Director Navdeep Singh creates a piece that is full of raw, rustic, brutal realities of life but doesn’t make the required impact
When the maker of critically acclaimed films Manorama Six Feet Under and NH10 comes up with his next, you are sure to expect substance. With Laal Kaptaan, Navdeep makes every attempt to woo you wherein you continue to respect him as a director but the efforts fall short. A director who comments on things which otherwise never see the light of the day, here leaves you unsatisfied as far as the overall impact is concerned so much so that you wished the film showed ‘The End’ instead of ‘Intermission’. This one here gives you a peek into the unventured world of Naga Sadhus, but what good does it do? It remains reduced to a revenge drama where even if you keep the lead actor a common man and not a Sadhu, nothing would change.
Set in 18th century, Gossain (Saif Ali Khan), a nomadic Naga Sadhu is on the search for Rehmat Khan (Manav Vij), once a commandant of British army, to kill him.
Written by Singh himself and Deepak Venkatesha, you wanted the story to weave in the world of Naga Sadhus intricately. But the story has only made the protagonist a Sadhu which eventually doesn’t serve any purpose. Gossain is on a killing spree right from the first scene, but you never really know why he is after Rehmat. The audience are kept in suspense- may be thinking that it would add to the cinematic flavor- but it gets laborious and excrutiating.
You should have been drawn into a territory which you are generally scared of (the stories dealing with such people are not for the faint hearted). But all what you are fed is a story that makes this an out-an-out Bollywood flick.
Think of it. The world of Naga Sadhus is fascinating. But only if the makers delved deeper. Everything starts to drift apart just 10 mins into the film and you get bored very soon. In this 155 mins film, everything works in parts. You like some portions, you despise some in greater magnitude.
You are left too disappointed in the overall trajectory, more so towards the climax at how Bollywoodisation takes over the sinister feel that you crave for. Unnecessary situations, unwanted characters, and a futile backdrop add to the gloom- something that keeps lingering all through the run time. There are British, the Marathas, some wandering sidekicks, and an ever clumsy angle of Sadhus- all frustrating, annoying, and irritating.
The film fills your mind with more and more questions as you progress in the story. Wish they were answered with flair. Since the premise revolving around Naga Sadhus has been the subject of debates and discussions, and even researches, documentaries, and books, the film tries to throw light to some extent but when you come out of theaters, you realize nothing of that actually happened.
The film just refuses to end. And you want it to end as early as possible.
Saif Ali Khan in the titular role is just fantastic. He creates a character on screen which makes you feel a certain way, and it’s completely okay to not like him. He exudes warmth in whatever he plays but his motives can be questioned all throughout owing to the nature of the character he plays. This very quality that Khan has brought in keeps you in awe of him. He makes the film watchable.
Manav Vij is okay but doesn’t evoke hatred which his character boasts of. Hence he comes of as plastic.
Zoya Hussain has her moments bringing in a sense of surprise in the plot. Deepak Dobriyal is simply outstanding in a supporting role that yet again carves his niche. You can’t stop admiring him. But his role needed an edge in sketch.
Aamir Bashir is good in a supporting act. Neeraj Kabi in a special appearance makes an impression. Simone Singh is reasonably okay and is loud a lot of times.
Sonakshi Sinha has such a small role that it would be a sin if she ever says she acted in this one.
Naren Chandavarkar’s songs add some value to the plot but not as much as they should have done. The songs are also not memorable. Benedict Taylor’s background score is on point. Simply superb. The film in its weird approach creates an aura majorly through its menacing score setting your energies all up for the film.
Cinematography by Shanker Raman sets up the dark tone of the film fruitfully. But only in some parts where it is amazing. In some sequences, it clearly indicates that it needed more attentan. Right and wrong, both in equal measures. The sets by Rakesh Yadav speak volumes of the eerie nature of the story, but are not comvincing enough. You are alienated for a major portion. The make-up and costume teams deserve a standing ovation for making every character look so right as per the narrative and cinematic adherence. It is also majorly because of how the actors look that you feel the film how the makers want you to.
Jabeen Merchant’s editing is far from being the needful, especially during the moments of shock and amazement. The film could have had plenty of such junctures. It could also have been sharper towards the end. The climax is evidently contrived and predictable.
What purpose does the film serve? Nothing. Why should the film be watched? For no good reason. The film will not be liked even by the fans of the genre. Others will reject it out rightly. To be able to comprehend it, you’ll have to embrace the world shown. Too much to ask for? Too too much. Go for it if you have nothing else to do this weekend. Chill at home instead.