Saturday, August 6, 2016

Raman Raghav 2.0—Of Ram(an) and Ra(gha)van

Anurag Kashyap's Raman Raghav 2.0 is not the story of the notorious killer Raman Raghav who terrorized Bombay during the 1960s. It is the story of Ramanna (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), a serial killer who takes inspiration from his doppelganger, and Raghavan (Vicky Kaushal), a drug-addicted inspector investigating Ramanna's crimes. Early during the title credits of the film, there is an eerie moment in which the faces of Raman and Raghav are swapped, like it happens in a Snapchat filter. Essentially, the film suggests that both Raman and Raghav are similar to each other, even though one might be a criminal and the other is an inspector. Later, during the film, the entire narrative focuses on how they are exactly like each other. There is a popular bhajan that was Mahtama Gandhi's favorite. It is called Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram. The bhajan is a paean for Lord Rama. Raghupati Raghav means the descendent of Raghu, and Lord Rama was called Raghu as he belonged to Raghuvansh. Likewise, the film further underscores the point that Raman and Raghav are the same type of people as they even share the meaning of their names. Both of them have the same meaning as Lord Rama.
Raghav and Raman are both killers, and are doing God's work as Raman says. If Raman killed three of his family members, Raghav aborted three children of his own, so what is the difference? Raman uses a car jack to kill his victims; Raghav uses his gun to kill people. They are mirror images of each ohther. They both like to wear goggles, and can't stand aggression by someone else. They both are very much alike. One is considered good, and the other is considered evil. At one point, Raman gives a card to Simmy with one half of the face of both Raman and Raghav in it, again highlighting their sameness. The film's poster also shows something similar. It is the context of crime that the film is trying highlight.
At one point, Raman meets a man who is reading a newspaper, and the man asks Raman if he is a homosexual, and why was he a wearing a woman's earring in his ears. A few moments ago, Raman spies onto Raghav's room when he is having sexual intercourse with Simmy, and Raman remarks to himself that Raghav is trying to find himself in the woman, but he won't find it, how much he may try, hinting that he is the one who will bring Raghav peace. There is a Freudian element to this aspect. Raman says that he kills people to get contentment. He further elaborates that there is always a person in this world who completes each of us. And, for him Raghav was his soul mate. Raman ko uska Raghav mil gaya. People think that this soulmate will be a woman but they are wrong. He fell in love with him at the first sight when he saw him at the place of his first murder, and he waited long with patience that Raghav will come to him. Now, he has found him, and he will set him free. I almost thought that Raman and Raghav will start making out when he was telling him this. It is the purest form of love that Raman expressed for Raghav. It made me think if this had to also do something related to both of them being gay. We see that Raghav fights with his mom and Simmy as he does not want to get married, and he needs a Viagra pill when he meets Ankita to perform sexually. He is so mentally troubled (at many times, he reminded of Inspector Surjan from Talaash) and never seems satisifed even though he regularly sleeps with a woman. Earlier incidents of Raman wearing an earring and talking to the newspaper guy hint to his own homosexuality. When Raman goes to collect his money, he jokingly says Raghav took good care of him. Even the chapter is called 'Soul Mates' as if they are lovers. The film does not explicitly mention the sexual aspects of their love, but other than that, they are lovers Raman Raghav, like Heer Ranjha, Soni Mahiwal, or Ram Sita, except that Sita is Raavan (more on it later). Just look at the way Raman stares at Raghav when in the same room. They both complete each other. 
Another repeating motif in the film is that of animals. When Raman tries to con the policeman by saying that he committed all the murders, he says that his father used to say that he has eyes like that of a fox's and they glow in the night. He compares himself to the messenger of God and says that he is doing the police's work, just that he does not wear the uniform. In that very scene, Raghavan is standing next to a portrait of leopard as if hinting at that nature of power of the two. Both fox and leopard are hunters, but leopard is more powerful, like the uniform gives the power to Raghavan. Then, while narrating, Raman says, "Mere andar ka jaanwar jaag gaya," meaning that his inner animal woke up, and he killed the people. This inner animal again comes in the end when he says that these days people want to kill each other on some pretext. During the times of riots, violent mobs vent out their inner animal. People go to Syria to let out their animalistic feelings. People cross borders to let out their inner animal, but he kills alone, all by himself. Raman further adds that he has never killed a person by accident. He always wanted to kill, and exhorts Raghavan to embrace this, too. It is a deeply philosophical question that asks the question of the violent nature of humans, and if it requires some outlet. I was reminded of Betrand Russell's Machines And The Emotions, in which he had hypothesized, "The impulse to war has always existed since men took to living in societies, but it did not, in the past, have the same intensity or virulence as it has in our day. The greater ferocity of modern war is attributable to machines, which operate in three different ways. First, they make it possible to have larger armies. Secondly, they facilitate a cheap press, which flourishes by appealing to men’s baser passions. Thirdly, and this is the point that concerns us, they starve the anarchic, spontaneous side of human nature, which works underground, producing an obscure discontent, to which the thought of war appeals as affording possible relief." 
This animal motif continues in the form of a cat. Early in the film, Raman is seen near a bunch of rats and a cat. When he escapes from the lockhouse, he sees a black cat again as he is contemplating killing the woman who was cooking food. Then, he goes to his sister's place and tells her that he has been eating rats for the last two years, as if he is a cat. When in the end, he goes to sit outside Simmy's house, he is again seen around a cat. It again pointed at the evilness of Raman like that of a black cat, and that he was playing a cat and a mouse game with Raghavan. And, then, there is also the chicken at his sister's place. He relishes the chicken like he crushes his victims. 
There is another thread that that goes through the film, and it is related to Ramayana. When Raman is being interrogated, he points to a picture of Hanuman at the back of the wall. His sister's husband says that his brothers are in Sri Lanka, another place associated with Ramayana. When the guy who lends money to Raman is speaking to the police, he says Raman calls himself Ravan at times. Raghav's car has a Hanuman in it. Later, Raman meets Simmy in a grocery store, and tells her that it is Dussehra today. Later, there are shots of Ravan's effigy burning. When in the end, he is finally arrested he says that a pure Brahman like Ravan turned into a villain because of women. Ravan invented an airplane just because he wanted to abduct Sita. If we look at it, Raghavan contains the word Ravan in it. So, not only do their names mean Ram, but they are also like Ravan. There is an inner Ram and Ravan in each of us, the good and the evil, and they are images of each other. Raman kept talking about 'mukti'; even in Ramayana, Ravan got 'mukti' of his deeds by getting killed at the hands of Rama. There is Ramayana everywhere in the film.
In addition to Ramayana, the film is filled with explicit philosophical and religious symbols throughout. Raman says that he is the real child of God and converses with him regularly. When he first speaks to God, there is a picture of Lakshmi at the wall. When he goes to his sister's place, the wall is adorned with Om symbol. When he goes to kill Simmy's maid, there is 786 written on the wall, and there is a picture related to Islam inside the room. When he goes to meet his friend at the workshop, there is a picture of Jesus at the back, and his friend wears a cross in his neck. There are shots of Dussehra interspersed with people sacrificing themselves during Muharram. The repeating religious context is explained when Raman says that these days people hide their sins behind the veil of religion. They have brought God onto the streets and religion has become a show of majoritarianism. Indulging in this naked display does not prove anything, and the real children of God are those who converse with him. Raman might be a criminal in the eyes of law, but in the eyes of God, he has only displayed his true self. He killed people because he wanted to kill rather than hide behind some context. This is perhaps the most religious of Anurag Kashyap's movies. The film also lightly touches towards other sins, such as incest, abortion, and contraception. 
In what is a typical Anurag Kashyap touch, I laughed out loud when I should not at the point where Raman is eating at his sister's place and about to kill the boy, the wall has R.I.P stickers on it as if death of the family was preordained. The music of the film is lovely. I had not heard a single song, and while watching the film, I really liked all the songs. Qatl-E-Aam and Behooda are fabulous.

In early moments of the film, Raman calls Raghav and hums the tune of Aadmi Musafir Hai from Apnapan. Perhaps, by humming that tune, he is also trying to tell us all something. They say criminals are more interesting than normal people. Clearly, Raman is a fascinating one, but only to be known fictionally, and not in real life.  

Aadmi musafir hai, aata hai, jaata hai,
Aate jaate raste me, yaadein chhod jaata hai,
Jab dolti hai, jeewan kee naiyya,
Koi to ban jaata hai khiwayyaa,
Koi kinaare pe hi doob jaata hai.

Dialogue of the Day:
"Aapun ko lagta hai aapun apko aapse jayada pahchanta hai."
—Raman, Raman Raghav 2.0


  1. very awesome post.. i clapped when i saw the title.. ram and ravan.. just brilliant.. the small details you observe.. the animal thing.. the soulmate thing.. the whole ramayana... best. and yes.. once again congratulation for reply from anurag sir... you deserve for this post

  2. You'll find this interesting.

    1. Thank you for sharing the wonderful article :)


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