June 24 2016
Indian indie posterboy director Anurag Kashyap wowed Cannes again, but is his latest film a return to form or just another exercise in slick but ultimately hollow filmmaking…?
LOOK – there’s no getting away from this – “Raman Raghav2.0” is a violent film, but – and it is a huge big mother of a but – people, stay with it and you will be rewarded. Handsomely.
If you’re already a big fan of Anurag Kashyap’s films, this will represent something of a return to form following the big studio flop that was “Bombay Velvet”.
“Raman Raghav2.0” is a tour de force in some ways and though it’s not an easy ride (at least for this critic), it’s sophisticated, well-acted and superbly executed.
Nawazuddin Siddiqui who stars as the serial killer is in quite sublime form and he is ably assisted by Vicky Kaushal, who is the cop assigned to the trail.
On the surface, it looks like a conventional crime caper, Siddiqui’s character, Raman, is a psychopath and Kashyap shows little mercy on us as hapless viewers – we are subjected to a gruesome killing of a child by Raman.
It’s not graphic (like much of the film, the violence is implied by troubling images), but the sight of a 10-year-old boy trussed up and ready to meet his fate makes for difficult viewing.
And yet Kashyap shows that Raman and Raghav both inhabit a similar space – quite different from our own really.
His juxtaposition of good and evil being almost indistinguishable in these two men is deliberate and telling.
Okay, so one could argue in the post-modern world we inhabit, that is not a revolutionary observation but in India its implications are far reaching and crucial.
Again, for many that may not be much of a huge insight – corruption, people in power on the take and elected officials pocketing public cash and indulging in personal vendettas and squabbles is part of the common (man’s) lexicon of distrust and suspicion.
Yet Kashyap is going a bit deeper and it’s more philosophical. It isn’t about right or wrong like that.
Both these men operate in their own moral universes – and don’t care about how the rest of the world operates and judges them.
They are outlaws and renegades, they fix and determine their own moral compasses.
Humans can agree about a lot of things – violence and killing someone is plain wrong.
But throw faith, nationhood, or ideology into the mix and a few can start to shift and waver.
View this film on just one level as an entertaining and exhilarating drama – a hedonist’s delight of a flick, film violence too that stimulates and tickles (in its strictest sense and not beyond), and you will find it eminently watchable.
Step outside that and engage with the last 30 minutes or so, and the Raman/Raghav paradox becomes most acute.
If you’re still having difficulty – it’s a bit like the old Ram/Ravanna concept from the classical Hindu tale of the “The Ramayana“.
Once it was obvious Ram was good, Ravanna was bad. The more sophisticated reading is far more nuanced and it shouldn’t be reduced to one being totally right and the other completely wrong.
Kashyap’s films works brilliantly in that uncertain space and highlights those whose approach is essentially ideological and unequivocal (even if they are at pains to distance themselves from any idea or notion of that).
At this level, it is political – and as he expands on in our interview with us, it is about those guys (and it still is) who have power and determine the terms of conflict and engagement.
Just as what looks shocking and obviously bad, what looks clean and wholesome and right…well, you have been warned*…
ACV rating: **** (out of five)
*Note the date of this publication on the day Britain (Well, England & Wales, excluding London) chose to leave the European Union…