Mumbai, 18 Oct 2019 20:10 IST
Saif Ali Khan plays a Naga sadhu seeking retribution in Navdeep Singh's Western set in 18th century India.
Laal Kaptaan is set in the 18th century, when India was caught in the power tussle of the Mughals, the Marathas and the British. In the midst of this struggle there is another battle going on for 20 years. A Naga sadhu (Saif Ali Khan) is on the hunt for warlord Rehmat Khan (Manav Vij).
Director Navdeep Singh's revenge drama has all the tropes of the typical Western: a morally ambiguous protagonist with an unknown past is on the trail of a sinister villain. The film's plot and backdrop remind you of Sergio Leone’s famous 'man with no name' trilogy, especially The Good The Bad And The Ugly (1966).
Unfortunately, apart from these similarities, Laal Kaptaan is far from being in the same league as those iconic films.
Navdeep Singh, who gave us the excellent, gritty thriller NH10 (2015), fails to recreate the same magic. There are certain sequences in Laal Kaptaan when it is a matter of life and death. Ideally, these kind of scenes should make us bite our nails, but they don’t elicit such a response from you because of the insipid direction. Even when it’s a race-against-time kind of scenario, we don’t feel the urgency of the matter. The incoherent pacing of the film is the biggest culprit behind this boring and exhausting ordeal.
It’s a one-man show for Saif Ali Khan and he does justice to his role. He embodies the brooding, dark character with the help of the excellent makeup and hairdo. His British East India Company soldier's outfit also enhances his character.
Deepak Dobriyal plays the eccentric tracker who can track down people by their scent, but his character has just one note, which does not give him any room to show his acting abilities. Actually it’s the same with all the supporting artistes, including Zoya Hussain, Manav Vij and Simone Singh. Each of their characters is one-dimensional and has no layers, which results in extremely boring interactions.
At 156 minutes, the film overstays its welcome by a good 35–40 minutes. The story had potential for sure, but the director and co-writer Deepak Venkatesha have not been able to translate it on to the big screen.
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