Darkness is one of those things that I have found myself getting attracted to in films over the years. To me, it is one side of ours that we wouldn't show others or even look at ourselves unless alone. It is in these dark sides of our personalities that we get thoughts that are not so noble and would definitely be shunned by the "society". I'm sure you will agree with me when I say that there have been moments whether when we were at an emotional abyss after a long day at work or at a time everything seemed too much and too difficult to do when you would have had dark thoughts like plotting to avenge the current status or "getting rid" of someone.
I also believe that it is due to the presence of such dark sides of our personalities we like films with dark ideologies. Take the success of Joker for instance. The film went on to win two Oscars. The cinematic brilliance aside, which forms the key point when a film goes to the Academy, the film was an instant hit for the realistic and grounded treatment of the DC Supervillain that people could relate to. And it is this factor of reliability that has got the villains more lovable. As the famous adage goes, "We like heroes when we are kids and understand the villains as we grow older." It is all because these "villains" get to live the dark life that we can only dream of.
Let's come closer home. When it comes to relatable dark characters there is one man in the Indian cinema fraternity who has carved a niche for himself in this space. His films like Ugly, No Smoking, and Dev D. are known for their dark characters, almost dystopian/unrealistic settings, kaleidoscopic lighting and most importantly stomach-churning gore in the violence. I was intrigued by his Gangs of Wasseypur. The first thing that I was surprised about was the relentless and unbridled use of cuss words! I guess that is also a reason why the CBFC gave it an 'A' rating. Another reason was the unusual use of music. GV Prakash Kumar was fantastic in his period-era music where he captured the moments and emotions were just pure brilliance. Follow that up with the dark humour that is there throughout the film. That is the most striking factor in my opinion. For a film that deals with Godfather-like grandness in gang wars, this dark humour definitely provides an almost guilty pleasure in the film-watching experience that is engaging and entertaining.
Following this film, I had made it a point to watch all his films - (posts alert! More posts on this director's films coming up!) but didn't get the time to watch till a few days ago when I watched the film under discussion - Raman Raghav 2.0. I had read a fair bit about this film before watching it. The buzz and the confusion about whether it was a film about the famous serial killer (which it is not) and the fact that there is a Sriram Raghavan connection to the film made me watch it. And man, you guys should watch it. I'll give you a brief peek into the film sure, but the experience has to be watched and felt. Here we go...
Raman Raghav is a dark, twisted, intelligent, suspenseful... wait for it... love story. Yes, you read that right. It is a one-sided dangerous love/obsession of Ramanna a.k.a Raman a.k.a. Sindhi Talwai (played by a prolific Nawazuddin Siddiqui - one of his finest performances) and Raghav (a nascent and slightly uptight but nevertheless impressive Vicky Kaushal). It is about the world of two different psychotic nuts who have their own worlds of kanoon which, at times, blurs the lines in the real world. Each one is high with a poison of choice (pun intended, sorry just couldn't resist) - one of narcotics and the other of murder. One thinks that the reason for his existence is to create a balance by putting into action what Yamraj wants. Another thinks that it is okay to get rid of anyone from the equation if he/she has the potential to ruin his peace. Both of them have issues while growing up. Raghav has daddy issues and Raman has issues with his sister and the society at large. Raghav believes in keeping his mess clean. So he literally does that. Cleans up things not thinking about whether his actions have any impact on the job that he does - Assistant Commissioner of Police. Or is it because he is in a position of authority that he holds? Maybe both. You will figure out the reason when you read the X-Ray feature in Prime Video while watching it there. There are three other women characters - though not with as much depth as these two, but nevertheless important - who have a lot of say in their lives, whether they like it or not. Raman is cool, composed, intelligent, calculated and yet at the same time like a dog chasing cars, an agent of orchestrated mayhem and death. Raghav is intelligent as well, but a hothead with a temper. He is always on the lookout for something, something to complete a void, the emptiness that is eating him from within. To understand the hyperlink above, look for the scene where he decides to go after a woman feeding her son with a rock in his hand and stops when he sees that there is way too much audience for his act.
The film is divided into chapters, like a novel and the whole film definitely feels like one. Each of the chapters takes us a bit deeper into the mind of the protagonist-pair and into their "worlds". And with each chapter, the world gets all murkier, greyer and messier that gets reflected on the screen as well. For a film that starts off in the "posh" club (note the psychedelic lighting, the trance kind of music which are all "messy" in their own way). Ram Sampath is brilliant in the background score. The pulsating Qatl-e-Aam, in the beginning, and the evil Behuda in the middle add colour to the story in ways that can only be experienced.
The film is a satisfying experience because it comes a full circle. It ends at the exact same spot where both the main characters commit their descend to the nadir of their selves - one to the bottomless abyss of self-loathing and another into the world of blood-curdling evil. Note the way Raman describes how Raghav killed a guy in a long drawn out dramatic narration that makes only Raghav jittery. Follow that with the last scene how he narrates Raghav's other murder more directly - using the exact situations as Raghav went through, this time just making up the part that those were his situations and not Raghav's.
I couldn't think of a better way of showing how courageous the character has grown to have the balls of describing a murder that a cop committed to the cop himself!
There are moments of pure cinematic brilliance in the film. In the first scene where he delivers a monologue of how he hears the voice of God, there's a radio static that goes on in the background and abruptly stops in the appropriate moment where the context begins to change. Also in that very same scene, he says that his father used to note that his eyes used to glow in the dark like a jackal's. We get a reference to it when he peeps down the whole of a house's ceiling later on. Then there's my favourite - the lighting that Kashyap uses throughout this film. The flashes of green and red are so cool that they bring out the murkiness of the slums, the darkness in the minds of Ram and Raghav and most importantly sustain the mood of the film throughout.
I would go on and on about this gem of a film. But let me stop here. I'm sure I have given enough of this auteur to get you interested in his films. Go watch a few of his (probably by then I would have watched a few more myself) and we shall have a debate about it. What say?