#365DaysOfWriting — Day Forty-Eight
Raman Raghav 2.0
“मैं भगवान का CCTV कैम्रा हूँ।”
(I am God’s CCTV camera.)
This outlandish, creepy, voyeuristic announcement could be made by no one but Ramanna. Do you remember Lou Bloom from Nightcrawler? Here’s my review of that film. Take Lou Bloom, remove all the fake, sweet-talking charm, add 10 more bucketfuls of menace and cunning, and a propensity to murder people, and you get Ramanna.
Ramanna. Crazy No. 1.
Dragging an iron rod, laying out the road like a chess board. Staring intently at a target only he can see, with his लोमड़ी (fox-like) eyes. He didn’t have any real purpose, and would drift wherever life took him. But, God forbid, if anyone came in the way of his chess board…
He would ask politely first, of course, for you to move away. He would ask you a few times. But if you’re obstinate, then he will dispense swift justice with his iron rod. If he was in the mood, he’d still dispense swift justice with his iron rod, whether you obeyed his orders or not.
If you see Ramanna, he’ll seem like a regular लफ़ंगा (rogue). But sit down and have a chat with him, and his almost-Nietzsche-like life philosophy will draw you in, like magic. Who brings him alive though?
It won’t be an exaggeration to say that he’s the best actor in Bollywood right now. This is the 2nd film he’s carried entirely on his shoulders (the first was Badlapur) even though there were younger co-stars acting opposite him. While Varun Dhawan and now Vicky Kaushal weren’t too bad with their roles, they were up against a Master. Whenever I watch Sarfarosh and see him in that 2-minute scene opposite Aamir Khan, it boggles the mind to think about how far he’s come from there. While Raman Raghav 2.0 is about 2 crazies, Nawaz is the only one who gets into the skin of his character and transforms, completely, into the psycho, stalking serial killer.
Raghavan. Crazy No. 2.
I did say 2 crazies, didn’t I? If Ramanna was the first crazy, operating outside the law, Raghavan was the second crazy, operating within the law. A policeman who shot and beat up people as easily as he snorted lines of coke. He fluffed his lines though when it came to his ‘relationships’ (if you can call drug-addled sex romps relationships), and actual police work. Ramanna showed special interest in the life of Raghavan… and that’s where all hell broke loose.
He had a pretty great start to his Bollywood career with Masaan. His acting chops shone through in that movie. Here, however, he falters. While everything’s hunky dory in the first half, he sort of missteps in the second half. He tries to be too earnest and stamp his authority on proceedings. But with Nawaz around, that becomes next to impossible.
His second half acting, combined with a clumsy exposition that almost spoon feeds the audience the entire story and the reason for Ramanna’s existence robs the climax of the impact it truly could have had.
That doesn’t take away from the fact though that Anurag Kashyap has made this film unbearably watchable (if that makes sense). Ugly may have had tighter writing and better acting, but in terms of direction, Raman Raghav 2.0 is almost on par. Kashyap always manages to bring out the dirty side of Mumbai in the most watchable, intriguing manner possible. The screenplay by Vasan Bala and Kashyap is tight for most part except towards the climax, and Ram Sampath’s music plays like Raghav’s and Ramanna’s consciousness, almost acting like a window into their minds. The supporting cast has done a fabulous job too. And oh, nice little Quentin Tarantino-esque touch there, Kashyap, laying out the story in chapters.
Is it Kashyap’s best? Not by a long shot. Does it deserve your time and money in a theatre? Most certainly. Raman Raghav 2.0 is India’s version of a Grimm Brothers story – only darker.
No one quite does it like Anurag Kashyap – he makes dirt and grime look beautiful. And he makes you root for the psycho. In this case, Ramanna. The Nawaz-Anurag partnership is as potent as a Leo-Scorcese. I guess he’d be happy to hear that. Kashyap that is.
What about Ramanna though? Just give him another iron rod, and he’ll be on his way. Just don’t step on his chess board though… actually, hope that his chess board doesn’t come in the way of your life. Nawazuddin Siddiqui, take a bow.