It is the story of an unnamed Indian Muslim, who helps illegal refugees from India and Pakistan cross the border through the Great Rann of Kutch. The film is attributed to have been inspired by the short story "Love Across the Salt Desert" by Keki N. Daruwalla.
Bihar-based Manzur Ahmad and his family was migrated to East Pakistan after the partitioning of India in 1947. However, after the formation of the state of Bangladesh in 1971, he and several other people were forced to relocate to the western part of Pakistan. To do this by land, they will have to cross India. The route from Dhaka leads to Guwahati in India then to Delhi then to Ajmer then to Bhuj, and then on to Haji Peer in Pakistan.
They get as far as Bhuj, but afterward they are assisted by an agent known only as "Refugee", who helps them trek their way across the Great Rann of Kutch to Pakistan. Refugee considers his clients as mere items of luggage and refuses to be emotionally involved with them and their stories. Then he meets Nazneen Ahmed, the daughter of Manzur Ahmed: He forgets this rule and falls in love with her.
Police on both sides of the border are aware of the illegal refugee traffic and the Indian police regularly questions Refugee and his old father Jan Muhammad. One day, Refugee helps four men enter the Indian side of the border. These men enlist the help of Mr. Muhammad's other son to get to Delhi. Shortly thereafter, explosions take place in trains, buses, and buildings in the Indian capital.
Refugee crosses the border once again to visit Nazneen. She asks him to take her with him since her father wants to marry her to Mohammad Ashraf, a Pakistani border security officer. While crossing the border through Rann they are captured by Pakistanis rangers. Refugee is beaten up and sent to India on a camel. The Indian BSF captures him and treats him in hospital. The Indians inform him that he unknowingly helped terrorists cross into India and caused several deaths. Refugee joins the BSF and fights the terrorists who laid siege to his village.
The film ends with Nazneen giving birth to Refugee's child at the border between the two nations. Indian BSF and Pakistani Rangers personnel discuss the child's nationality in a lighter vein.Anupam Kher as Jaan Mohammad
Jackie Shroff as Raghuvir Singh
Sunil Shetty as Mohammad Ashraf
Abhishek Bachchan as Refugee
Kareena Kapoor as Nazneen "Naaz" M. Ahmed
Shadaab Khan as Shadab J. Mohammad
Reena Roy as Amina J. Mohammad
Mukesh Tiwari as Tausif
Ashish Vidyarthi as Makkad
Kulbhushan Kharbanda as Manzur Ahmad
Sudesh Berry as Gul Hamid
Avtar Gill as Atta Mohammad
Vishwajeet Pradhan as BSF Officer
Puneet Issar as Sikh Priest
Geetawali Rajkumari as Salma-Naaz's little sister
Nimai Bali as Jaffar Gul Hamid's henchmen
Producer: J. P. Dutta
Director: J. P. Dutta
Lyricist: Javed Akhtar
Music Director: Anu Malik
Background Music: Aadesh Shrivastav
Cinematography: Basheer Ali
Choreography: Ganesh Acharya, Saroj Khan & Habiba Rehman
Editor: Deepak Wirkud
Sound: Hitendra Ghosh
Dialogue: O. P. Dutta
Costume: Bindiya Goswami & Anna Singh
Story / Writer: J. P. Dutta
Refugee's music received two National Film Awards: one for Best Music Direction and the other for Best Lyrics (for the song "Panchi Nadiya").
Taran Adarsh gave the album 4.5 out of 5 stars and praised the songs by saying "The music touches the heart of every listener. Every moment you feel like a heavenly moment." According to the Indian trade website Box Office India, around 35,00,000 albums were sold.Best Music Direction - Anu Malik
Best Lyrics - Javed Akhtar for "Panchhi Nadiya"
The awards it won are highlighted in bold.Best Supporting Actor - Sunil Shetty
Best Female Debut - Kareena Kapoor
Best Lyricist - Javed Akhtar for "Panchhi Nadiya"
Filmfare Special Award - Anu Malik for "his compositions for the film Refugee"
Best Male Playback - Sonu Nigam for "Panchhi Nadiya"
Best Female Playback - Alka Yagnik for "Panchhi Nadiya"
Best Dialogue - O.P. Dutta
Best Cinematography - Bashir Ali
The crew having traveled from Mumbai was based at the city of Bhuj and majority of the shooting took place around in the Kutch District of the Indian state of Gujarat including the Great Rann of Kutch (also on BSF controlled "snow white" Rann within), villages and Border Security Force (BSF) posts in Banni grasslands and the Rann, Tera fort village, Lakhpat fort village, Khera fort village, a village in southern Kutch, some ancient temples of Kutch, and with parts and a song filmed on set in Mumbai's Kamalistan Studios.
Bipasha Basu was convinced by another judge, Jaya Bachchan, to play the role of a village belle opposite her son Abhishek Bachchan in J. P. Dutta’s Aakhari Mughal. The film was cancelled, and Dutta changed the script and made Refugee with Kareena Kapoor. Basu was offered a role in Refugee opposite Sunil Shetty, which she declined. Tabu was signed to play a Doctor but her role eventually got scrapped.J.P. Dutta initially wanted Akshaye Khanna to play Shadab Khan's role but decided against it as the role was very small.
Refugee is attributed to have been inspired by the story based around the Great Rann of Kutch by Keki N. Daruwalla titled Love across the salt desert. It is included as a short story in the School Standard 11 and 12 syllabus English textbook of NCERT in India.