Director: Anurag Kashyap
Cast: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Vicky Kaushal, Sobhita Dhulipala, Amruta Subhash
By Saibal Chatterjee
Unabashedly dark and disturbing, Anurag Kashyap's Raman Raghav 2.0 is a pulsating thriller that delves into the recesses of the mind of a serial killer.
With its drama placed in the larger context of the climate of violence in a big Indian city, the film tells the story of a deranged and depraved contemporary criminal who models himself on Raman Raghav, a real-life serial killer who stalked the streets and slums of Bombay in the mid-1960s.
The central character, Ramanna (Nawazuddin Siddiqui in scintillating form), kills without remorse and often without reason even as he taunts the Mumbai crime branch with a blow-by-blow confession that the policemen find hard to digest.
The cop on Ramanna's trail is a 30-year-old man Raghavan (Vicky Kaushal, completely believable), who is wracked by his own inner demons.
His relationship with his father is uneasy, he is unable to sleep, is addicted to psychotropic substances and is dangerously trigger-happy. In terms of temperament, there isn't much that separates the cop from the crook.
Kashyap, who has co-written the film with Vasan Bala, turns this shocking crime drama into a flashy genre film bolstered by a throbbing musical score, a frenetic editing rhythm and outstanding performances not only by the two principal actors but also by members of the supporting cast.
Much of the film has been shot in the seediest parts of Mumbai, because that is where Ramanna operates. His weapon of choice is a car wheel wrench that he uses to bludgeon his victims.
As the manic marauder goes about his twisted life driven by a perverse philosophy, policeman Raghavan, who is obviously no less crooked in his ways, finds himself sinking deeper and deeper into a quagmire of moral degradation largely of his own making.
Raman Raghav 2.0 is a film in which the lines dividing good and evil are completely erased. The tale unfolds in a moral vacuum in which murder and mayhem thrive without any hindrance.
Kashyap puts a complex spin on this nihilistic tale by drawing into its scope allusions to communal riots and state-perpetrated violence in order to create a political and social context for the utterly senseless violence that the two characters the outlaw and the lawman unleash.
In this dehumanized scenario, women are the most vulnerable and that reality is driven home principally by the character of Raghavan's girlfriend Simmy Naidu (played impressively by first-timer Sobhita Dhulipala).
She is an independent-spirited woman who lives life on her own terms, but is constantly driven into a corner by the man in her life.
The other women who pop up in Raman Raghav 2.0 are all victims of the ugliness that the men represent. Ramanna's own sister (Amruta Subhash) pays the price for seeking a better life, while Simmy's maid gets sucked into the vortex of the Ramanna-Raghavan catfight for no fault of her own.
It isn't an easy film to watch although much of the violence that it depicts is kept off-screen. But the deft manner in which it uses the cinematic resources at its disposal which, of course, is influenced in part by the film's limited budget makes it an immersive cinematic experience.