Anurag Kashyap’s crime saga Bombay Velvet had opened around this time last year and proved Hindi cinema’s biggest disaster. Hoping to bounce back from that failure, Kashyap screened his latest, Raman Raghav 2.0, at the Cannes Film Festival 2016 on Monday.
Set in contemporary Mumbai, the crime thriller has been inspired from the legend of the mid-60s serial killer in Bombay, Raman Raghav.
Screened under the Director’s Fortnight section, early reviews have been mixed, mostly on the count of a genre-bound, unoriginal story.
The Hollywood Reporter’s Deborah Young writes: “Keeping the director’s trademark violence and bloodshed more or less off-screen, it’s far less unpleasant to watch than the child kidnapping story Ugly (Kashyap’s 2014 thriller), though it shows a similar level of cynicism towards the Mumbai police force. Upping the ante, the question here is not police incompetence or even corruption, but their license to kill that tempts a coke-addled officer into very dark waters."
Portraying the serial killer Raman, Nawazuddin Siddiqui has earned a lot of praise, while Vicky Kaushal, in the role of police officer Raghav, has been unanimously described as the weak link.
“What the film lacks is the sense of a Manhunter-style battle of wits. Raman is hardly a criminal mastermind. He is hiding in plain sight, usually with a blood-caked tyre iron to hand. He’s a lunatic blowhard who brags his crimes to all and sundry. Raghav, meanwhile, makes Harvey Keitel’s Bad Lieutenant look positively pollyanna by comparison. Neither character is developed into much more than an assortment of base urges, which is one of the reasons that, bracing fun as it is to watch, the film is rather an empty thrill," writes Screen Daily’s Wendy Ide.
French website Télérama’s Jacques Morice, on the other hand, has been more effusive in his praise for the film, describing it as an irresistible, tense film crafted with expertise.
The Hollywood Reporter further remarks that apart from Kashyap’s cult following abroad, the film seems most suited to the tastes of Indian viewers.
The other Indian export to Cannes, Shirley Abraham and Amit Madheshiya’s documentary, The Cinema Travellers, opened to unanimous acclaim from critics for a moving portrayal of travelling movie houses in India.
Describing it as an evocative, subtle and heartfelt snapshot, The Guardian’s Benjamin Lee says the film refrains from sentimentality. “It’s refreshing to see a documentary where those on camera remain so undisturbed by the presence of the camera. There’s not a moment that feels forced or tweaked to ensure an emotional beat gets checked off, which results in both immersion and authenticity at every stage of the film," writes Lee.
Variety’s Nick Schager writes: “The Cinema Travellers proves a heartfelt tribute to India’s cinematic-caravan traditions and the disappearing art, skill and spiritual thrill of 35mm projection—what with its complicated lenses, cigarette-burned strips, and often-scratchy imagery."