RAMAN RAGHAV 2.0 (2016) – A journey into the mind of a psychopath

  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

INTRO

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.

STORY

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.

TECHNICAL CREDITS

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)

PERFORMANCES

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!

DIRECTION

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.

VERDICT

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!

Is reality television a boon or a bane?

Last week the winner of a popular reality show on a regional television channel attempted to commit suicide. It was in a live broadcast on a popular social media channel off the internet. Fortunately the boy’s friends took him to the hospital in time thus saving his life. Not as lucky was 11 year old dancing star from the financial capital of India, Neha Sawant. After having lost on three reality dance competition shows she was made to quit all these shows in order to concentrate on studies by her parents and this led to the drastic step she took. Which once again underscores the kinds of pressures that young boys, girls and kids have to go through on a daily basis once they climb on the ‘Reality TV’ bandwagon. If those who win these reality shows have to put up with the challenges of constant adulation and staying in the limelight, those who lose have to keep trying while keeping their chin up. And all this while a billion people watch and judge their every move intently.

And this is the truth of #RealityTelevision, not just in India but in the west as well where reality shows have been around for much longer. Just last month #MTV reality show star #ClayAdler shot himself during a trip to the desert with friends. In fact according to a chilling statistic, during the last decade about 21 reality show contestants have all killed themselves in the United States alone. Now do the math for the other countries. From the 60s through the 70s, live TV shows usually used to focus on sports and it was only a decade later that showed contestants marooned in an island (#Survivor) or locked up in a house (#BigBrother) watched by cameras all over became popular. By the late 90s reality TV shows were omnipresent with every channel having some reality show or the other. If it was not dating, it was cookery, or singing or dancing. Anything.

Life in the spotlight is tough for most people even those who have stayed in the constant glare for years. So one can only imagine how unforgivingly harsh it must be for the kids. Many of these kids are goaded, pushed and even forced to contest in these reality shows against their will by parents who themselves were unable to follow their dreams. Almost unwittingly these parents end up pushing their wards down a deep, dark hole that is impossible to crawl out of. Then there are those reality shows that will push the envelope just that little more, for the sake of #TelevisionRatings. If that means pitting one contestant against the other or manipulating situations so that they get cosy with each other, so be it. There was even an infamous #RealityShow in the US that focused on the unstable (and dangerous) lifestyle of a former child prodigy alleged to have encouraged the leading man to try and kill himself in front of the cameras. He failed to but that is a different matter.

But it is not like reality shows are bad or can have only bad repercussions. For the record, these same reality shows gave India it’s two biggest playback female singers, #SunidhiChauhan (Meri Awaaz Suno) and #ShreyaGhoshal (Sa Re Ga Ma Pa) who grew from child prodigies to the leading female vocalists of #Bollywood today. But the journey from the reality show to eventual fame is far from easy and is not for the faint hearted. Support from family and friends helps one stay grounded and in touch with reality. Fame can easily go to the head and adulation can make the best of us swollen headed. So while it is not wrong to hanker after money, success and fame it is important not to lose it. If things do not go to plan. This is the world of Reality television. Where anything can go awry. Anytime.

Koffee with Karan – Ten years and still rocking

  It was way back in the 1950s that the American television network, NBC first started a talk show. It was titled The Tonight Show with Steve Allen as it’s host. It was then seen as a logical extension of Allen’s immensely successful radio talk show. Of course, neither Steve Allen nor NBC in their wildest dreams would have imagined that their show would open the floodgates. And that every television channel in every part of the world would have their own talk show. Be it an international, national or regional channel and on topics ranging from politics to stand up comedy, sports to cinema they were all at it.
In these last many decades, India has had it’s own share of talk shows. Though right until the 1990s, it was only one government run TV channel (Doordarshan) that held sway, this changed completely with the arrival of private TV networks led by the Zee network channel. Today there are dozens of channels dedicated to 24/7 reporting of current affairs where every second programme is a talk show. Point being that there is such intense competition to grab eyeballs today that only the best will survive. And only the ones that rule the roost when it comes to TRP(Television Rating Points) will shine through.

In this scenario, the continued success of the talk show titled ‘Koffee with Karan’ is indeed worthy of praise. This show started more than a decade ago (2005 to be precise) and has completed four very popular seasons so far. One must bear in mind that the host, Karan Johar is a very successful film producer and director who would probably have done more of these shows if not for his extremely busy schedule. What it also means is that the talk show is more of a passion for the filmmaker and less of a necessity to keep the money rolling. The fifth season began last week with a bang setting the tone for what should be another year full of tongue-in-cheek humor, juicy gossip and candid confessions involving celebrity guests.
What is also admirable about the success of the show is that it is conducted completely in English and inspite of this, Koffee with Karan has become a hit with the masses. The reasons for this can be broadly divided into two. First is the way in which Karan Johar keeps constantly reinventing things by adding new fun sections every season. There was the ‘Lie-o-meter’ where the host would press a loud buzzer if he felt his guests were not being forthright in their answers to candid questions; a Rapid Fire round where you answered tricky posers as quickly as possible at the end of which you even got gifted a Gift Hamper if you did well and last season saw the introduction of Koffee Quiz where each guest was given a buzzer to enjoy the privilege of answering first.
Of course, the real attraction behind Koffee with Karan has to be the no holds barred style of asking candid yet extremely controversial questions by the host. For the audience loves nothing more than watching a famous celeb getting grilled.