Anurag Kashyap on his true-crime inspired thriller Raman Raghav 2.0
...and what he's learnt from Bombay Velvet
The chilling first look of Raman Raghav 2.0 seems to have brought the tribe of Anurag Kashyap loyalists out of hiding. “I have waited years to get this kind of a response!” says the 43-year-old film-maker, who lost his footing as the kingpin of neo-noir in India after Bombay Velvet was skewered with acid reviews last year. Now, with Raman Raghav 2.0, which premiered at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, Kashyap revisits a long-time fixation of his: ‘Psycho Raman’, a serial killer who operated in 1960s Mumbai. “I have been obsessed with him since 1994-’95. One of my first jobs was working with [directors] Shivam Nair and Sriram Raghavan. They had just finished shooting [the 1992 docu-drama] Raman Raghav and I was completely fascinated by the story,” he says. Kashyap’s story, co-written by Vasan Bala, uses a contemporary setting. “Period films require a lot of money. I had to make it modern. We turned [Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s] character into a man who is obsessed with Raman Raghav and has grown up with stories of him.”
ELLE: Personally, what did you find most disturbing about Raman Raghav’s method?
Anurag Kashyap: He was remorseless. He just killed randomly. If he was hungry and found somebody with leftover food who would not give it to him, he would kill him. He had this fear of confrontation. He once killed a woman because he was curious about breast milk. So, he killed her and just went and sucked on her breasts. He operated all alone during the night, and was a very strong man. Raman Raghav 2.0 is not based on him, but it does borrow a lot from his life.
ELLE: Is Vicky Kaushal’s character also inspired from real life?
AK: It is inspired from a real life police officer who was suspended, and who I have been obsessed with for a long time. He’s probably in Australia now, working in a ranch. [In the film] Vicky Kaushal’s character is from Punjab and has a drug habit from his childhood. So it’s not [totally] based on real life.
This role was not written for Vicky, I wrote it with someone else in mind. That actor got scared that didn’t want to play second fiddle to Nawaz, so he left. Vicky came to audition, but I did not think he could do it. Though I know he is sincere, because he was my assistant, but I thought he was completely different. He doesn’t drink or smoke and he has had quite a sheltered life. He was an engineer and, you know… he studied. His audition was actually the best.
ELLE: What has Bombay Velvet taught you about failure?
AK: I think people must own their failure and that happens if you do things exactly the way you want to. I often questioned myself: ‘Did I go out and do things exactly the way I wanted to do? Did I take too much pressure?’ I can’t blame anyone for that. What I regret is the moment when I was on the back foot. Bombay Velvet was a film I wanted to make for years and I was so desperate to make it, that in order to do that I screwed up a whole lot of things. Twice in my life I was working with stars and both the times the pressure was the budget. These were the only times when I listened to a lot of people because there was pressure to perform. One was No Smoking and the second was Bombay Velvet. I lost my objectivity somewhere. I was making a film and it became about trying to get an opening, and choosing love story over story of the city. [I was] listening to far too many people who just wanted a hit; nobody wants a movie. It was my failure and my regret is I don’t completely own my failure. Which is why it hurts.
ELLE: As a champion of emerging film-making talent, are there any new voices you are interested in at the moment?
AK: I am really interested in seeing how the TVF guys and AIB guys go out and make a film because this is the time they should do it. There are lots of new voices I am working closely with. I think by next year, there will be five to six new film-makers that [Phantom Films] will be releasing. I am very interested in the world knowing the talent of Vasan Bala and I want the world to know the voice of Shlok Sharma. There is also Hardik Mehta, who just won a National award.
Raman Raghav 2.0 is out on June 24