Friday, October 21, 2016

Filmi Friday: Raman Raghav 2.0

Director Anurag Kashyap rather deservedly enjoys a reputation as being something of a daring stylist in Hindi cinema: his bold, lush, adult-candy romp, Dev D, was considered by many to be unique in the history of our film. And in that I quite agree, because Dev D really does occupy its own place especially since it is the third or fourth retelling of a popular classic novel. 

Now. Raman Raghav 2.0 is not a retelling, rather it is roughly based on the reality of a serial killer in the Mumbai of the 1960s who admitted to killing some 41 people. The film, though, is adamant that it is not about this killer. No, our protagonist here is one very creepy dude indeed, but he's completely fictional. Rather a relief that, because Nawazuddin Siddiqui as killer Ramanna is so completely creepy that, well, I don't want to think about the original version. 

However, there is such a thing as uneven distribution of talent. When you cast someone like Siddiqui, you should make very sure that the rest of your cast matches wits with him. Else, he is going to run away with the engagement of your audience. He is going to make them care about him, only him, and some audience members might even keep glancing at the clock especially in the scenes where he is absent, wondering how much longer dear Mr. Director is going to stretch the proceedings. (To be fair there was one other gripping performance though- the sister of the killer.)

The second piece of the titular character puzzle, the cop named Raghavan, failed almost entirely for me- even if he has garnered much praise for his performance, and I do not want to knock him. I get the irony of the bad behavior - drugs, beatings, misogyny, etc., that is second nature to him. I get that we are meant to look at both the killer and the cop through the same lens because their inherent nature is being portrayed only through that lens. But why was I emotionally affected by the killer, and left flat and bored by the cop? 

The other thing that fell flat for me was the use of music: It almost overshadowed the real menace and horror of the visual impact when the killer dons his helmet and drags his horrible tire-iron around. 

But lest this seem like an endless list of complaints, I will end that here. There is a good bit of hard-hitting visual wizardry to be seen: Mumbai is effectively rendered as the backdrop for desperation and a sliding moral scale especially when the camera, drenched in grainy dark green, shows you the claustrophobia of the existing slum labyrinths. 

Er, I find rather awkwardly that that was the only other thing that stood out besides the simmering, sinister Siddiqui: stylistic and bordering-on-noir visuals. Perhaps there should be a term for this: India-Noir? Because is there a better playing ground for a filmmaker than India? The place practically begs to be shot on film  and served up, gorgeous even in base reality.

I'll wait for Kashyap's next. Here's hoping he'll cast Siddiqui again, this time backing him up with those who won't be overshadowed, a stronger narrative scaffolding of empathy and exploration, and a less-indulgent use of music.

Director: Anurag Kashyap
Overall rating: 5/10

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well written...I'll avoid this one. Wasn't sure if this was fictional or not...looked into it and that's quite the tragic story...

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