Raman Raghav 2.0: Two sides of the same coin?

raman r

Film: Raman Raghav 2.0

Cast: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Vicky Kaushal

Director: Anurag Kashyap

Rating: 2/5

It’s not carved in stone that a filmmaker should tread along standard lines. Creativity cannot be curbed by moralities. There exists many a world within a world. Worlds that stare each other but never meet. Each world has its own thrill and ills.

Anurag Kashyap has made career in treading onto the dark underbelly of the erstwhile cities. This has earned him comparison with Quentin Tarantino. Inspirations are acceptable but trouble arises when the inspiration turn to cloning.

Anurag Kashyap’s ‘chapter’ presentations of Raman Raghav 2.0 is the first among the many ills that plague this psychological thriller. The Tarantino-like indexing is relatively acceptable but each chapter stinks in brutality.

So, the film begins with a reminder of who was Raman Raghav, the notorious psycho killer of the 60s. But Kashyap immediately issues a disclaimer, “This film is not about him”. So, if ain’t about Raman Raghav, then what is the film all about?

Set in contemporary India, Raman (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) alias Sindhi Dalwai/Ramana, is a troubled homeless man who believes that the the Gods talk to him and it is they who are guiding him to kill people. After murdering his ninth victim, he surrenders himself to the cops. However, the men in khaki aren’t convinced with his confessions, believing he is a joker who merely wants to take shelter in prison.

ACP Raghavan (Vicky Kaushal) orders his men to discipline the fool so that he never shows up again.

Enraged at the torture by the cops, Raman manages to escape from a deserted flat and shows up at his sister’s place. The siblings have shared a horrid past, and things take a turn for the worse when Raman kills his sister and her family.

Raghavan and his team learn of the gruesome triple murders and discover an old picture of the siblings, thereby making him regret the decision to let him go free earlier.

Based on the story thus far, you are hoping that Raman Raghav 2.0 will turn out to be a tale of the good vs the evil. However, Kashyap is not known to go along standard lines. Remarkably, ideally a criminal would run for cover but Raman keeps stalking Raghavan and his sexual partner Simi (Sobhita Dhulipala). Well, that is how Raghavan would like to keep his relationship with Simi.

The ensuing events take the focus off the manhunt, while it is the life of Raghavan which comes under spotlight. Raghavan is no ordinary policeman. At 30, he’s an ACP (Assistant Commissioner of police) while his aides, who look far more more experienced, happy to be his Yes men. Now, he may be a cop but Raghavan has a weakness for drugs and women. He merely uses his woman for sexual pleasure constantly warning her not to harbor any ambitions. He doesn’t care if Simi gets pregnant, whether she keeps or aborts the child. To him, Simi is merely born to serve him in any manner he desires – be it as a sleeping pill or a woman who takes off his shoes from the time he enters her pad.

Day or night, Mr.Raghavan wears his cool shades  virtually 24X7. Only once is he seen in khaki. Remarkably, he doesn’t even wear a uniform when he’s seated next to the commissioner of police while interrogating Raman at the beginning.

So, given the qualities or rather the lack of it, it makes you wonder how on earth can such a cop be assigned to nail down a heinous murderer like Raman? Kashyap’s Raghavan is too flawed a character to take on a serpent.

The bigger flaw though lies with the man who is playing it. Vicky Kaushal doesn’t quite fit the bill here. He lacks both the body and mind required to play this sophisticated character. His inexperience as an actor comes to the fore each time he the flawless Siddiqui. Kaushal appears to have put in more effort in inhaling drugs or smoking cigarettes. As irritating it is to watch a chain smoker, what annoys you more is that the long puffing scenes are met with the equally long ‘smoking is injurious to your health’ disclaimers. Clearly smoking has sucked all the energy out of Kaushal’s lungs.

Nawazuddin keeps growing in stature with each film. With Raman Raghav though, he’s taken his level of performance several notches higher. He evokes both fear and dark humour, in Raman’s parlance that would be equivalent to being an evil genius. Though the world clubs him as schizophrenic.

It is not an easy task to impersonate a long dead criminal with every little material, save for his crime and medical reports, available to him. Siddiqui is like a lizard who surfaces from hell beneath, slides on walls, tin roofs, and then snaps his prey in a jiffy.

He is disturbingly flawless in the scene where he gate crashes into his sister’s home. The unabashed sadomasochism sends a chill down your spine. Here’s a man who’s just wiped out his sister, her husband and her little kid, and the next moment, he’s feasting on chicken curry. Another eye popping scene is when locked in a deserted dilapidated house, he screeches, squeals for help but the next second he goes totally numb – poker face Raman!

As good as Siddiqui was, is it enough to save the film? Unfortunately, both Raman’s sins and Kashyap’s indiscretion are unpardonable. The blood bath in his previous films, –  Gangs of Wasseypur, can still be condoned for the protagonists there carry out the ugly deeds as part of an avenging plot. However, the questions that begs is does Raman Raghav 2.0 even have a protagonist?

Kashyap’s Raghav is inspired by the evil deeds of Raman Raghav, but he says it’s not a film on him. The filmmaker though is guilty of using the chequered history of a criminal to give rise to another monster. That explains the 2.0 in the title. Isn’t this glorifying a criminal? Add to it the imperfection, the addiction, the chauvinism of Raghavan, so Raman Raghav 2.0 runs the risk of being accused of glorifying drugs and also encourages oppression against women.

Only a week before Raman Raghav 2.0, Kashyap, the producer won a laborious battle with Central Board of Film Certification to get his film Udta Punjab cleared. After the triumph, Kashyap described the Bombay High Court verdict as not just a triumph but also a reminder that with great freedom comes greater responsibility. Sadly,despite all this talk, Kashyap has stumbled at the first block.

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