In the 1960s, there was a serial killer who terrorised the streets of Mumbai. His name was Raman Raghav. The film I’m reviewing today isn’t based on him. The killer here is “inspired” by the original psychopath and hence the title of the film, Raman Raghav 2.0.
Before the opening credits roll, the film shows us a prologue from 2013 that is later connected to the climax of the film. IPS officer, ACP Raghavan Singh (Vicky Kaushal), is a drug addict and goes to a nightclub where he meets a girl, Simmi (2013 Miss India Earth Sobhita Dhulipala) and takes her home. Enroute to his house, he stops at a drug dealer’s for “stuff.” When he enters the dealer’s house, he finds a dead body and the crime weapon, a hammer. The killer is Ramanna (Nawazuddin Siddiqui). He develops a special, unique obsession with Raghavan and then, in a series of incidents, keeps creating situations where the two cross paths.
The film, from the very beginning, doesn’t shy away from reminding you that it means to unsettle you. The Seven – like opening sequence is weird in itself. After that, the movie is divided into 8 chapters. Each chapter deals with a specific episode in the lives of either Ramanna or Raghavan. Ramanna surrenders himself to the police in the first chapter itself, telling them that his name is Sindhi Dalvai — like the 60s killer — and that he has kept this name now for himself. The confession sequence shown in the trailers is only a sneak peek into the way Ramanna’s mind works and the cunning and depravity with which he goes about his carnage, evidenced shortly afterwards when he escapes from the safehouse he’s locked in. Officer Raghavan is a piece of work himself. For someone who’s sworn to uphold the law, he does a lot that isn’t anywhere near lawfulness. Prolonged drug use, combined with an implied abusive father, have scrambled his mind to an extent where good and bad have ceased to exist. Simmi loves Raghavan and at times even asserts herself strongly but by and large, this is a half-decent girl who is in an abusive relationship where death and mutilation threats serve to sexually excite her. Her character seems like it could have been explored better but as things stand, we already have a lot on our intellectual plates.
The cinematography of the film has a lot of handheld/shaky camera work that emphasizes the unhinged nature of the characters while also providing literal viewpoints from new angles. The background score has been crafted to emphasize just that, with heavy use of riff-raffs and bass that start messing with your mind when coupled with the visuals you’re experiencing onscreen.
Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Vicky Kaushal have both done some tremendous work here. While Nawazuddin already has recognition of his insanely-good work and talent, Masaan-fame Kaushal proves he wasn’t just a one-film wonder. Nawazuddin, on his part, has totally owned the role of the serial killer. Scene after scene and dialogue after dialogue in the film will fascinate you. He is so charming when he can be, and employs a ridiculously dark form of comedy before or after a killing. In one scene, he crushes the heads of a woman and her husband and is about to leave their house when their infant child cries for milk. So what does Ramanna do? He takes up the milk bottle, cradles the kid in his lap, feed him the bottle and sings a lullaby, “Sheila, sheila ki jawaani.” This is the sort of character that are career highlights. Think Max Cady in Cape Fear or Hannibal Lecter in The Silence Of The Lambs. Nawazuddin Siddiqui has dived into his reserves for one of the most memorable roles of the year and I would be surprised if he isn’t among the winners in next year’s awards shows.
Vicky Kaushal as the troubled, noir-ish policeman who has no moral compass is top-notch. He seems to have a little goodness somewhere deep inside but is unsure of it, letting his animal take over far too often. His addiction has also led to, among other things, issues with his family that are covered in the chapter titled “The Son.”
Débutante Sobhita Dhulipala impresses in her scenes with those smouldering eyes and at times, helpless expressions. In a lot of the scenes, she looked like Radhika Apte. Good roles like this should ensure a bright future in the industry for her.
Director and co-writer Anurag Kashyap has followed his Ugly with another film that explores the dark recesses of the human mind and behaviour but there aren’t many more similarities between the two. At its heart, this is a psychological noir crime thriller and you can see genre imprints throughout the film. Where things get elevated quite a few notches is the acting department but the script, despite having black comedy thrown into the mix, is one of the darkest I’ve ever come across. The gradual descent into mayhem and carnage that we witness as the we enter the third act is standard for the genre. But the problem is with the climax. In shocking us to the limits of numbness, the film fails to engage with our hearts. The film’s trailers told us that the policeman and the killer will cross paths on the way to hell. After building up the story through the preceding two hours though, the ending is a bit of a predictable letdown. Again, anyone who has watched enough films of this genre will not feel that the ending is out of place, only a tad unsatisfying.
This is a movie I wouldn’t easily recommend to anyone, although I myself was pretty excited for it. Its easily one of the most mind-numbing experiences I’ve ever had while watching a film, and that’s saying something. Still, the acting of the three leads deserves to be enjoyed and experienced, particularly Mr. Nawazuddin.
1. In case you’re interested in the original Raman Raghav, here’s the Wikipedia link to his page.
2. Simmi is a Telugu and Raghavan is a Punjabi. But unlike 2 States, this is not a love story.
3. The film was shot in only 20 days on a shoestring budget and won Mr. Nawazuddin Siddiqui the Best Actor award at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles as also a standing ovation at Cannes, where it was premiered.
Raman Raghav 2.0 is Rated A and is 133 minutes long. It is now playing in cinemas.
Rating : 3.5/5.
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