Anurag Kashyap’s Raman Raghav 2.0 is a pitch-dark film.
The film has two protagonists – Raman, a poor homeless scar-faced man, and Raghav, a well-dressed IPS officer from an opulent family. One, with an unstoppable urge to kill, a self-confessed psychopath; the other, a drug-addict with a license to kill. Both the men are violent beasts in their own rights. Two lives, as different as day and night, yet tied together by destiny.
Kashyap’s film is set in Mumbai. It follows the protagonists through the city’s dark places: its slums, low-income neighbourhoods, and night clubs where the rich party – where the line that separates evil and the legal is the thinnest.
The first few minutes of Raman Raghav are top-notch. Edgy and riveting, the sequence has the power to keep the audience glued to the screen. A snooty man meets a woman at a posh nightclub. She is with her new boyfriend. He is alone, looking for a possible partner for the night. Their eyes meet for a moment. In the next scene, they are in his car. “What do you do?”, he asks her. “Shopping”, she tells him. “How do you find the money for shopping?”, he asks again. “There are men like you”, she replies. A one-night stand, we think. A quick stopover at a drug peddler’s house turns into a messy bloodbath. The next day, the man shows up at the crime scene, this time in a cop’s uniform.
However, after a while into the film, we realise there isn’t much more to this man and the woman, who would soon be his live-in girlfriend, than what we saw in the initial sequence. Raghav is a drug-addict and a philanderer with no control over himself. A murderous cop with no sense of the law. She, although seen throughout the film, remains an aloof and cold. A plain character whose job in the film is to represent the sufferings of women in the hands of men. The movie tells nothing about what this man and woman want from each other.
At the same time, the movie’s portrayal of Raman/Ramanna is fascinating. He is the anti-hero and the clown of the film. He has the gift of gab and a sense of humour that can conceal his real intentions. Raman’s monologues are what keep the movie alive. He likes talking to his victims before finishing them off with a deadly blow. He can kill anyone – family, friend, random stranger on the road.
In his first scene, Raman tells the cops that deprivation and homelessness are what caused him to kill one of his victims. We don’t know whether this is true. Later he says, “I kill because I am a servant of the God of Death.” This man has the ability to lie through his teeth. He is unpredictable. In the film’s most brutal scene, it’s revealed that he had sexually abused his sibling as a teenager. He is capable of everything evil.
There is no remorse in Kashyap’s portrayal of Raman. The film gets its high when Raman unleashes violence. There is peppy music in the backdrop as he cracks open his victims’ skull. In one scene, Raman tells Raghav, “I am God’s CCTV. I know you more than you know yourself”. And Raman is right. Through monotonous violent sequences, the movie constructs Raman in the manner a Sooraj Barjatiya hero is constructed – a loving buildup. Only, Raman is the diagonal opposite of the alpha male heroes we see in an average commercial film. This is something you have never seen in a Kashyap movie before. His films like Dev D and Gangs Of Wasseypur had vulnerable characters who went through myriad emotions in life. But Raman is perfect. None of his plans go awry.
What story could one weave around a man who commits perfect crimes with an astoundingly strong conviction that he is sent by the ‘God of Death’ to release the poor people from their miserable lives? Kashyap’s attempt to add a Raghav to Raman’s story is sketchy. His Raghav is a mediocre Bollywood film’s flawed hero. The character is established through repetitive situations – he is seen snorting coke at a bar, at home, and even at a crime scene where three bodies lie rotting. We see there is a twinkle in Raman’s eyes when they fall on this police officer. But Raghav is a plain character, perhaps the most unappealing one in a Kashyap film. Naturally, the film’s efforts to establish a connection between Raman and Raghav comes across as heavily forced.
Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s superior acting prowess shouldn’t come as a surprise anymore. The actor has already proved it through a number of movies in the past. But in Raman Raghav, Siddiqui effortlessly surpasses himself. His laugh, amiable yet so subtly terrorising, is perfect. His movements are quick, just like that of a psychopath who doesn’t think twice before beating someone to death. He’s the movie’s biggest strength and draw. There is nothing that juts out of his performance as Raman.
Raman Raghav sure induces that urban claustrophobia Anurag Kashyap wants his audience to experience. Raman Raghav also does what American Psycho did – it laughs at the wealthy and the ‘progressive’ in society. It digs out the dirt and clutter hidden beneath the carpet of urban development. But the biggest joke comes even before the movie begins – from the title cards, where you see that Reliance Group is the film’s distributor.