Film: "Raman Raghav 2.0"; Director: Anurag Kashyap; Cast: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Vicky Kaushal, Sobhita Dhulipala, Amruta Subhash, Ashok Lokhande and Mukesh Chhabra; Rating: ****
"Raman Raghav 2.0" is Anurag Kashyap's take on the psychotic serial killer Raman Raghav who terrorised Mumbai during the late 1960s. He had apparently bludgeoned 41 people to death using a bent iron rod.
This is not a biopic but a twisted fiction that encapsulates the life of two soulmates; the scar-faced serial killer Ramanna who also called himself Sindhi Dalwai, and the addicted to drugs Police Inspector, Raghavendra Singh Ubbi who was initially investigating the killings.
Narrated in a linear fashion and set in 2013, the narration begins in a nightclub with pounding music and free flowing drugs. Raghavendra, high on drugs, leaves the nightclub with a woman he picked up that night.
En route to his residence, he stops in Kidwai Nagar to pick up more drugs. But when he lands up at the residence of his drug supplier, he realises that the old man has been attacked brutally. Raghavendra does not hesitate to take advantage of the situation by stealing his drug supply, but not before murdering another intruder who lands up at the crime scene minutes later.
This scene forms the prologue to the drama, which is encapsulated in eight chapters that unfurl with gripping flourish of how Ramanna stalks Raghav and their lives are intertwined. It also overturns expectations in the finale, to create an impactful and convincing drama.
The story, written by Anurag Kashyap and Vasan Bala, is typically Anurag's overture. Their plot is packed with grisly crime, dark characters in forbidding territory and dialogues that humourously engage the audience. It broadly deals with the morality of killing, which is seen from two aspects; that of an unhinged killer and the other from the view of a lawkeeper.
But it is Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Ramanna and Vicky Kaushal as Raghavendra who bring life to the writing. While both of them are powerfully natural and earnest, as they effortlessly essay the complex and muddled characters, Nawazuddin steals the thunder with his intensely disturbed, scavenger look and his tongue-in-cheek lines, which he delivers with a straight face.
They are efficiently supported by Sobhita Dhulipala as Smrulika Naidu aka Simmy -- Raghavendra's long-standing and tormented girlfriend --, Anuschka Sawhney as Ankita, Raghavendra's one-night stand who slips from his clutches, Amruta Subhash as Raman's distraught sister Laxmi, Ashok Lokhande as Laxmi's husband. They all manage to evoke sympathy with their effective portrayal.
The film is astutely mounted with fine production qualities that make the entire setting appear ordinary and regular. This is brilliantly captured by Jay Oza's camera work. Especially dramatic are his visuals captured in claustrophobic spaces.
What adds to the viewing experience is Ram Sampath's frenzied and adrenaline-packed background score, which is efficiently layered by Aarti Bajaj's crisp editing.
Overall, "Raman Raghav 2.0" is a cleverly crafted and compelling film.