Raman Raghav 2.
Director: Anurag Kashyap
Actors: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Vicky Kaushal
Set in Mumbai in the present, Raman Raghav 2.0 is a film that’s divided into eight ‘chapters’ that explore the coiled, psychotic workings of a serial killer’s mind. A man wanders through Mumbai, beating heads in with large rocks. Nicknamed The Stoneman, there’s little else known about him. Can a cocaine-snorting cop find him in the shadowy, garbage-crusted lanes of the city? Will the darkness that drives the cop to insomnia and intoxicants tip him over the edge and into the serial killer’s arms? Are the cop and the killer actually two faces of the same psychotic coin?
There’s neither anything new, nor wrong, with this basic premise. It’s drawn from Sriram Raghavan’s 1991 film, Raman Raghav, which in turn was based on a serial killer who terrorised Mumbai in the 1960s. But while Raghav Raman 2.0 looks like a thriller (thanks to Jay Oza’s fantastic cinematography) and sounds like a thriller (courtesy Ram Sampath’s musical score), it isn’t a thriller.
Director Anurag Kashyap makes the camera and his characters slither through Mumbai’s slums and back alleys with a grungy elegance that only he could manage. Nawazuddin Siddiqui is brilliant as the terrifying Ramanna, overshadowing everyone else on the cast. And yet, there’s about as much tension in Raman Raghav 2.0 as there is in overcooked Maggi.
After a smashing opening (pun intended), the film struggles to pick up pace and build up to a climax. It seems as though Kashyap and editor Aarti Bajaj figured that if there were enough gore, the film wouldn’t need details like pacing and plot. Consequently, there’s violence of varying complexions, ranging from murder to verbal abuse and bullying. It’s depicted intelligently and even stylishly, but it does nothing to either reveal more about the characters or shine a light on the demons that lurk within us.
One of the most powerful episodes in Raghav Raman 2.0 shows Ramanna with his sister, nephew and brother-in-law. It’s one of the few sections that’s actually suspenseful, and shows Kashyap at his finest as he layers different kinds of violence one upon the other. Even though you know what’s likely to happen, Siddiqui holds you spellbound with his chilling, cheerful menace.
Unfortunately, this is only a small portion of a film that otherwise meanders. It’s undoubtedly a career-best performance for Siddiqui, but nothing else about Raman Raghav 2.0 matches up to him.
The good news is that this film is better than Kashyap’s last directorial venture, Bombay Velvet. Fans of Kashyap will rejoice at this, while those a little more level-headed will take note of the fact that ‘better than Bombay Velvet’ doesn’t really raise the bar very high.