Let us ask you a question, Mr. Kashyap. Why do you think people stopped watching Ram Gopal Varma's movies? (And that's a different question from why people started hating him. You know the difference, we're sure.) What if we told you that something similar might be happening with your own films?
Raman Raghav 2.0's plot, in content if not in details, is something RGV would want to rub his face all over into. What with serial killer Ramanna (Siddiqui) using a blunt L-shaped iron road to bludgeon his victims to death. And there's that drug addict cop Raghav (Kaushal) who conveniently snatches a moment to snort cocaine at a crime scene. Throw into this mix a girl (Sobhita Dhulipala) who unhesitatingly submits herself to the abuse of Raghav although he talks of her as the most replaceable object after a doormat. RGV's spectre (not that he's dead but something like that) is grinning right now.
Now you might say that just choosing a similar genre wouldn't make you anything like RGV. What about the detail? What about the psychological exploration into the characters? What about the unconventional themes? Raman Raghav 2.0 in its final form is a total different beast from what anything RGV would ever come up with. Surely, that is enough reason to stop this nonsense about your films going the same path as Varma's.
We buy your point, too. Your filmmaking is indeed spectacular. The casual but super-quirky conversations (like that whole thing of five hundred and fifteen hundred adding to twenty thousand - where do you come up with such stuff?), the deeply stirring visual of torching Ravana during Dussehra, your curious ways of showing violence without actually showing violence (the camera points somewhere else but the disturbing thuds make their way into our heads), your superb use of music (Ram Sampath's fast-paced electronic beats and the completely contrary strains of the tabla - everything enhances and is enhanced by the scenes) - we love it, all of it.
And we were also blown by Mr Siddiqui. Where does the guy summon that conviction? We shouldn't get into a silly contemplation of whether this is his best performance but we could go the extent of saying there is perhaps no other actor who may have done what Siddiqui manages to do with Ramanna. The generally self-effacing meek gent (at least that's what he comes across as in his interviews) metamorphoses into such a remorseless mad monster, and often he's enough to hold the screen. Vicky Kaushal's disturbed and disturbing performance just becomes a bonus. This is indeed glorious stuff on many levels.
But sometimes, that may just not be enough for the audience (and we aren't talking from some removed elevated standpoint - the reviewer particularly identifies as general audience here), you know. This is where we may begin to get a glimpse at why we felt you're going the RGV way.
These sort of films aren't exactly evergreen material. The content, we mean. Crime films, dark films, disturbing films are watched often, but the deal is that the audience needs a certain novelty in presentation. You could call it shock value if there's emphasis on the negativity, but the idea really is to give the audience a sense of seeing something they've not seen before. RGV managed that very well with Satya and Company
and the like. You pulled that off, too, with Gulaal
, Dev D
, Gangs of Wasseypur
(of course!) and the like.
However, unlike love stories or family stories or plain masala which people treat like regular meals - you don't bunk dinner because you had breakfast - these films are seen as the exotic and risqué dishes whose appeal steadily diminishes with every consumption. So we see a dime-a-dozen ordinary love stories which people continue to watch despite little craft. But when it comes to the kind of dark stuff you're making, people need much more than just good craft. What that much more is or should be, we can't say.
, your last regular undertaking (let's not discuss Bombay Velvet
in this context), too, was a bloody well-made film. But few people saw any reason to watch it. Raman Raghav 2.0 got more attention because of Siddiqui, but for most viewers it wasn't the same goosebumps experience as your earlier movies. Something was dull, something was underwhelming, and that isn't exactly forgiven in thrillers.
What's more, at least Ugly had a strong moral axis even though no one in the film did. Raman Raghav 2.0 doesn't even have that. There is a pale blink-and-you-miss-it sort of a moral axis which flashes towards the end but you were more keen on exploring your dark protagonists. That left us, morality seekers, hanging.
So the film's plot began to look like: murder - abuse - drug abuse - sexual abuse - murder - abuse - murder - murder - stalking - murder - murder - abuse - xenophobic abuse - murder - drug abuse - sexual abuse - murder - the strangest bonding scene between the leads - murder.
Yup, that's it.
Which is why it was difficult to like Raman Raghav 2.0. Sure, serial killers may be built that way, but a lot many people aren't exactly passionate about serial killers. To peek into their psyche and realise that it is an amoral abyss which is neither pretty nor disgustingly attractive is an experience that most of us don't particularly care about.
You know who else didn't care for what the audience cared about? Ram Gopal Verma. He made whatever he felt like (and that's a perfectly acceptable decision, of course). People stopped caring altogether when he didn't even work on his craft. With you, though, we still appreciate the craft, but we're beginning to wonder whether you care about what we care about. Some of us will continue to watch your films for the sheer cinematic experience they tend to be, but with the rest, you're probably saying your goodbyes.