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Raman Raghav 2.0 review: Nawazuddin Siddiqui is disturbingly marvellous

Release Date: 24 Jun 2016 / Rated: A / 02hr 20min

Suparna Thombare

While director Anurag Kashyap is back in his element creatively, the film is Nawazuddin's victory as he embodies the deadly spirit of Raman Raghav

Director: Anurag Kashyap

Cast: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Vicky Kaushal, Sobhita Dhulipala

Producer: Phantom Films

Runtime: 127 minutes 

Rating: 3/5

Director Anurag Kashyap introduces the audience to one of the deadliest serial killers in Indian history, Raman Raghav, and then promptly announces that 'this film is not about him'.

Yes, this is Raman Raghav 2.0, with serial murders set in contemporary times instead of the 1960s, which was when the real Raman Raghav or Psycho Raghav committed the crimes. It is, in fact, about two people who reflect each other. One, who has already crossed over to the dark side and the other, who is living on the edge. 

Kashyap’s Ramanna or Raman (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) looks up to the original killer and draws inspiration from his lore. He is a cold-hearted serial killer, no justifications required, except that he enjoys it. And Raghavan or Raghav (Vicky Kaushal) is a coke-snorting, girlfriend-abusing, morally dubious police officer, who is probing the murders committed by him.

Raman's weapon of choice is a wheel wrench, but his real weapon is the nonchalance in his acts. As he states towards the end of the film, it comes as naturally to him as eating or taking a crap. He kills because he wants to kill. Raman does draw upon divine intervention as he believes he is just executing God's wishes.

Each of Raman's murders is constructed in an intricate and eerily beautiful manner by Kashyap and co-writer Vasan Bala. Most of the actual violence is kept off screen, relying on the screenplay to engage the audience and build fear through Raman's modus operandi and weirdly fascinating charisma, even making you chuckle at times. The drama that unfolds in Raman's head is unappetizingly absorbing and not necessarily the actual murders.

There is a method to Raman's gruesome killings and Nawazuddin methodically executes every nuance like a master craftsman. He is disturbingly marvellous. The cold eyes, the smirk, the devilish expressions, the casual body language, those deadly eyes and the quirkiness - Nawazuddin's all in, in this game. And the game's interesting for sure. While Raman's murders are gruesome, his stalking of Raghav is intriguing.

Kashyap and Bala paint the picture of this creepy murderous man as he goes about his business on the canvas of Mumbai's slums, dilapidated buildings and garbage creating the perfect atmosphere for an urban thriller. 

While Raman is outright evil, Raghav is still on the edge. He proves he is perfectly capable of evil acts –  apart from the time when he actually wields a weapon - in his face-off with his father, the way he treats his girlfriend Simmy (Sobhita Dhulipala, who shows promise in her first role as a seemingly carefree girl trapped in a tumultuous relationship) and how he leads a dual life - one during the day and another in the night.

Raghav hides his blood shot eyes behind his sunglasses, just like he tries to cover up his dark side with spurts of conscience and duties as a cop. It is this that draws Raman to Raghav, and makes him believe the two are kindred souls after all.

Raghav, the troubled and violent cokehead of a cop, who takes advantage of being in the police force to fulfill his dark desires, is aptly portrayed by Vicky Kaushal. 

Raman and Raghav are characters you hate right from the beginning, they don't inspire any empathy from you as a viewer. You are just a bystander, amused and petrified at the same time, by the going-ons.

The intimate camerawork by Jay Oza plays an important part in the voyeuristic experience. Case in point - the camera follows an airplane taking off and pans to Raman sitting on a pile of garbage looking up at it. Or when the camera moves from one newspaper covered dead body to another in a post-murder sequence.

Kashyap draws from the real-life Raman Raghav throughout the film. A scene where Raman coolly cooks chicken and eats it in between his violent assaults (and it is filmed in cold detail) refers to the original Raman Raghav's story where he agreed to spill the beans on his crimes only if he was given some chicken to eat. The original Raman's incestuous relationship with his sister and his homophobic theories while stating his reasons for committing the crimes also form a twisted underlying background and motive to Kashyap's Raman.

Yes, it's good to see Kashyap back in his element creatively with Raman Raghav 2.0, but one more time it's with his indulgence in his dark fantasies.

Kashyap resorts to excessive cuts in his scenes and jarring and intrusive background score to create an impact. While Ram Sampath's L.A.Noir and Hitman (video games) style background score is effective in parts, it mostly creates a jerky viewing experience. 

That the line between good and bad is thin. That darkness is attracted to darkness. That there is no reason why some people do bad things, they are just evil. Kashyap tries to portray all of these very common themes, but in his own style.

While Ugly was dark and disturbing, this one is a notch higher as it is also cold and grisly. In the second to last scene of the film, Kashyap also romanticises crime like never before (and literally so).

While serial killer movies like David Fincher's Zodiac and Seven portrayed an edge-of-the-seat cat and mouse game, Raman Raghav 2.0, while trying to be a twist to the genre, becomes a slowly and steadily unfolding drama.

Even as this film turns out to be Kashyap's superficial yet‹ intriguing probe into the horrors of human darkness, and a creative indulgence in genre flick, it's ultimately Nawazuddin's victory as he embodies the spirit of Raman Raghav. The film is a must watch just to experience the Nawazuddin Siddiqui 2.0 version.