'Laal Kaptaan' review: Saif serves up a historical thriller with vengeance
The period drama is a slow-moving, but impactful tale of life and death.
Let's get this right out of the way. Laal Kaptaan is not for those who seek instant gratification and need to feast on a visual spectacle every time they visit the cinemas.
The Navdeep Singh (NH10, Manorama Six Feet Under) directed period drama is a vengeance soaked tale of a Naga Sadhu, played with deadly effect by Saif Ali Khan, who takes the viewers on a journey of retribution.
Set in the late 18th century Bundelkhand, 25 years post the Battle of Buxar, when the East India Company was making inroads into India, the film combines Singh's love for Westerns with Indian colonial history. The arid land of Rajasthan is the majestic landscape on which the Naga Sadhu, referred to as Gossain, travels in his quest to find his nemesis Rehmat Khan (a dark and brooding Manav Vij). He's aided along the way by his own Sancho Panza, a very well cast Deepak Dobriyal, who plays a tracker, who along with his two sniffer dogs can follow any trail or scent. Zoya Hussain is also effective as the woman who aids Gossain in his travels, though unbeknown to him, she comes with her own baggage.
The Naga Sadhu might come across initially as an unhinged mercenary, a bounty hunter, who will do anything for gold, but there's no denying he's sure footed and focused when it comes to hunting his prey.
And for those who saw the trailer and were reminded of Captain Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean series, yes, Gossain's getup does look familiar with his dreadlocks, kohl-rimmed eyes and turban in place, but there's much more to his character and the movie than his ash streaked face.
The plot unfolds slowly and the language might be a bit too hard to follow initially, and at two-and-a-half hours, you really need to be invested in the story to understand the motivations of the various characters. The story goes back and forth from the present to the past and the technique works very well for the film, which touches upon the Indian philosophy of moksha and how 'Life is nothing but a preparation for death.' The cinematography and dialogues are excellent - the sweeping views of the arid Rajasthan desert is a character all into itself.
If you are a fan of neo-Westerns and passionate about good cinema, then Laal Kaptaan is for you. We can't quite picture the movie galloping into any 100 crore club, due to its subject matter and the fact that the genre might appeal to only a few. But Saif Ali Khan has shown himself to be an intelligent actor and he cements his status further by taking on this physically taxing role in a movie that so skillfully showcases a slice of Indian history which is as raw and visceral as it comes.
Movie: Laal Captaan
Director: Navdeep Singh
Cast: Saif Ali Khan, Zoya Hussain, Manav Vij, Deepak Dobriyal, Simone Singh, Sonakshi Sinha
Rating: 3 out of 5