The Devils Wind

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In "The Devil's Wind" Indian director, Iqbal Malhotra, follows in the footsteps of Kipling's Great Gamers and tries to juxtapose the lessons of the past with the reality op the present. The result is a fascinating and unusual travelogue about Central Asia set in the backdrop of history and modern politics - the Old and New Great Game. This film captures unusual images of this region that are interconnected to one another and transcends the boundaries of time.

Modern Politics
With the end of the Second World War and the beginning of the Cold War, the United States displaced Britain as the global power, asserting its influence in the Middle East in pursuit of oil, containment of the Soviet Union, and access to other resources. This period is sometimes referred to as "The New Great Game" by commentators, and there are references in the military, security and diplomatic communities to "The Great Game" as an analogy or framework for events involving India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and more recently, the post-Soviet republics of Central Asia.

Historic Interest
The British became the major power in the Indian sub-continent after the Treaty of Paris (1763) and had begun to show interest in Afghanistan as early as their 1809 treaty with Shuja Shah. It was the threat of the expanding Russian Empire beginning to push for an advantage in the Afghanistan region that placed pressure on British India, in what became known as the "Great Game". The British were well aware of the many times in history Afghanistan had been employed as the invasion route to India.

The Great Game today
Western military presence in Afghanistan today is a sensitive issue which may locally be regarded as a continuation of two hundred years of Great Game politics. Two centuries ago The Great Game involved Britain's repeated attempts to impose a puppet government in Kabul. The remainder of the nineteenth century saw greater European involvement in Afghanistan and her surrounding territories and heightened conflict among the ambitious local rulers as Afghanistan's fate played out globally (further reading).


  • The New Great Game
  • By travelling Kipling’s route the documentary takes us from Samarqand to Dushanbe, Kodja Bahauddin, Panjshir, Bagram and Kabul. Then after a 18 month gap the journey continues from Kabul to Ashgabat and ends in the Turkmen Dauletabad oil field.
  • Dushanbe
  • The capital of Tajikistan is known for the amount of opium trafficking that takes place in this former Soviet outpost. Opium was and is an important dimension in the Great Game. In this town Muslim culture has been erased throughout the years of occupation, first by the czar and then by the USSR. Intrigue, corruption and secret service operations dominate the history of Dushanbe. The main goal of these agreements among the Iranian, Indian and Pakistani was the domination of Afghanistan and its oil.
  • Oxus River
  • In the region of Kodja Bahauddin flows the Oxus river. In 1885 the Panjdeh Incident took place when Russian troops took Afghan territory at the south of the river. This incident came close to triggering a full scale war between Great Britain and Russia in the political conflict of the Great Game. Today, there are still conflicts in this area due to pipeline control.
  • Little Change
  • According to the filmmaker, the people, market and produce of the Central Asian people have not changed much since the days of Kipling. Only the car and the Kalashnikov are new images on the streets of Afghanistan. The women are still beautiful, the people hospitable and the food excellent.
  • Panjshir Valley
  • The Panjshir Valley Incident was an anti-Communist uprising led by Ahmad Shah Massoud. Before the anti-Soviet struggles this valley was occupied by the first Great Gamer: Alexander the Great. He crossed the this valley on his journey to conquer India. Lord Frederick Roberts moved through this valley in 1878 to eventually defeat the Afghan emir Muhammad Yakub Khan in the Second Afghan War.
  • Mountain Army
  • In this scene a small mountain army is involved in an armed conflict. The situation is seen as a typical example of how informal the struggle in Central Asia can be.
  • Bagram
  • Bagram was a famous Soviet base during the Cold War. Now it is a wasteland with a Kafkaesque air. Alexander the Great, Ahmad Massoud and now the US Army operated from here. A helicopter armada, house to house searches and militant interrogations remind the viewer of Afghanistan in its Soviet days. History repeats itself.
  • Kabul
  • The ISAF protects Kabul, which now enjoys “freedom” after Soviet and Taliban rule. In this city one gets what one deserves, merci or destruction. Lord Robert showed mercy in 1879 but not by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar who was apparently less gentle to Kabul and its citizens from 1992 to 1996 and destroyed most of its cosmopolitan past.
  • Ashgabat
  • This Turkmen city has a long border and a long history. The province of Magriana in Turkmenistan was occupied by Alexander the Great in 329 BCE and then the ancient city of Nisa was destroyed by Genghis Khan in the early 13th century. Today, it is almost a fictitious city filled with exotic water fountains, mosques and the “Arch of Neutrality.”
  • The Devil's Wind
  • Turkmenistan is an important goal in the Great Game. Although the name, shape and prize have changed over time the nature of the struggle remains: gaining control. In Kipling’s world the prize was India, today it is its market. Natural Gas is the tool to gain control over the oil market. Eventually the whole game is and was about money and power.
  • "Kim"
  • The journey described in the documentary of Iqbal Mahotra a tale about imperialism, knowledge and power. Using Rudyard Kipling’s most famous book “Kim” as a guideline throughout his story. The backdrop of the novel as well as the documentary is the political conflicts in Central Asia, also known as The Great Game. Mahotra argues that the political struggle for Indian resources continues, even today.
  • Samarqand
  • Samarqand seems to be a commercial highway. The romance and intrigue that was described by Kipling in his novel “Kim” is still present in the streets of this impressive city. Mosques, tombs and minarets are present everywhere in the former Persian metropolis. Babur was the emperor of the Mughal Empire that originated in Samarqand and it eventually became the heart of the Russian Empire and czar Peter the Great who, allegedly, announced at his deathbed in 1725 that it was the duty of the Russians to invade India. And thus the Great Game begun.
  • Kipling's Western Sector
  • Iqbal Mahorta travels through Kipling’s Western Sector. During his journey he tries to connect the goal of the Great Game in the 19th century to those the political struggle of the 21st century. The territorial gain within this conflict between Russian and Western powers are sections of the area that includes Afganistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, as well as the commercial exploitation of India.