His tongue-in-cheek take on Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay's classic Bengali novel Devdas brought him to fame in 2009. With subsequent releases, he raised the bar of filmmaking in Hindi cinema. A tough filmmaker to love, Anurag Kashyap is a maestro of raising hell at the theatre. His 2014 film Ugly was a crackling yarn with a deep well of social commentary soaked in blood and terror. Similarly, Raman Raghav 2.0 is a nerve-chilling account of a brutal cop and an unpredictable psychopath.
With Raman Raghav 2.0, Kashyap delivers a film that is uncompromisingly harrowing, filmed with a stark alacrity that is as bold as it is nightmarish. Thanks to the masterful cinematography of Jay Oza, the crumbling environs of Mumbai come to life in this film to make the entire experience more unnerving.
With underlying tones of his earlier films like That Girl in Yellow Boots and Ugly, Raman Raghav 2.0 is a glance into the bleak reality of the society that we live in today. God, it is a lip-smackingly delirious ride packed with socio-political commentary. Kashyap and his co-writer Vasan Bala don't feed you every bit like a usual thriller does, preferring a more subtle approach to let the audiences extrapolate the intentions of their protagonists.
As his central character, Kashyap has chosen a psychopath -- inspired by a real-life one who confessed to murdering more than 40 people before his capture in 1968. The movie, however, is set in present-day Mumbai and most of the characters are entirely fictitious. The film starts with a prologue that sets the foundation of the narrative with a measured precision, followed by eight chapters that unspool over the next two hours.
With Raman Raghav 2.0, Kashyap has sculpted a dark film with shades of nihilism lurking in each frame.
The first chapter comes off as a stern reminder of our superficial society and its relentless members, but the second one grabs you at the heart as Amruta Subhash reaches the pinnacle of her acting prowess. Nawazuddin Siddiqui, as Ramanna, gives us an inside look into the life that he has spent as a child and as an adult. Chapters three through six delve deep beneath the façades of the protagonists to explore their motivations. Finally, the last two acts take you by your hand to plunge you into a world that is hard-hitting, revelatory and riveting, with the potential of a ticking time bomb that may explode anytime.
Of all the acts, the last one adds layered complexity to the narrative with terror dripping from each frame. I must accept that Hindi cinema's beloved filmmaker didn't shy away from adding some of his old tricks in this film but the question is: Does it matter? No, it doesn't matter if the result is an entirely mesmerising film.
The hidden gem of this film is Vicky Kaushal who plays the role of a coke-addled cop Raghavan. Kaushal speaks through his body movements most of the times. He registers a commanding presence as soon as he appears in the first frame of the film. It's a gut-wrenching performance in a film that constantly avoids tears but brims with moral outrage.
He is the hero of the emerging face of Hindi cinema.
While many people may complain that Nawazuddin Siddiqui's role is repetitive, it's clear that painstaking labour went into preparing for it. He comes out victorious with an all-too-convincing performance. This may not be his career best but he does a fabulous job of conveying Ramanna's strange and indistinct pursuit.
The women of the film, appearing in bits and parts, are stunningly casted and directed. Amruta Subhash is such a talented actor. God, her eyes make you feel the creeping horror of death. On the other hand, as the camera tenderly settles on Sobhita Dhulipala's distinctive face, you come to terms with her intensely original character that has something deeper underneath the surface. Raman Raghav 2.0 accentuates her audacity and charm as an actor coming into her own.
With Raman Raghav 2.0, Kashyap has sculpted a dark film with shades of nihilism lurking in each frame. He also refrains from adding gravy into the narrative. Instead, he chooses to thicken the plot while keeping the audiences simmering in anticipation. As the climax arrives, the audience is emotionally drained but also richly rewarded.
It is a powerful cinematic experience if you have the stomach to digest the fact that violence and misogyny are integral parts of our society.
Unashamedly honest, Raman Raghav 2.0 puts all other films playing at the multiplexes in the shade. However, it isn't for the faint-hearted but for those who really love audacious filmmaking. There is an infectious, unfettered fearlessness to Raman Raghav 2.0 that makes it a masterfully woven thriller.
In Raman Raghav 2.0, you don't merely witness horror, you feel it in your bones. It may not be at par with Ugly or Black Friday but it is a powerful cinematic experience if you have the stomach to digest the fact that violence and misogyny are integral parts of our society.