First thing first. The director Navdeep Singh should be appreciated for the fact that perhaps for the first time in the history of modern Hindi cinema, a film is set at the backdrop of the pre-independent era and does not talk about either patriotism or jingoism. The story is simple. In fact, there is a very thin storyline. But the aim of the director seems to convey something far deeper and philosophical.
This film, though shot beautifully, keeps reminding you of Gore Verbinski’s The Lone Ranger and Johnny Depp. Saif Ali Khan's outfit and persona seem to be developed on the basis of Johnny Depp’s character in Pirates of the Carribean.
Yet the original thing about the film is its visuals. The way the ruins have been shot very effectively reflect the anguish of a degenerate headless society in anarchy going through political friction and violence. That’s the India of pre-1857. The rugged landscape more than anything else portrays a chaotic, unforgiving society.
The director tries to pay attention to details; dialogues, dresses, weapons. But the most important factor is missing-- story, the pace of the story and characterisation. It's slow and fails to create the mystery around the characters as it is supposed to. And the director seems to be in love with the lone character--the protagonist.
Though Saif Ali Khan impresses as the protagonist, but the story doesn't seem to focus on any of the other characters. They seem to just flutter through the story. A Muslim turning into a Naga Sadhu, in itself is a brilliant idea but unfortunately, Navdeep Singh has not been able to create as intriguing a story around it.
What's remarkable though is that it tries to present the intricate thread of relations, caste and religion that runs through our society and whatever of it is left today still keeps it alive and throbbing. But alas, it just fleetingly does so.
The background score is impressive and adds to the aura of the film. It does touch you with a kind of a detachment that underlines the philosophy of the Nagas.
Laal Kaptaan, has an amazing ambience, the haunting ruthless landscape, ominous rains, a river quietly flowing carrying so many stories in its womb. Navdeep Singh’s first Manorama Six Feet Under did that too. But sadly, that's the only thing Laal Kaptaan offers. You come out of the hall feeling as if something was missing, something was left. But well, you can still watch it for the haunting visuals and melodious music that just echoes in the background but still leaves a mark.