Laal Kaptaan Movie Review: Gosayi (Saif Ali Khan), a Naga Sadhu, is seeking bloodthirsty revenge against an elusive Rehmat Khan (Manav Vij). The vendetta saga makes him follow Khan throughout the parched Bundelkhand, just when India's reign of control is slowly passing over from the Mughals and the Marathas to the British. The reason why Gosayi wants to take care of Khan is only revealed in the end, but we are given some clues about it through little flashbacks. On the way, he meets a few assorted characters like a veiled enigmatic courtesan, Noor Begum (Sonakshi Sinha), a tracker (Deepak Dobriyal) with two dogs for company and a widow (Zoya Hussain) who has her own agenda. Laal Kaptaan Straddles Different Genres, Has Taken Blood & Sweat To Make: Deepak Dobriyal, Manav Vij.
Laal Kaptaan, directed by Navdeep Singh, is set during the 18th century, with the decisive Battle of Buxar playing a major influencing factor in the story. While the vendetta saga, including the surreptitiously built-up twist, is very predictable even if the makers want to think otherwise, Laal Kaptaan's strengths are reserved to how the premise is built around these characters.
The whole power struggle between the British, Marathas and the other smaller factions, blended with Gosayi's revenge drama, could have made for a really compelling film. Laal Kaptaan's most interesting bits come when we get to see how each faction stands against each other. Khan's Rohilyas are trying to barter their way in this new Hindustan. The British, or rather the Company, are finding new friends to keep the stronghold over the country. The Marathas are fighting for their pride (and lost treasure), while the Pindharis are shown off as this bumbling, savage men who act first but I am not sure if they think about it later. When Gosayi's story merges with this powerplay, it gives the film some very engaging moments.
I also liked the fact that Laal Kaptaan is given the treatment of spaghetti westerns, with both the setting of Bundelkhand and the Naga Sadhu character, becoming our versions of Mexico and the lone gunslinger, respectively.
And there are the characters, at least some of them who do offer Laal Kaptaan an opportunity to go beyond being just a revenge saga. Like, this scary fortune-teller called Lal Pari (creepily played by Vibha Rani) whose one scene is guaranteed to give you the heebie-jeebies.
And yet, director Navdeep Singh couldn't really capitalise on this fascinating blend of historical realities, western themes and some intriguing characters. The film is too long-drawn and crawls its way to makes its way to the finishing point. Even more of a travesty is the fact that the main plot of the film - the revenge drama - is itself Laal Kaptaan's weakest part. The weakness has more to do with how weakly the characters of both the protagonist and the antagonist are etched out in this battle of cat and mouse, who share one dark secret. It makes the quieter moments of the film look even more stretched and makes you impatient for the scene to be over, rather than let us invest in the emotional complicity. There are occasions when scenes repeat themselves, or are played for needless humour, that stick out like sore thumb, the latter mostly involving the Pindharis. Before Laal Kaptaan, 7 Times When Saif Ali Khan Went Beyond His Romantic Image and Surprised Us With His Versatility.
Another problem is with Gosayi himself. The idea of making the hero a Naga Sadhu warrior is intriguing, but when you come out of the movie, you feel like it is more of a gimmick than an aspect that really plays well with the story. His character doesn't get developed beyond a man seeking revenge, and finding it difficult to get to his man. We never get to see his moral struggle or how this revenge angle goes with his Naga Sadhu upbringing. In comparison, the supporting characters, like Zoya Hussain's widow, Khan's haughty wife (Simone Singh), and the expert tracker, give the movie some of its more poignant moments.
Watch The Trailer of Laal Kaptaan below:
Laal Kaptaan becomes a bit more alive in the action sequences, but even those scenes lack the zing, energy and the smartness that could have added more excitement here, or kept you on tenterhooks, at least. The lack of a huge budget hurts the movie's scope to create a mesmerising spectacle. But Shanker Raman's cinematography does its best to make Laal Kaptaan visually appealing, especially in some of the fighting scenes, and when the camera sweeps over the barren lands of Bundelkhand.
Laal Kaptaan's biggest USP is having the Nawab of Pataudi playing an unwashed Naga Sadhu, with fans expecting him to make it another memorable standout like Omkara's Langda Tyagi. Alas, the actor feels miscast here, as he fails to pull off this unusual character. There is a lack of conviction in his performance, not making us forget that a star is playing a role alien to his real self. As the antagonist, a usually excellent Manav Vij underplays the role a bit too much to make an impact.
Deepak Dobriyal as the sniffing tracker, provides the livelier moments in the film. Mukkabaaz fame Zoya Hussain delivers another terrific performance as the woman who is a victim herself, but can go to any lengths to get back what she has lost. Simone Singh is also fantastic as Khan's controlling wife. Sonakshi Sinha is okay in her one-scene cameo, that, to be honest, adds little to the plot.
- The Setting
- Some Intriguing Moments
- Supporting Characters
- The Overarching Screenplay
- The Runtime
- The Lead Feels Miscast
- A Lack of Grip over the Narrative
There is a very magnetic tale of revenge and history hidden in Laal Kaptaan that could have made this one a masterpiece. Unfortunately, the viewer can't get through it through those thick layers of boredom and inertia that brings the film down.