An opening rider in Raman Raghav 2.0 establishes the film’s connect (as well as the disconnect) with the infamous serial killer of the 60s Mumbai: Raman Raghav, who had left a trail of 41 odd murders behind him. “This film is not about him,” the disclaimer states. Indeed the film is about a contemporary copycat killer. But then it is not just about the new age Ramanna either.

Whodunnit? Whydunnit? Howdunnit? Raman Raghav 2.0 is actually neither of the above. Yes there are many murders that keep you riveted but they are not an end in themselves. They are more a contrivance, as is the cat and mouse game between the killer Ramanna (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) and the cop Raghuvendra Singh Ubbi (Vicky Kaushal). The slayings and slaughters are mere pitstops in the journey of these two characters and their unfolding relationship with each other. The killings (right from the one at the start till those in the end) are devices through which Anurag Kashyap explores the crime vs law binary.

He brings the two together, coalesces and fuses them. Is there much that separates the two? Aren’t they reflections of each other? The film is a long chase in which each is actually running after his own shadow. It is as if Kashyap deliberately splits an immoral, unlawful mind into two and the film then becomes a voyage to a metaphoric completion. As if on cue Ramanna says of Raghav: “Apni mukti aurat mein dhoondh raha hai (He is looking for his own redemption in a woman).” Implying quite kinkily that it is he who is actually his salvation.

They share much in common. Both have emerged from squalid surroundings; belong to worlds that are rotten and foul. Be it the filthy slums or a decaying middle class family. So a passing reference to Vasantbalan’s Angadi Theru seems quite appropriate in the scheme of the film.

 Both Ramanna and Raghav are also creatures bred and brought up in patriarchy, are victims of it (Raghav’s uneasy but submissive equation with his dad for instance) yet perpetuating its deep misogyny. No wonder women, however strong-willed, get the worst end of the stick, be it Ramanna’s victims or Raghav’s girls.

Some sequences stand out. Ramanna holding his sister’s family hostage brings out his sick mind in the queasiest way possible. A massacre followed by a feast of some chicken curry and to top it all that dynamite of a song– Behooda. Most satisfying! Or that unnervingly funny killing in slums even as an old lady is too busy collecting the potatoes fallen from her bag. The killings and bloodshed might be kept off screen but the gore and gruesomeness reach out. The black humour adds to the horror. How in the long scene at the very start Ramanna confesses to his crimes only to be let off by the police. Owning up becomes his ticket to freedom, and to more murders than the nine already committed.

More than the story itself, it is the quirky telling that is the key. Structured around eight chapters, vividly shot in the slums, pulsating with raucous music, Raman Raghav 2.0 is a taut thriller, full of energy and brimming over with tension. It doesn’t flag even once and holds the viewer tightly in its grip. Such is the dizzying momentum and pace that you even stop caring about some missing pieces of the jigsaw that would have been niggling you. Clear-cut, uncomplicated Raman Raghav 2.0 takes you on an entertainment high.