Movie Review: Raman Raghav 2.0

June 24, 2016

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

In Anurag Kashyap’s “Raman Raghav 2.0”, a serial killer bludgeons three people to death. In the next scene, he saunters out with a smirk on his face and walks with an unmistakable swagger. The scene is shot in slow motion, and a punchy, upbeat song plays in the background.

There is a thin line between making a film about a serial killer and glorifying his actions. With “Raman Raghav 2.0”, Anurag Kashyap seems to be unsure which side of the line he’s standing on.

Publicity material for the film asks people to be “ramantic” instead of romantic, exhorts fans to take “ramantic” selfies, and ape the character’s style. You have to wonder at the bloodthirsty-ness of it all. Asking people to imitate a man who kills indiscriminately and suffers from an incurable mental illness isn’t the most prudent promotional strategy.

The man at the centre of the film is Ramanna – an unhinged, ruthless psychopath. “Killing comes as naturally to me as breathing,” he tells another character. Ramanna is inspired by Raman Raghav, a real-life serial killer who murdered more than 40 people in the 1960s for no apparent reason. He prowls the streets of Mumbai at night, dragging an iron wrench and looking for his next victim.

Raghav is a cocaine-snorting police officer with daddy issues and a girlfriend whom he treats like dirt. He is investigating the gruesome murders Ramanna has committed, but can barely focus on the job at hand, given he is either acting like a petulant five-year-old or snorting cocaine.

The scales, therefore, seem tilted in Ramanna’s favour. Of the two, his is the more etched-out character and Nawazuddin Siddiqui plays him with relish. Raghav (Vicky Kaushal), on the other hand, seems hurriedly put together and tacked on for some conflict in the film. He pales in front of Siddiqui’s Ramanna and his problems seem too clichéd and too trivial to care about.

Director Kashyap is obviously inspired by Sriram Raghavan’s short film on Raman Raghav, lifting several scenes. But in his attempt to make it an edgier, contemporary narrative, Kashyap loses out on the potency of the plot.

Raghav’s relationships and his anger issues are dealt with rather carelessly, and even though the film is supposed to be about the parallel lives of these two men, Kashyap and co-writer Vasan Bala don’t devote enough screen time to that relationship. Thus, the final encounter between the two men seems out-of-place and a little superficial.

Not that “Raman Raghav 2.0” is without plus points – Siddiqui being the biggest one. His portrayal of Ramanna is spot-on. The glint in his eye, the snarl on his face, the menace in his voice – all enough to give you chills. Shot in squalid slums and deserted godowns, Jay Oza’s camera twists and turns through narrow alleys, ably capturing the horror unfolding on screen.

But again, I keep coming back to the morality of it all. And somehow, a film that almost revels in murder, rather than seeing it for the crime that it is, makes me more uncomfortable than I’d have liked to be.

(Editing by Tony Tharakan; Follow Shilpa on Twitter at @shilpajay and Tony at @TonyTharakan. This article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced without permission)

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