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Raman Raghav 2.0 Movie Review: Nawazuddin Siddique and Vicky Kaushal nails it

Director: Anurag Kashyap

Cast: Nawazuddin Siddique, Vicky Kaushal and Sobhita Dhulipala

Ratings: 3 Stars

Raman Raghav 2.0 has been made by director Anurag Kashyap, who likes to litter his productions with references and tributes to the movies that have influenced his filmmaking. When you have director Anurag Kashyap and ace actor Nawazuddin Siddique teaming up for a psychological thriller, you know there will be much anticipation among cinegoers to see a film that will keep them sitting at the edge of their seats. It’s hardly surprising that Kashyap’s fictional creation Ramanna is also a self-reflexive type who has absorbed his share of psychopath lore and wants to mask his barbaric feats as an act of homage. The 140-minute thriller twins the director’s penchant for gore with its lead character’s bloodlust. To complicate matters, Raman Raghav 2.0 has not one but two psychopaths. June 24 sees the release of Raman Raghav 2.0, and after opening to a jam-packed theatre at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year, Raman Raghav 2.0 has caught on to the fancy of Indian audiences as well.

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Ramanna (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) has devoured the legend of the serial killer Raman Raghav, who claimed to have murdered over 40 people in Mumbai in the 1960s before he was finally arrested. Ramanna is far behind in terms of his own death count – only nine corpses when we first meet him – but he is getting there, one sickening blow at a time. Raman Raghav 2.0 is a thriller film, based on a Mumbai-based notorious serial killer Raman Raghav from the mid-1960s. Apparently, Raman used a steel rod to smash across people’s faces, leading to severed heads and broken skulls. Upon capture, he is said to have confessed to having committed up to 41 murders. Initially, Raman was senetenced to death by the Bombay High Court, but it was later changed to life imprisonment.

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The other character is Ramanna’s other half, the one who completes him. In the prologue, cocaine-snorting police officer Raghav (Vicky Kaushal), the type who wears sunshades indoors and at any given time of day, catches the eye of the sultry Simi (Sobhita Dhulipala) in a bar and pays a visit to his drug dealer. Six months later, Raghav will get a true measure of how broken his moral compass is when he chases and is chased by Ramanna. The thriller presents itself as an update on Sriram Raghavan’s acclaimed biographical film Raman Raghav (1991), in which Raghubir Yadav plays the disturbed killer. The movie has been writted and directed by modern cinema’s director of blood-and-gore Anurag Kashyap, and star the inimitable Nawazuddin Siddique as Raman, and Vicky Kaushal as a drug addict cop who becomes an object of obsession for Raman’s character, while investigating his murders.

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Anurag Kashyap takes a simply told and highly effective police procedural and packs in more ideas than the screenplay can handle. Raghav can barely keep himself together. He is forever stuffing white powder up his nostrils and ill-treating Simi, whose feeble response is a much a result of indifferent characterisation as of Sobhita Dhulipala’s poor acting skills. The daring premise might have been more convincing if the psychological motivations of the characters and their social and economic conditions had been better fleshed out. Raghav has daddy issues – hurriedly explained in a clunky sequence – while Ramanna appears to have been insane from his childhood. Ramanna’s grinding poverty is just an excuse to shoot in some of the poorest neighbourhoods in Mumbai. Raghav’s response to the carnage is typical: he ducks into a corner and pushes cocaine up his nose. Vicky Kaushal strains to make his cardboard character matter, but the competition is too intense for an actor just two films old. Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s all-too-convincing performance will count as a career-best for the talented actor. A scar runs down the side of Ramanna’s face, and he cups his hand over his eyes when he is spying on Raghav.

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Initial reports to the movie have been extremely positive, with audiences applauding Anurag’s engaging screenplay, Jay Oza’s impressive cinematography and Ram Sampath’s background score. Both Nawaz and Vicky’s acting has thus far been called brilliant. Stripped of its pretensions, Raman Raghav 2.0 is classic late-night entertainment. It has blood and gore, a compromised police officer, a moody femme fatale, and several taut moments of suspense. The rich texture, wonderful use of real locations, and flavourful camerawork help the plot appear more mythic than it actually is.