(director/writer: Asif Kapadia; screenwriter: Tim Miller; cinematographer: Roman Osin; editor: Ewa Lind; music: Dario Marianelli; cast: Irfan Khan (Lafcadia/the Warrior), Puru Chibber (Katiba/Warrior’s Son), Anupam Shyam (Lord), Noor Mani (the Thief), Damayanti Marfatia (Blind Woman), Noor Mani (Riaz), Sunita Sharma (Mira); Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Bertrand Faivre; Miramax; 2001-UK-in Hindi with English subtitles)
“It’s little more than a spaghetti western (which here might be called a chapati western), that elevates itself by not sticking entirely with its revenge intended theme.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The 29-year-old Brit-Indian director Asif Kapadia’s feature debut is a beautifully photographed minimalist action-adventure mythical tale of a warrior seeking redemption from his past bloodshed. It’s set in a feudal time in India’s northwestern desertland and the western Himalayas. It’s little more than a spaghetti western (which here might be called a chapati western), that elevates itself by not sticking entirely with its revenge intended theme.
Lafcadia (Irfan Khan) is a peasant who has been promoted to warrior status by the corrupt local warlord (Anupam Shyam), who has him and his ruthless warrior cohorts earn their pay by ravaging villages and massacring everyone in sight when they don’t pay their taxes–which includes bloody beheadings. During one such horseback led pillaging mission the Warrior can’t go through with slaying a peasant girl named Mira (Sunita Sharma) and her shawl-selling mom because he has a vision of the girl rescuing him in the snowy mountains in the future. He puts down his sword and avows to never pick it up again. The Warrior returns to his village and cuts his long hair and shaves, and with the change of appearance flees with his young son Katiba (Puru Chibber) to the neighboring village.
The lord tells his warriors that “no one leaves my service” and orders them to “bring him the Warrior’s head.” The warriors kidnap Katiba and behead someone who looks like the warrior and present it to the lord, who pays the warriors when Katiba is forced to identify the vic as his papa. Katiba is then slain, which the Warrior witnesses while mingling among the peasants in the crowd. Instead of seeking revenge the Warrior flees to the mountain village where he was born. On the way he meets a teenaged orphan named Riaz (Noor Mani), who is a playful thief and seems so taken with the aura surrounding the mysterious stranger that he tags along. It’s revealed that the warrior thugs had slain his parents and that the Warrior could have been responsible for that tragedy. This brings about a repentance in him; also while on this meditative journey the Warrior comes across a destroyed village and sees ghosts of those peasants he had slain in similar raids. The Warrior will then meet a gifted psychic blind woman (Damayanti Marfatia) who is going to the “holy lake” in the Himalayas, whose all-knowing touch gives him the power to see clearly for the first time and he sinks within himself seeing that he lived as a monster.
The film has little dialogue and not much humor, so it’s up to Khan to win us over to his side that he’s really a changed man. He does it by expressing pain on his face, having big sad eyes and his body going almost limp. That the Warrior never can fully wash the blood off himself, leaves something cold about the narrative that it can’t reconcile. The film remains rewarding mostly through the stunning locale shots of cinematographer Roman Osin and the fine Clint Eastwood-like performance by Khan. But the tale remains too simplistic to get too excited about the outcome.
REVIEWED ON 12/1/2005 GRADE: B-