Laal Kaptaan

wogma rating: Watch but no rush (?)

quick review:

The length of the film shoots down a lot of the good done by the film—acting, ambiance, action.

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Director: Navdeep Singh
Running time: 155 minutes
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Laal Kaptaan would have been a different experience, a much more enjoyable one, had it been less than two hours long. I know, this might sound like a constant complaint to regular readers, one that I have against almost every film that is over 120 minutes long. However, this is even truer of Laal Kaptaan. The camera, set and costume design, and performances create a captivating texture from the first frame. And that is what you will leave the theatre with. However, for a film to make a longer-term impact, it has to be at least a little more than that.

Just by itself, the world created makes you want to explore it further and further.

The issue isn’t that the pace wasn’t right for an action film. When slow pace elongates a story, especially a story with vengeance as its background, it creates dissonance. A dissonance which grows as the film progresses towards its predictable end.

The film is predictable because it is a revenge drama. By then, you have figured out the answers to the running questions through the film, “Who is this Gossain?” and “Why is he after Rehmat’s life?”. Questions that were raised at the beginning of the film. Answers that you had figured out. Sure there is one twist to come, but by the time it does, it is of little consequence. That would be the difference of the twist coming in, at minute 90-95 of a 120-minute film versus happening around 120-130 of a 150-minute movie.

Those extra 30 minutes might be full of complications involving Marathas and the British and the Mughals and the Rohillas, but you have figured almost all of it out in the movie thus far anyway. Just in case, these historical references and real-life political mapping from the 1700s might not interest you, the villain has been given a familial angle to add a layer to the film. However, this too gets repetitive and overdone.

Yet, there is insightful philosophising that begins with the introductory voiceover, which isn’t repeated too often. And when it is repeated, it leaves an impact. The underlying message so to speak, that unless you learn from history, history is going to repeat itself. The references aren’t direct, but one could draw parallels to today’s times too. This, along with the sharp observation made by the smell-tracker (Deepak Dobriyal), about a person who seeks revenge, kept me waiting for more. And I am not disappointed that more of these didn’t come along because it could possibly make the wisdom preachy.

Other little story elements are nice touches too. The naga saadhu-ghost connection is one such instance. Such eerie elements add to the enigmatic fabric of the film as much as the camera work and the palette chosen do.

Almost all the performances are so intrinsic to this aura that you forget you are watching Saif Ali Khan or Deepak Dobriyal or Simone Singh. Manav Vij sticks out in this capable crew because of the constant grunting to show his intense personality. Equally serious is Khan, but he keeps you in awe of his deep-set hatred, unlike Vij’s all-too-audible “hmm”s. Dobriyal playing the disgusting-yet-delightful sniffer with his “HowDoDo”s are the only light scenes in the darkness.

When slow pace elongates a story, especially a story with vengeance as its background, it creates a dissonance.

Just by itself, the world created makes you want to explore it further and further. The colours, the pre-independence setting, the characters—all entice you. Unfortunately, the long-drawn-out story becomes a distraction. Not very often in films do you feel like you could just soak in the atmosphere for much longer, if only they hadn’t distracted you by wanting to tell a story.

- meeta, a part of the audience

31 reviewers(?) - 3 yays 13 so-so 15 nays

Warning: clicking on "full review" will take you to an external website that could contain spoilers.

Thumbs up, by Subhash K Jha, Bolly Spice : ...Director Navdeep Singh, no stranger to tales of bizarre bloodshed and cut-throat self-gratification, gives us a saga so sanguinary and sad its soul seems soaked in those very bleak and ominous colours that the camera captures in evocative bouts that insist on being the opposite of splendor and yet in strange twisted way, are exactly that.... full review

Thumbs up, by Uday Bhatia, Live Mint : ...And yet, Laal Kaptaan is the sort of film I wish there were more of – an exploration of the richness and weirdness of old India, one which doesn’t try to smooth the edges or create a Disney-esque franchise. Recent films have used our nation’s distant past as a reflecting pool of orthodoxy (Padmaavat) and proto-nationalism (Manikarnika). Singh, on the other hand, admits that we’ve always been a complicated, fractured country, and that entire lives can be defined by nothing more than a desire for revenge.... full review

Thumbs up, by Prasanna D Zore, Rediff : ...Laal Kaptaan deserves a watch just for Saif's spunk.... full review

So-So, by Deepa Gahlot, Deepa Gahlot : ...A beefy Saif Ali Khan strains to carry the film, in which the character he plays seems dwarfed by the violence and historical chaos of the time, in which he (like, say, Mangal Pandey) has no part to play. Still, one cannot but appreciate the effort Navdeep Singh, his DOP (Shankar Raman), production, costume and make-up teams have put in to create something unusual in the mainstream space; even if the cowboy Western does not quite fit into the desi beehad (ravines).... full review

So-So, by Devesh Sharma, Filmfare : ...All-in-all, Laal Kaptaan -- by the way no one ever calls Saif by that moniker so we don't know why the film was titled thus -- has superb production values, a nice background score, and doesn't disappoint in the acting department as well. Of only the narrative flowed at a faster pace, we would have had a cracker of a film indeed.... full review

So-So, by Sreeparna Sengupta,, Filmfare : ...Somewhere, 'Laal Kaptaan' was perhaps attempting to be a Western movie, with horses, dust, guns and the works, but ultimately, a tedious narrative and a very lengthy runtime pull it down.... full review

So-So, by UDITA JHUNJHUNWALA, FirstPost : ...Singh, the director, had all the pieces to craft an effectual Indian western: the terrain, the long-suffering sadhu, an age of flux, elements of magic realism, and touches of Shakespearean tragedy. But Laal Kaptaan falters on an over-written script and visually over-told story.... full review

So-So, by Nairita Mukherjee, india today : ...But Laal Kaptaan's biggest flaw is that it is too heavily dependent on Saif, but doesn't offer the necessary support for him to pull it through. Ultimately, it remains a film that had all the right ingredients but is still under-cooked. Just a little bit more - of something, anything - would have worked. But, alas.... full review

So-So, by Ambika Sachin, Khaleej Times : ...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.... full review

So-So, by Mayank Shekhar, MiD DAY : ...But, hey, I walked into a crackling Western, about a 'man with no name'. Or so I thought. And I can see him. He looks it too. I can sense what he's after. It's quite simple. Always is. But I wait, and wait some more. Go back, forth. Reverse, and forward again — being wound up totally into a "story" being told. Eventually, I stop getting the 'feels'. Feel mangta hai, bro. Ab kya? What to do?... full review

So-So, by Pankhurie Mulasi, Movie Talkies : ...It was an interesting plot but execution wasn’t upto mark. Watch this film, to know about India's not so glorious past.... full review

So-So, by Kunal Guha, Mumbai Mirror : ...Director of Manorama Six Feet Under and NH10, Navdeep Singh sets the bar too high to allow much to slide. It’s debatable whether this story could be told in a more compelling manner or not. But it’s surely one that didn’t warrant the runtime and the action scenes could’ve used some aesthetic flourishes. One can arrive at what’s wrong with the movie only after ticking what’s right with it. Let’s just say, it’s an acquired taste that you’d regret acquiring.... full review

So-So, by Saibal Chatterjee, NDTV : ...In one of the film's early scenes, a young man is hanged to death as several other bodies dangle from a tree. It is this "tree of death" that returns in the climactic scene to round off the tale of fratricide, betrayal and revenge in which history meets fiction, with the balance tilting overly towards the latter.... full review

So-So, by Priyanka Sinha Jha, : ...Even though Singh keeps away from the sentimentality common to Hindi cinema, Laal Kaptaan lacks pace and certain scenes feel unbearably long. Dialogues, so essential for a historical thriller like this one, falter and flail in critical scenes, puncturing the impact of a unique story. As far as Hindi films go, Laal Kaptaan treads a path less trodden, but it meanders and spectacularly loses steam. It should have cut to the chase, literally and figuratively, but instead, it becomes an unbearably long and pointless pursuit.... full review

So-So, by Joginder Tuteja, Planet Bollywood : ...What doesn’t fit the bill though is the storytelling that really needed to be strong enough in order to hold such a complicated script. Unfortunately, even though the technical departments, especially cinematography, background score, sets and locations, are still effective enough, same can’t really be said for the film as a whole.... full review

So-So, by Gaurang Chauhan, Times Now : ...Overall, Laal Kaptaan could've been a great revenge saga if not for the slow pace, sluggish narrative and lack of depth in its characters. The movie works somehow only because of Saif Ali Khan's towering presence, solid performances, interesting characters, beautiful cinematography and solid background score. Maybe go in with low expectations and you might enjoy the movie.... full review

Thumbs down, by Bobby Sing, Bobby Talks : ...On a concluding note, Hindi filmmakers often forget content, focusing more on the look and style in their brave experimental projects. And that’s where the filmmakers of our Regional Languages Cinema score as well as excel.... full review

Thumbs down, Bollywood Hungama : ...On the whole, LAAL KAPTAAN is bizarre and a poor film that has nothing substantial to offer the audiences in general. At the box office, the negligible buzz along with its release in the dull pre-Diwali period will spell doom for the film.... full review

Thumbs down, by Russel D'silva, Bollywood Life : ...Saif Ali Khan's wait for a good film continues. His script choices (Happy Ending, Rangoon, Kaalakaandi) have left a lot to be desired over the past couple of years, and it appears to have rubbed off on his otherwise talented Director this time. Beside some nifty technical work and one good twist that jolts you out of partial slumber, there's not much to write home about here. I'm going with 2/5 stars.... full review

Thumbs down, by Rahul Desai, Film Companion : ...Laal Kaptaan is a boring and self-absorbed period drama – one that is so obsessed with historical detailing, eccentric characters, bare physicality and country-style pace that it forgets to be narratively and humanely absorbing.... full review

Thumbs down, by T J Reddy, : ...Time is a flat circle, as Gossain and Rust Cohle would say. This review might feel repetitive. But in the grand scheme of things, I'll be back again writing about something else sooner rather than later, anyway. My habit of reviewing the next new release might not change. However, I left the cinema questioning if I got my money's worth by stepping out with a tired frown or that random man got his by going with a well-rested smile. It is this random question, and not Laal Kaptaan, that gave my mind food for thought.... full review

Thumbs down, by Vishal Verma, : ...Will end up with this gem from the movie which suits perfect. Here it goes, “ Ek bhale aadami ne mujhse kaha tha,.ki maut ki taiyari, paida hote hi suru ho jaati hai" ( rough translation : a wise man told me that the journey of death begins immediately with birth). How true, movies like LAAL KAPTAAAN are plain dead in finding the connection with the audience right from the moment they begin.... full review

Thumbs down, by Manjusha Radhakrishnan, Gulf News : ...‘Laal Kaptaan’ seems to be one of those films that may have sounded brilliant and romantic on paper, but couldn’t translate well on the big screen.... full review

Thumbs down, by Jyoti Sharma Bawa, Hindustan Times : ...To a large extent, that can be said about Laal Kaptaan too. The film, having established its time and mood, meanders. The punch to the gut you expected in the second half never comes and the thrill of the chase fades. You see the big reveal coming a mile off and the climax feels forced. That is the trouble with long journeys — they take away the fun of finally reaching your destination.... full review

Thumbs down, by Ankur Pathak, Huffington Post : ...While it’s commendable that the actor is consistently challenging himself by embracing morally ambiguous roles, the actor is too wooden, bereft of any allure or mystery, both key components for a character such as this to work. Despite the physicality, Khan looks disinterested, his lines sound forced - as if dubbed in a hurry.... full review

Thumbs down, by Shubhra Gupta, indian express : ...Laal Kaptaan movie review: There are flashes when you feel the film will finally say something important, but then it lapses back into stodgy set-pieces which go on and on.... full review

Thumbs down, by Umesh Punwani, koimoi : ...All said and done, Laal Kaptaan is just like that eccentric-looking person who you admire at first, but realise he’s extremely dull as soon as you have an interaction. SKIP IT!... full review

Thumbs down, by Vaibhavi V Risbood, Pinkvilla : ...Laal Kaptaan Review: Laal Kaptaan is slow, and the story fails to keep us engrossed. For people who love neo-western classics, the film’s pace might be just right.... full review

Thumbs down, by Nandini Ramnath, : ...The handsome production design, by Rakesh Yadav, and the gorgeous costumes, by Maxima Basu, bring the period setting to life. Shanker Raman’s cinematography is bursting with colour and depth, and the night-time sequences are particularly striking even though the events they depict ring hollow.... full review

Thumbs down, by Namrata Joshi, The Hindu : ...When it comes to mainstream Hindi cinema, Lal Kaptaan had the makings of an unusual new genre; a barbaric, brutal, surreal, picaresque fantasy. Unfortunately, it is unable to pull it off. The story itself is slight and gets deliberately puffed up to a duration of over 2.5 hours... full review

Thumbs down, by Rummana, yahoo! India : ...Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about ‘Laal Kaptaan’. After sitting through this rather long revenge saga, I was left wondering what the point of the entire exercise was! In sum, you’d do well to give this one a wide berth.... full review

Twitter reviews for this movie are not available.

1 readers - 0 yays 1 so-so 0 nays

So-So, by Mohit Kumar : Great coverage as always & its always a delight to check out latest bolly news on this web. This alo

This page has additional observations, other than the ones noted in the main review.

Parental Guidance:

  • Violence: Loads and loads and loads, including one scene with self-flagellation
  • Language: Clean
  • Nudity & Sexual content: Mention of one character sleeping around, a top-less Saif Ali Khan
  • Concept: war and more wars
  • General Look and Feel: Serious. A dull yet striking combination of browns and blues

Detailed Ratings (out of 5):

Lead Actors:
Character Artists:
Music Director:

Laal Kaptaan - Cast, crew, links

Music Director:
Costume Designer:
Running time:
155 minutes

Comments (2)

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My daughter, Sasha, was one of the Asst Director and researcher for this film. Haven't seen it yet.

Many congratulations to your daughter, Samir!

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