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Movie Review: Laal Kaptaan

Banners: Colour Yellow Productions, Eros International
Producers: Colour Yellow Productions, Eros International
Director: Navdeep Singh
Cast: Saif Ali Khan, Manav Vij, Deepak Dobriyal, Zoya Hussain, Simone Singh, Ameer Bashir
Writers: Deepak Venkatesha & Navdeep Singh (Story & Screenplay), Sudip Sharma (Dialogue)
Music: Samira Koppikar

Revenge dramas have been a favourite subject in Bollywood over the years. But when you get a film with a novel treatment of the hero being the avenger and that too not in an urban or even rural setting but as a Naga Sadhu at a time when the East India Company is just making in-roads in India, your interest is bound to be high. Does the momentum hold throughout in this saga? We will tell you that soon but first, the basics. 

We have our protagonist Gossain- a bundle of contradictions, he is a Naga Sadhu wearing an English army jacket, he is also a bounty hunter. While he goes about killing people who have rewards attached to their capture, his ultimate aim is to reach Rehmat Khan and extract revenge. He gets a tip from Noor bai about the man he has been hunting for 20 years. On the way to Rehmat’s location, he is attacked by the Afghans. He manages to reach the place, only to find it abandoned. Badly wounded he loses consciousness. When he finally wakes up, he finds himself in the presence of a widow. She nurses him back to health and asks to be taken under his fold. In exchange, she promises to take him to Rehmat Khan. After some reluctance, Gossain lets her tag along. The Marathas who have been cheated of their money are also chasing Rehmat. In this entire wild goose chase, Gossain is captured by Rehmat. 

What is the story of Gossain? Why does he want to take revenge from Rehmat? How is the widow involved in the story? How does this revenge saga end? That is what the rest of the movie is all about.

Navdeep Singh who has given us interesting thrillers like Manorama Six Feet Under and NH10 helms his most extravagant and challenging film with Laal Kaptaan. The canvas is engaging, the locations edgy, the story is interesting, but the film fails in the execution stage. The first half is extremely tedious and takes forever to get us into the groove of the story. Post interval there are some interesting moments, but by then you would have lost interest in the plot. 

Despite the flaws in the narrative, full marks to the other technical aspects of the film. Shanker Raman’s cinematography is breathtaking. He brings the rough terrains to life. The close-up shots are remarkable and make you uncomfortable when they ought to. Maxima Basu does a marvellous job with the costume design, each character getting a distinct style and at the same time maintaining the mood of the era it is set in. There are some really standout action pieces and the pre-climax portion is well-executed. Samira Koppikar’s music has the ‘malang’ feel as well as the background score by Naren Chandavarkar and Benedict Taylor gives the film the Western touch of intrigue and suspense. If only the same could have translated in the screenplay and some taut editing, the film would have been a different experience. 

Saif Ali Khan as Gossain has given the role his blood, sweat and tears. His body language, the intensity in his eyes, the action scenes, every frame that he is in, he has done a brilliant job. Manav Vij as Rehmat Khan has his moments. The character could have been more layered, but the actor does a decent job. Deepak Dobriyal as the tracker is a delight to watch. He gets under the skin of the character and gives the movie its hilarious moments. Though Laal Kaptaan seems to be a male-driven film, the two female actors Zoya Hussain and Simone Singh have powerful and important roles. As the widow, Zoya gives her character the right amount of intrigue as well as innocence. Simone as Rehmat Khan’s wife is fiery and strong. The rest of the cast does a good job.

Verdict: Strictly for Saif Ali Khan fans.
Rating: **

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