What the film leaves you most with is a feeling of depravity. When you watch a chase through the Byzantine alleys of a Bombay slum in Anurag Kashyap’s films (Black Friday, Ugly, Raman Raghav 2.0), you are experiencing a Bombay that is typically not shown in Hindi films. He takes you through narrow lanes overcrowded by the lives of slum dwellers, spilling out of their makeshift huts. It is like walking through someone’s house – they sit, talk, work, wash, shit, eat, bath on the roads, and you’re constantly invading this space.
On this occasion, the chase ends because the cops are unable to find the serial killer Raman, who has literally slipped from their grasps. He evades them by submerging himself in an open gutter, overflowing with the rejects of the slums that he hunts. He emerges from it at night, a horrific figure slathered in muck and dirt. Only his eyes shine, brighter in the blackness around him. His first goal: kill the man who betrayed him to the cops. He goes about it without bothering to clean himself up. And then, he takes a shower.
Throughout the film, you are constantly made aware of the world it resides in. It is an abject setting. Raman has no means or likelihood of survival. He scrapes a living every day. When he walks the streets at night, you see dimly lit roads with garbage overflowing, a stray dog walking by. He threatens the dog with his weapon of choice, an iron rod. This is his meager dominion, the king of what he purveys. It is abysmal, and very, very unsettling.
A scene early on in the film shows two rats fighting over a morsel of food on the streets. Raghav, the drug addled cop, is the other rat. He is no saviour. The first time that Raman kills a slum dweller, is also the first time that Raghav kills a slum dweller. Crazed though he is, Raman had a plan and an intent to kill. Raghav had to do it per chance. This is a trail through the film. He has no means or resources, but Raman has a cold-blooded intent to kill, and in this there is absolute clarity. His onslaughts are chilling. The murders are off screen, but the sound design is vicious and the impact is all the more disturbing for it. On the other hand, Raghav, for all his bravado, is not a man in control of his actions. His drug abuse controls him, and he acts out of impulse rather than calculation. The film ends with a conversation between the two, where Raman explains to him why the two are the same. It is followed by Raghav’s first act of calculated murder. The symbiosis is complete.
Anurag Kashyap’s treatment of the story of these two characters and how their lives intersect is a bleak, harsh one. In the settings and the narrative, there is no redemption. Tightly shot scenes give way to longer ones only to reveal the cramped environments and run down locations. The psychedelic background score bursts through this darkness, but it is only when a brutal murder is committed. An act of savagery marked by the most stimulating part of the film? Much like the lyrics of the song that accompany this macabre moment, the presence of the music itself is behooda, vulgar, completely out of place. This is how visceral the film is.
Visually, the film is brilliant in creating this foreboding environment. There are many, many cool scenes and moments. One of the pre-mediated murders has Raman crawling the roof tops of a slum settlement, silently observing his prey. A predator waiting for his kill, he attempts to enter the hut where she lives. He wakes up a man lying on the cot, caught in the awkward position of standing on the cot and attempting to walk over it. Raman looks down, gives the man a moment to look up and understand what he is seeing, and then smashes his skull. The woman comes up, and her face transforms with the terror of recognition. She retreats, backwards, into her house. Raman follows up. The door is partially open, and we see him raise his rod, and smash her skull, bludgeoned to death. At that time, her baby starts crying. Raman has already killed a young boy before, and you fear the worst. Instead, he picks up a milk bottle and starts feeding the baby. Now, an old woman enters. She has seen the dead man outside, and she understands what has happened. Raman and she look at each other. He leaves the baby, walks up to her, glares at her, and then walks away. She looks at him walking away, filled with shock and unable to react. Like a great white shark that’s just had his fill, Raman is not bloodthirsty at this moment. The woman is lucky to survive. On another occasion, a killing has happened and the background score accompanies a scene where Raghav is entering a house, expecting Raman to be inside. He pulls his gun, and cautiously enters. He searches the house to the beats of the score. Then he stops, understanding that no one is here, and begins to reflect on what he has just done. The music stops playing as a background score, and starts playing from somewhere in the house, a radio or a house near by. It’s a brilliant switch, jerking you back to reality.
The story itself is not as tight. It relies a lot more on the visual strength to establish credibility of the point it is driving to make. This works often, but not all the times. The reason that Raghav commits his first murder (and that sets this whole chain of events) is not convincing enough. The exposition itself is weak. At the end, we have Raman babbling about the Ramayana, explaining his actions and that of Raghav. It seems oddly out of place and character, but what is stranger is how convinced Raghav is by this talk. The idea is correct, but not convincingly executed.
However, much like a noir film, it is the visual force of Raman Raghav 2.0 that matters in getting a reaction from you, not so much the story. That being the purpose of the film, it is unnervingly successful.
Hindi, Thriller, Color