Archive for June, 2016

Raman Raghav 2.0

Raman-Raghav-2.0-Poster

Raman Raghav 2.0
Release date: June 24, 2016
Directed by: Anurag Kashyap
Cast: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Vicky Kaushal, Sobhita Dhulipala, Amruta Subhash, Ashok Lokhande, Mukesh Chhabra

Raman Raghav was a serial killer in the ’60s and the rest you can Google for yourself. Raman Raghav 2.0, with a disclaimer, tells us that this film is NOT about him. It’s inspired from his brutalities, and in turn lead to an inspired character who looks up to the notorious criminal.

Ramanna (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) is mostly unnamed through the film, even when he pays a visit to his sister after being away from her for a period of seven years. His sister (Amruta Subhash) isn’t particularly happy to see him; nor her little son and old husband (Ashok Lokhande) but yet he makes himself feel welcomed, if not with his harsh words, then with a car jack and a motorcycle helmet.

Little is given away about his troubled past with his sister, and his individual past. He calls himself Sindhi Dalwai, an alias that the original Raman Raghav went by in his time. He maintains a small diary where he lists down his conquests, often giving them made-up names, as he kills indiscriminately. Or when he gets a call from god, as he claims.

On the other hand, is ACP Raghavan (Vicky Kaushal) who crosses paths with Ramanna, not by chance though. Raghavan is a cop with serious issues. He cokes up at a crime scene. He has an obnoxiously ignorant view on birth control and protected sex. And he has consistent daddy issues, so much so that his father (Vipin Sharma) still gets to threaten him and talk about what a great fuck up he is, in a room filled with strangers.

In an interview, Kashyap claimed this film to be a love story. Ramanna perceives Raghavan to be like him. He feels that they are made for each other because they are both killers. One of them is licensed to kill, and the other one finds killing to be a natural instinct. Just like eating, shitting and fornicating, killing is important too. His act of getting Raghavan to like him sets off the stereotypical cat and mouse chase between the supposed protagonist and the antagonist.

Kashyap even references a little shtick from his Black Friday, in the sardined shanties of Mumbai, brimming with filth and poverty. He plays to his strengths, which are packing in uncomfortable conversations and making them entertaining. Ramanna has a child-like glow when he confesses his transgressions. Simi (Sobhita Dhulipala), Raghavan’s girlfriend, cuts him off in the middle of a, what appears like a usual act of abuse he’d partake in any other night, and attends to a phone call by taking a timeout. You wouldn’t know if you should laugh level dark comedy is his strong point.

The women appear as mere props in the path of destruction, but they both have character. Amruta Subhash playing Raman’s conflicted sister is scared of him, yet she wouldn’t stand by as a spectator while he wreaks havoc in her house. Simi shares a volatile relationship with Raghav. She knows when to tighten the leash around his neck and when to hold back. Only detail they probably missed out on was her profession. A very small, yet confusing flaw.

The performances of all actors involved are thoroughly ingrained with their parts. The camera holds tight frames, fixed on the characters’ faces. The focus, though, slips away from the face to reduce the amount of gore on screen, and substitutes it with powerful sound. Basic storytelling rule done good. You flinch, and your toes curl up. You may even clatter your teeth. Nawazuddin lends a lot to that effect with his towering portrayal of a manic voyeur and a relentlessly honest truthfulness to his reality. The Hindi film industry would do better with some more Amruta Subhash around. She’s extremely gritty and nuanced in the only extended sequence of the film that she is in.

Side note: Mukesh Chhabra was in two films in two weeks. And this performance was a hoot!

Dhulipala has a strong presence and is quite potent in her role. Vicky Kaushal is trusted with a lot of heavy lifting, and he fits in as much as he can without fracturing his back. He is asked to be asserting, authoritative and simultaneously an addict. Again, that’s a flaw I find with the writing. A grouse that I have with the execution of the murders is that there is a consistent effort to dilute the gravity of every act of barbarism with a piece of background music. It’s not on the level that American Psycho did it, where there was absolutely no worth to the loss of humans in the film. But then it’s a recurring theme, which steals some of the investment from the viewer.

Raman Raghav 2.0 is Kashyap toying with a setting that he’s most comfortable in, and just how none of his films are, even this one isn’t about a moral lesson in living your life in a certain way, or not committing forty odd murders on the streets of a city. It’s a purely sadistic slasher film with a perfectly acceptable twist at the end, and with Kashyap’s brand of humor and wit.

My rating: ***1/2 (3.5 out of 5)

Udta Punjab

udta-punjab-poster

Udta Punjab
Release date: June 17, 2016
Directed by: Abhishek Chaubey
Cast: Alia Bhatt, Shahid Kapoor, Diljit Dosanjh, Kareena Kapoor, Satish Kaushik, Manav Vij, Suhail Nayyar

On the Pakistani side of the Punjab-Pakistan border, a discus throw athlete is brought along to catapult a package of “brown powder” into a farm field in Punjab. On the Indian end, another athlete of her own merit chances upon this thrown contraband while she works as a farmer. The state of non-cricket playing athletes bares stark similarities on both sides of the Line of Control.

A heavily-tattooed pop star glorifies the use of substances, like his western and other global counterparts have done for decades now. He doesn’t have a damaged past that forced him into drug abuse, heck, he had a glorious past. But the life expectancy of all that early glory makes him obsessed with his own cock, figuratively and literally.

A young kid, from a presumably healthy household, starts using just because the drug is too accessible and all his friends are doing it. Another addict is turned into one by brute force and sheer fatality.

A junior police inspector questions his senior if they are also going to turn into powerless bystanders to the Mexican drug mafia like contagion of the Punjabi drug nexus, to which the latter throws open a public display of authority by faking to seize a large consignment of the popular poison, and let’s the carrier of the said consignment get away after grabbing more money and lashing out a few slaps.

These are the central characters of Abhishek Chaubey’s Udta Punjab. Kareena Kapoor’s public helping Dr. Preet Sahni is a collateral to the thoroughly set-in system. There is hardly any glorification, or a positive sentiment attached to the depiction of drug consumption here, and that should give away the intent of the makers. The film keeps bouncing between a dark comedy and grim introspections of the central characters.

The protagonists lead their separate lives, constantly a part of the narcotic environment, where the number of enablers is shockingly high. A political under current runs along the narrative of the film, which isn’t set as the central plot of the film, and it isn’t even treated so. The film doesn’t even finish with a grand exposé to unmask the bad guys disguised as ghosts at the hands of Scooby Doo, or Jackie Chan.

In one slightly contrived romantic moment, Dr Sahni says to Sub Inspector Sartaj (Diljit Dosanjh), there are two wars against drugs going on. The first one is the obvious one, and the second one is the one that people around us are constantly fighting. The urge to have that another hit of their choice of drug. She helps young kids and adults get out of the circle at her rehab center.

Udta Punjab, the film concentrates more on its characters to tell a story of a larger problem. Therefore it focuses more on their individual journeys and how they fall in and out of cocaine/heroin. Amit Trivedi’s powerful music is always mixed with story progression, thereby cutting off some of the most memorable work that he’s done in recent times. Da Da Dasse, Chitta Ve, Has Nach Le and Ikk Kudi are given some footage, whereas Ud Da Punjab and Vadeeya hardly get to be heard.

Chaubey and Sudip Sharma have woven Shiv Kumar Batalvi’s poetry masterfully with a track in the film. Shahid Kapoor as the erratic, and eccentric Tommy Singh, the Gabru MAN, is an eclectic mix of lunacy, and joy. He is the comic relief, and the emotional conditioner, with his one sequence with his uncle just before the halfway mark. The limp in his walk, the slow motion mic throw at one of his audience members, the trembling of his fingers with a gun in his hand, Kapoor owns his character completely.

While Kapoor is supported by Satish Kaushik and Suhail Nayyar in his performance, Diljit shows an earnest spirit with his Sartaj. Even he is supported by a pleasantly vanilla real world snow-white princess like Kareena Kapoor and Manav Vij as the vindictive senior police officer. Alia Bhatt on the other hand, has a deglamorized appearance as compared to the rest of the cast, and perhaps the most complex part of them all. Entrusted with the most heartbreaking character arc, and a particularly very disturbing sequence, Alia pulls off the Bihari accent with a twang and grounds Tommy’s hedonistic ego in the only scene that they share.

Sure, there are kinks with the slightly overlong political angle, but Udta Punjab is so relentless that there are moments where you would want to laugh like a hyena, and yet can’t get yourself to do it because the said moment is very painful at the same time. To inspire humor and sadness, and empathy in the same breath is the greatest achievement of this film.

Screw the censor board.

My rating: ***1/2 (3 & 1/2 out of 5)

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