Starring: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Vicky Kaushal, Sobhita Dhulipala & others.
Dir by Anurag Kashyap.
Anurag Kashyap, just out of a prolonged battle with the censor board for Udta Punjab, which he co-produced, gets his film Raman Raghav 2.0 passed, despite a dose of violence, profanity and misogyny that would have been snipped off had the film come out a few months earlier. Inspired by international filmmakers, Kashyap is constantly on the lookout for plots on which to hang violence, perversion and his penchant for glorifying amoral characters. Raman Raghav 2.0 is not about the notorious killer of the ’60s, who, for a few months, had driven Bombay indoors, but a present-day psychopath, who copies the head-bashing style of killing, and waxes philosophical on his bloodlust.
Ramanna (Nawazuddin) enjoys killing and, at the start of the film, tries to turn himself in, hoping for some media glory, but the cops don’t take him seriously. A lot of thrillers about the hunt for serial killers are about the integrity and heroism of the cops on the case; here, Raghav (Vicky Kaushal), the man in charge, is a drug-addicted near-psychopath himself. He kills with a frightening coldness, smacks his strangely passive lover (Sobhita Dhulipala) around and generally treats her like dirt. (Kashyap’s measure of irony is when two women are being mistreated by Raghav, there is grafted onto it a shrill debate on women’s rights going on in the background on a television.) For the sake of some pop psychology, there is a nasty dad and a mother-fixation to boot. A horrific scene in Ramanna’s sister’s (Amruta Subhash) house suggests abuse and incest. Ramanna perceives the evil in Raghav and while the cop is trying to track him, he does a better job of stalking—to the extent of knowing what goes on in his bedroom.
Except for making Ramanna a smart aleck and Raghav a brooding sadist, Kashyap and his writers do little to add depth to the characters. The attempt is to shock and sicken—the killings are off-screen, but the splashes of blood, battered body parts and cops flinching at the gore underline the grisly. Were it not for Kashyap’s high-profile battle with the censors, the scene of a child’s terror, his killing and a glimpse of his corpse would probably have been cut.
For all its swagger, excellent performances by the two leads, an effective soundtrack, brisk editing—Kashyap is inarguably a skilled filmmaker—Raman Raghav 2.0 is just plain vile. He shoots on real locations in the slums and shanties of Mumbai, the camera almost gleefully zooming in on mounds of garbage and filth, challenging the viewer not to avert her eyes. In any case, it’s a difficult film to watch, not entertaining or edifying in any way.