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Laal Kaptaan Movie Review: A well potential film loses it sparks at the end.

Modified On: 18 October 2019 | Reviewed By:

Saif dons elaborate makeup. Despite his fearless flourishes, the film comes out with flying colors all too rarely.

Laal Kaptaan

Director: Navdeep Singh. | Music Director:

Laal Kaptaan Movie Poster

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Cast: Saif Ali Khan, Manav Vij, Zoya Hussain

Directed By: Navdeep Singh

Laal Kaptaan is well intention story about deceit and valor. The film takes a quick visit back in history to the times when East India Company was making rapid strides in India, buying allies and bullying foes –Mughals, Rohillas, Marathas- to establish complete control over India. The story written by director Navdeep Singh and Deepak Venkatesh is brilliant but unfortunately, by the time the story moves from the storyboard onto film it gets lost in translation.

There is a moment in Laal Kaptaan, Navdeep Singh’s slow-burning period Western, that captures its essence. Saif Ali Khan’s Naga sadhu – all dreadlocks and smeared with ash — comes face to face with Deepak Dobriyal’s eccentric mercenary. There is a fire burning behind them — a pyre, perhaps. The two look at each other and then start dancing around it. It is the dance of beginnings and ends, of retribution and forgiveness. 

The last time these two came together, they gave us one of the best scenes in Vishal Bhardwaj’s atmospheric Omkara – a far superior film. Langda Tyagi and Rajju — Iago and Roderigo, taking the Bard and seamlessly transporting him to Uttar Pradesh’s badlands. Laal Kaptaan plays on a different key and chemistry; but tips its hat to the greats anyway — Shakespeare among them.

Gosain (Saif Ali Khan) is consumed by thoughts of revenge. He has been chasing the cruel overlord Rehmat Khan (Manav Vij) for years for reasons revealed just in time for the closing credits. Gosain proves his own ruthlessness by hiring himself out as a mercenary and adds eye-rolling and grunting to his repertoire. 

However, Rehmat isn’t exactly hidden away. He is a high-level mercenary in Bundelkhand with an entourage that includes a loyal lieutenant (Aamir Bashir) and a surly wife (Simone Singh). Even the mysterious unidentified woman (Zoya Hussain) seems to know Rehmat’s whereabouts.

Meanwhile, a professional tracker (Deepak Dobriyal) who uses his sense of smell and two lovely-looking dogs to locate Gosain for his adversaries needn’t have bothered either. Everybody in this movie is hiding in plain sight, and the theme of vendetta cooked and served up over the years never quite acquires the necessary flavor.

Laal Kaptaan plays like part-Western, part-chase film. Humanity is in short supply as its various characters follow each other across the arid Bundelkhand with its dilapidated forts. In a way, the terrain reflects the darkness within the characters. Everyone has hidden agendas and a cruel streak with lives being lived and ended for the flimsiest of reasons. Corpses hang from trees, are dragged across the red soil of the region and children die by sword too.

Saif delivers a wonderfully physical performance. Hidden behind the dreadlocks and ash, he once again subverts his stardom to play a Naga sadhu.

Laal Kaptaan has special appearances by Sonakshi Sinha (as a nautch girl) and Neeraj Kabi (in the role of a rebel warrior) as well as strong performances from Manav Vij, Zoya Hussain, and Simone Singh. But it is Saif Ali Khan's film. Sadly, the energy that he exudes does not rub off fully on Laal Kaptaan.

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