Why you should not miss Raman Raghav 2.0

Last Updated: Monday, July 4, 2016, 03:51
Why you should not miss Raman Raghav 2.0
Watching Raman Raghav 2.0, I was reminded of the profiles of the Bowery bums done by legendary New Yorker staff writer Joseph Mitchell.

For Raman, played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui, might be a serial killer, but he is a bum first and foremost, a man who lives on the streets.

He lives by his wits, eats what he gets and knows the streets like the back of his hand: every sewer (he hides in one), every shanty (he kills in one).

This is a film as much about hunger as it is about killing. A starving Raman eats chicken after killing his sister, her husband and their child.

Anurag Kashyap wanted to make a period film but was forced to contemporise it because of budget constraints. This works in his favour. The twisted cop Raghavan (portrayed by Vicky Kaushal) is very much a product of today`s Bombay, a city awash in cocaine, MDMA and Viagra.

One imagines that if Kashyap had got the budget he wanted, the film would have become a simple "chase" film where the good cops are trying to catch the evil serial killer, who keeps hoodwinking them and is eventually arrested. Good prevails over evil. Everyone goes home happy.

But no. Here, the cop`s character is as compromised as the killer`s. He is a criminal in uniform, edgy, sex-obsessed and hopelessly wired from the constant drug-taking.
This layered film then becomes the story of two killers who are prisoners of their own device. It`s not easy on the audience.

It`s a film about what`s happening in the characters` minds, as much as it is about the lives they lead - their daily life turned inside out.

What struck me most as a writer of short fiction was the structural brilliance of the film. The narrative is divided into chapters.

Each chapter is a self-contained story, and yet Kashyap manages to pull off an almost seamless linearity in the telling of these stories. The craft of the short story dictates that back stories of characters are not so important.
You hint at a few details but, unlike in a novel, you don`t fill in everything. You leave out a lot. Kashyap does this skilfully.

In a chapter called "The Son", the wired cop goes to meet his father. We are not told much about their relationship and yet it`s a powerful story, precisely because it holds back so much.
We learn the relationship is strained - as the story ends, the son grabs his father by the collar; while walking out he touches his feet.

The two acts happen almost simultaneously, mirroring the tug and pull in the cop-son`s mind.
Similarly, when it comes to relationships, we know that the cop is commitment phobic - but we are not told why. There`s no need to.

This is not a purely psychological film, like Silence of the Lambs was. The two characters go about their lives, doing what they do, because that`s what they want to do.
It`s almost as if they are propelled by forces beyond their control; their tortured minds are trapped in their bodies and yet seem external to them.

If this was Hollywood, the viewer would have been provided with a convenient Freudian explanation for the perverse actions of the protagonists. A bad childhood, for example.
For the most part, Kashyap refrains from doing this. We don`t really know where the cop is coming from. We don`t need to.

In a film about out-of-control characters, you marvel at the director`s restraint. Take the language: it`s profane when it needs to be and the cuss words are more impactful this way.
In a film about killing, blood can be sexy, but Kashyap uses a blank screen to illustrate moments of extreme violence. The blood doesn`t splatter.

Chopping cocaine looks good on screen too, but even here, Kashyap doesn`t overdo it. The cop, while investigating a crime scene (we learn later that he`d committed the murder himself the previous night), pulls out a plate from the kitchen utensil stand.

Next you see him with a rolled up note and putting a clean plate back on the shelf. You know he`s snorted a quick line. It`s back to business.

From the very first scene onwards, Raman Raghav 2.0 builds a dim tunnel-like mood and contextualises, or rather, locates this mood in the interiors of a masculine working class Bombay.

One is taken inside these sweltering spaces: a hall full of weaver`s looms, the butcher`s shop, the welding works. There is poetry in hard labour, just like there is poetry in gratuitous killing.
Kashyap puts these two vulnerable characters and their nefarious actions under the microscope but holds back from dissecting them. He enlarges them so you can see them clearly. He`s neither judge nor lawyer.

Fiction was never in the business of providing certainties or preserving them. In the process, he delivers a cult classic, nothing less.
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