Rating: 3/5 Stars
Laal Kabootar, Kamal Khan’s directorial debut impressed crowds when the film’s teaser was released a few months ago. Filled with action shots and the perfect background score, the one-minute teaser – using only a single dialogue and without giving away too much of the story – gripped viewers’ attention. What was the film going to be about? Although the teaser was very captivating and made fans wanting for more, the trailer did not seem to do justice. But subtly, it did give a sneak peak of the ‘laal’ in Laal Kabootar. Is this going to be about the red taxi that Adeel (Ahmed Ali Akbar) is seen driving in the film? Or is it about that red cap one of them is seen sporting in some scenes of the trailer? Many should have been able to guess which one it would be, considering the cast of the film often wore a red cap with Laal Kabootar written all over it during their promotions. But then again, it could just be one of the many things films and PR professionals do to promote films. A mere merchandise – this, however, was very cleverly crafted.
Set in the hustling and bustling city of Karachi, the film kicks off with Aliya and Noman Malik (played by Mansha Pasha and a guest appearance by Ali Kazmi) as they are seen in a similar situation many of us find ourselves stuck in – the traffic. And before you get immersed in their conversation and all cozied up in your seat, BANG, you jump right back to the edge of it - all within five minutes of the film. And that’s how you’ll be sitting for the rest of the 90-minutes of Khan’s masterpiece.
Contrary to other Pakistani films in the past and gold old Bollywood, Laal Kabootar didn’t drag itself up to a three-hour stretch. Short, rough and direct was possibly the director’s mantra, and it did him wonders. Each connected to the following in a very clean manner, fitting together like the many pieces of a puzzle. A scene in the film where Adeel is running around the streets of Karachi and breaking down in between seems like the director is forcefully trying to show a raw city, but it isn’t until the end of the scene where Adeel has a late realization and Khan’s vision makes itself visible to the surface.
Apart from the scenes, none of the actors fell short at any given time. Ahmed and Mansha made for the perfect Adeel and Aliya. And while the two have not played a lead in any other Pakistani film so far, Laal Kabootar might just be their first of many. Moreover, from the small yet most important role of Saleem Mairaj to Akbar Islam playing a drunken father, and to Rashid Farooqi essaying a police officer, each character was well-defined, with a proper introduction and end.
The film’s cinematography was on par with the other local releases so far. The use of colours, lighting and sound paired with a perfect shot complimented each scene, setting a different mood based on the dialogues delivered by the characters. Raw and rusty when needed with a hint of Martin Scorsese’s colour palette from Taxi Driver mixed with the gruesome details of Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction – Laal Kabootar is truly a work of art.
Khan has not only set himself to be one of the directors to look out for in the future but also proved that one doesn’t need A-listers and expensive locations to make a good film. A good story, performing actors, and a perfect balance of colours and sound is all one needs. And it’s only after you’ve watched the movie, you realize that Khan was trying to stay true to its Karachi backdrop, where the word kabootar in Laal Kabootar, is used as slang for target killers – much like how pigeons attack their prey and flee.
Laal Kabootar comes as a breath of fresh air for cinema enthusiasts in Pakistan. It’s not only well-crafted but also closer to reality than one might think – maybe not for the elite, but at least for the middle-class or low-income society of Karachi.
Steering clear from a not-in-your-face love story is something that was much-needed in Pakistani films too and the film does just that. Overall, Laal Kabootar is a must watch for every cinema lover out there. You wouldn’t want to miss this fine piece of filmmaking from Pakistan.
Watch the trailer here.