a documentary on Angkor Wat in
Cambodia. In the Q&A session, he said something that stayed
with me: "If you want to travel, become a documentary
At that point, I'd already started travelling in
India extensively, as I have a deep love for mountaineering and
trekking. After graduating from film school, I assisted senior
journalist and documentary filmmaker Saeed Naqvi and travelled to
over 60 countries with him."
Khan's travels have taken him to
all manner of exotic destinations © Kabir Khan
Tell us about
Beyond the Himalayas, your first
documentary as a cinematographer.
"Travel led to travel. I got selected for Discovery
Channel's Beyond the Himalayas, as I'd already done a trip
to Central Asia. We retraced the Silk Road and the trail of Tibetan
Buddhism. We airlifted jeeps from India to Tashkent in Uzbekistan
and travelled across what was then part of the Soviet Union:
Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan. We crossed over into China,
Kashgar, and travelled up to Inner Mongolia before heading to Lhasa
in Tibet, into Nepal and back to India. To date, it remains one of
my most fascinating journeys."
The gorgeous Inle Lake in Burma
© Kabir Khan
Your move into mainstream filmmaking has
taken you to diverse locations in India and beyond. Which are your
favourite locations to shoot in, and for you, what comes
first: the script or the location?
"There is a joke in the industry that whenever Kabir
wants to travel to a new destination, he writes a script around it.
The location is almost a character in my films, and not just a
In India, I have shot extensively in Kashmir and
Punjab. I feel like I have a connection with Kashmir. I know Ladakh
intimately and have filmed many documentaries and features there in
the winter. We even shot the climax of Bajrangi Bhaijan at
the base of the Thajiwas Glacier in Sonamarg, nearly 10,000 ft
above sea level. The 300-strong technical crew trekked for an hour
through snow every morning to reach the location. We transported
7,000 extras in buses, and then the trek followed. Sub-zero
temperatures and hailstorms didn't help.
It's been good to see the industry filming more in
India. Up until recently, many filmmakers shot in exotic locations
outside of the country to make their films look big and glossy. But
lately, filmmakers have been shooting in interesting locations
across India once more."
Travel underlies Khan's
filmmaking career © Kabir Khan
You've said that food is a fixation for
you. Any recommendations for where to eat in
"The first thing we'd do while I was assisting Saeed
Naqvi was to hunt for the local food. It's part of the experience,
and I feel sorry for visitors who take the safe option and survive
on burgers and chips. I'm quite a carnivore, so I'm very at home in
Kashmir, where they've turned meat cooking into a refined art form.
Head for Adhoo's in Srinagar for
the best Kashmiri food. It's like a pilgrimage for me. In Delhi,
the street food is divine in places like Paranthe wali Gali - not
to mention the delicious kebabs near Jama Masjid. I'd also
Khan is also a food lover and
diver, as well as a world-famous director
Which Indian destinations would you like
to shoot in or explore further?
"I am a diver, and I love the Andaman and Nicobar
Islands and their many virgin diving spots - they just need better
infrastructure in terms of connectivity. I also feel like I haven't
explored enough of South India and the Northeast."
What does India offer that no other place
"In India, you should always expect the unexpected. I
feel travel should not be overly planned. Half the fun of exploring
India is the adventure. Truly, you never know what's going to