Disclaimer: These are the ones that got away. Below are impressions from a belated viewing on the small screen.
RAMAN RAGHAV 2.0 (2016) – A journey into the mind of a psychopath
And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you – Friedrich Nietzsche
A few weeks ago heard about the sad demise of writer-director #JonathanDemme, the man behind what is arguably the finest #SerialKiller flick of all time, #THESILENCEOFTHELAMBS. A number of notable films have been made in this genre like #AlfredHitchcock’s #PSYCHO, #OliverStone’s NATURAL BORN KILLERS and David Fincher’s #SEVEN to name the ones that come off the top of one’s head. Yet nothing comes close to the character of #HannibalLector (a spine chilling Anthony Hopkins) Never before had one got to see a psychopath at work, from such close quarters. It was disturbing(mostly), nauseating(several instances) and enthralling(at times) Compare this with our own Bollywood which is surprisingly bereft of good movies in this genre. Look around and all you will find is #KAHAANI (whodunit) #EKVILLAIN (puerile) and GUPT (commercial potboiler) Can RAMAN RAGHAV 2.0 fill up this lacunae? Read on.
RAMAN RAGHAV is inspired by the real life story of a person called #SindhiDalwai (Nawaz calls himself by this name several times in a scene) While the original killer lived in Bombay (now Mumbai) of the 1960s and used to specifically target pavement dwellers this fellow is a copy cat. The whole film plays out like a game of cat and mouse (Tom & Jerry anyone?) between the killer (#NawazuddinSiddiqui) and the cop (#VickyKaushal) chasing him. Only here it is the other way around. As the film hurtles towards a stunning climax, the body count rises.
SCREENPLAY & DIALOGUES
The introductory scene of the film is reminiscent of Kevin Spacey’s delightful whodunit #THEUSUALSUSPECTS and the chapter wise style of story telling is perhaps a subtle homage to #Tarantino. Also the way the hunter becomes the hunted by the latter half of the film reminds one of Coen Brothers’s haunting NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. But that apart, RAMAN RAGHAV 2.0 is all Anurag Kashyap. Vintage Kashyap that is. The real locations (set in the city’s vast slums) and the dreary lighting creates a sense of foreboding in the viewer. Never once does the camera voyeuristically pan on the splattered bodies of the victims. Never do we see Nawaz striking any of his victims dead (Though one does see Kaushal’s character whacking someone on the head in the penultimate scene) No blood curling screams, no sound of metal against skull, nothing. And almost always during a crime the camera is on the killer.
In fact, in what is the most terrifying chapter where Nawaz’s character murders his sister & her family the mere sound of iron car-jack (the murder weapon) being dragged along the floor is enough to send chills down the spine. Therein lies the victory of the director. If you thought all this made for difficult viewing wait till you see the cop’s side of things. As a cocaine snorting ACP whose life is coming undone, Kaushal is sublime. Be it the scenes where he kills a drug peddler or the one where he roughs up his father, edgy does not quite do complete justice to how terrifying the character is. Just like in RGV’s COMPANY where the cigarette becomes like an extension of Ajay Devgan (his most underrated performance) here it is the sunglasses of Kaushal’s. Credit must go to the taut writing (by #VasanBala & Kashyap himself) for keeping both the parallel tracks equally engaging.
Having edited close to half a dozen films directed by Kashyap, Aarti Bajaj knows a thing or two about Kashyap’s films. And the world that they inhabit in. While self indulgence is something that he has been accused of in the past this one has no extra flab. With a running time of 135 minutes, RAMAN RAGHAV 2.0 moves at a frenetic pace all the way through. Choosing Jay Oza (the lensman of the hit Hindi TV series #24) who has not really shot any feature films was fraught with risk but the gamble pays off and how! The music by Ram Sampath is in sync with the sombre mood of the film and Qatl-e-Aam is pulsating while the background score is unnecessarily loud at times (like in the scene where the cop accidentally kills his lover)
When Mukesh Chhabra is the casting director rest assured that even the smallest of roles will stand out. Be it the person who plays Nawaz’s sister (Amrutha Subhash) the sister’s husband or even the man playing the money lender everyone is right up there. As the girl stuck in an abusive relationship model turned actress Sobhita Dhulipala makes a sparkling debut with the film. Kashyap’s incredible eye for detail comes to the fore in a scene where she is seen having a conversation with her father in chaste Telugu (the actress was born in Andhra)
For actor Vicky Kaushal who won a lot of accolades for his role in the criminally under rated MASAAN this role is as different as chalk is from cheese. Hiding his face in large sunglasses for most part of the film, you never really get to see what is going on in that mind. Nor does he speak much. Yet his extraordinary body language ensures that the tension is palpable as long as he is on the screen. Though Nawaz has the eyeball grabbing, flamboyant role, that Kaushal underplays his role and yet never gets overawed by Nawaz is testament to his talent. The scene in which he accidentally kills his lover in a bout of anger is quite surreal.
What can one say about Nawazuddin Siddiqui that has not been said already? Forget towering personality he is diminutive in height and ordinary looking. Neither does he have a booming voice nor do his eyes burn with intensity. Yet when he appears on the screen, Nawaz is like fire. You take your eyes off him at your own peril. Even in seemingly innocuous scenes like the one where he is locked up by the cops and shouting out for help. My favorite scene is right at the end where Nawaz tells the cop about the reasons that compel him to kill. Mindboggling!
Anurag Kashyap changes the standard template of serial killer flicks on it’s head by revealing it all in the very first scene. And with the killer stalking the cop convinced that they are both soul mates this is as different a serial killer as any made in Bollywood. From his very first film PAANCH Kashyap has consciously chosen themes that are dark (incest, drugs, violence, crime) and pushed the envelope with his narrative style. His films explore the dark recesses of the human mind and characters that inhabit his world are more black than white with generous doses of grey. Apart from a minor ‘blip’ called BOMBAY VELVET his films have never failed to shock. They always provoke strong reactions – either you love his films or hate them. There is never anything in between. RAMAN RAGHAV 2.0 is right up his alley and will count as one of those films in which it all comes together. For most parts. And coming on the back of the disturbing UGLY this one is uglier.
For those who have not watched a Kashyap film before this one is a must watch. As long as you have the stomach for it. For fans of Kashyap, RAMAN RAGHAV 2.0 is among the Top 5 (Gangs of Wasseypur, Black Friday, Gulaal and Ugly being the others) Not an easy watch this!