Raman Raghav 2.0
Raman Raghav 2.0PR handout

IBTimes Review: 3

The biggest asset of a film by director Anurag Kashyap is the character study he brings to the screen. Add a good story, great acting from most of the characters, and a taut script to the mix, and you have films like "Black Friday," "Gangs of Wasseypur," "Dev D" and "Ugly." Without any one of them, he is stuck with the likes of "Bombay Velvet" and his latest offering: "Raman Raghav 2.0."

Make no mistake: "Raman Raghav 2.0" is no way a bad film. However, there is only so much Nawazuddin Siddiqui can pull a film. In the absence of the aforementioned taut script, some scenes feel stretched. But that is still not a transgression, given how many superfluous scenes get into films these days. Also, "Raman Raghav 2.0" is missing a lot of the genre-defining character study that defines Kashyap's films.

For those who had brushed up their history with a quick study of the original Raman Raghav, aka Psycho Raman, be prepared to be both disappointed and elated. This film is not about the psychopathic serial killer from the 1960s, but this Raman, inspired by the original serial killer, adopts his name and aliases. Hence, "Raman Raghav 2.0."

This film is set in 2015, with a prologue from 2013, and is about Ramanna aka Raman. How he turns a corrupt police officer, who is actually hunting for him, into his "partner" Raghav forms the crux of the film.

The filth, dilapidation and corruption of Mumbai is rarely captured with more clarity and grime as has been by cinematographer Jay Oza for Kashyap. His shot composition seems to have complemented Kashyap's style of in-your-face realism well. However, the script seems to be a loose end, despite being complemented well by complete silences and good music by Ram Sampat. Songs like "Sachcha Behuda" really give you the creeps.

The story seems somewhat of a failing as well, never exuding the sence of inevitability that Kashyap had established as his hallmark in "Gangs of Wasseypur" or "Dev D."

So why does this film, which seems to be little more than mediocre, get 3 stars? Two words: Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Sure, the other actors, like Amruta Subhash as Raman's sister and Sobhita Dhulipala as the police inspector's "girlfriend," stand out, sometimes even more than Vicky Kaushal as the cop, but Siddiqui is so good as the psychopathic Raman that even adjectives like "brilliant" fall short. Not for a moment does the viewer get the impression that he is something else. And he is the sole reason the film gets 3 stars.

Amruta Subhash as Raman's sister Lakshmi's shows a spark that can pale many of today's leading "heroines." Lakshmi's calm efforts to save her injured husband and tied-up six-year-old son who are being held hostage by Raman defintiely stay fresh in the mind long after the film, cemented by her last-ditch incestuous efforts, which bear testimony to the troubled relationship they have. Amruta really does justice to her National School of Drama pedigree.

Sobhita Dhulipala as the cop's sexual partner – for want of a better or more suitable description – does not have much to do, and yet manages to impress in certain scenes, like the one where her character is asking the cop to use protection while having sex.

Vicky Kaushal had been really impressive on his debute in "Masaan," but seems to have been stuck at the same level after showing some promise. The restraint in his depiction of the corrupt police officer sometimes come across as woodennes, and he will be better off getting rid of it, and fast!

In the end, this film is a good watch only for Nawazuddin Siddiqui, whose expressions are best enjoyed on the big screen. Don't wait for this one to come to the small screen, for its essence might be lost by then.