Disturbing, but engaging
Until Anurag Kashyap’s Raman Raghav 2.0 hits its 2-hour mark, it is a fairly compelling psychological thriller that maintains its pace and narrative throughout its runtime. Its when the film hits its climatic culmination, when it truly falters. Not with the pace, not with the narrative, but with its own identity.
Raman Raghav 2.0 narrates the tale of 2 individuals — on either side of the law — but equally psychologically deranged.
Ramanna (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) is a hunter on the move— parading the maze of bylanes of Mumbai’s slums. The setting does not matter. This could be any country, any city, any slum, really. Ramanna’s choice of weapon, an iron rod.
On the other hand, there’s Raghav (Vicky Kaushal), a womaniser, a woman-abuser, a drug addict, and a lot of things a cop shouldn’t be. Raghav too, kills for the heck of it, a trait mostly triggered by his drug addiction.
One of the first things I noticed stepping out of the cinema hall, and rewinding the film in my head, was that there really wasn’t much violence in Raman Raghav. It was all in my head. Kashyap sets up the film’s violence in such a way that there’s barely any killing on camera. Blood drips from Ramanna’s iron rod, sounds of iron hitting human flesh, gun firing out of frame, shadows depicting hitting and beating — nothing really depicts the violence, but it puts it in our heads — and the perverse minds that ours are — we actually imagine and visualize it in the mind. It is in playing this mind game with us that Kashyap succeeds.
The film’s narrative largely stays on track. Unlike most Kashyap films, there are no diversions, no sub-plots or multi-layered tracks. Raman Raghav 2.0 is all about Raman and Raghav and it stays true to that theme for all its run-time.
Until the final 15 minutes, there’s no explanation as to why either of the two (especially Raman), have no regret for doing what they do. Then Kashyap tries to link Raman and Raghav as destined soulmates who were bound to run into each other. That part doesn’t ring true, has no depth, and looks completely out of place.
There are some disturbing things about Raman Raghav 2.0 — namely the interpreted violence. Secondly, the portion where Raman visits his sister (a brilliant cameo by Amruta Subhash), is disturbing to the point of being cringe-worthy. To his sister’s husband, right in front of their child, Raman drops hints of how he may or may not have forced his sister into physical relations when they were younger. Raman makes his sister cook chicken and rice for him, kills her and her husband, and then devours the food as he talks to their child, whom too, he later smacks to death. Disturbing, is an understatement, to define this segment of the film.
Raman and Raghav — the actors and the characters — are the film’s biggest strength and weakness, respectively. As Raghav, Vicky Kaushal fails to bring anything to the role. Its largely a one-dimensional character to begin with, but Kaushal’s deadpan delivery is just boring. On the other hand, Nawaz’s Raman is a character you watch with piqued interest. It becomes even more so interesting, thanks to Siddiqui’s range. He delivers everything — from nonchalance to insanity — with equal delight. Nawaz enjoys playing Raman and it shows on screen.
Raman Raghav 2.0 isn’t Gulaal or Ugly, but its definitely better than Bombay Velvet. For all that its worth, Raman Raghav atleast gives us back the Anurag Kashyap we have come to admire and adore.
For those who refuse to be consumed by pointless violence or subliminal insanity, stay away.