raman raghav (1992) – and some curry and rice

It’s rarely that a film shot on U-matic Hi Band holds its own after 18 years. Sriram Raghavan had a preview screening of his tele-film ‘Raman Raghav’ when we were students at the FTII. He was a senior only by a very few years, but respected because of his cinematic diploma ‘8-Column Affair‘.

‘Raman Raghav’ at the time re-emphasized his ease with the craft. What has stuck in my brain all these years is an effect he used for the narrative climax, the moment when the police inspector notices and then, recognizes Raman Raghav in a crowd. The effect in itself is simple, a re-wind, but its logical use took it out of the realm of gimmickry.

Yesterday, while re-watching the film, what struck most were the locations in Mumbai, and the masterful use of them. Sriram managed to execute some difficult shots in difficult locations, including a long track shot, back and forth, and back and forth again, in an alley in the slum. He said that they managed it in 3 takes. If they’d taken any more, they may have got beaten up, as they had blocked all traffic to and fro for the slum dwellers. I wouldn’t blame the slum dwellers because the crew had also blocked the communal toilets.

The cinematographer, Hari Nair, seems to have been unfazed even in the tiniest lanes around Dongri. There is another memorable track back shot from a car with the actor running towards the camera, through a crowded marketplace.

But the quieter locations too, like the canal, where Raman hides his paltry treasures and his murder weapon; the railway tracks and the shots of the telegraph poles lend a poignancy to the poverty around. While some of the performances are very ‘television’, oh, let’s act our hearts out variety, Sriram in some scenes has used ‘real’ people which adds to the documentary feel of the film. But what makes the film absolutely ‘real’ is Raghuvir Yadav‘s outstanding performance. His quiet, unpredictable, short-tempered and child-like Raman Raghav is menacing, creepy and yet, pitiful, with no overt drama, with just the fact of his being the way he is, a sick man.

Sriram mentioned that there was a lot of resistance from his producers against the casting of Raghuvir Yadav who was then very very popular as the simpleton, comic Mungerilal from Doordarshan’s TV serial ‘Mungerilal ke Haseen Sapne‘. After the first morning of shoot, they wanted to go through the rushes, ostensibly to make sure that everything had ‘come out’ well. But Sriram realized only 2 years later, that they may have stopped shooting if they felt Raghu-bhai was not working out right.

The film is about a serial killer, Raman Raghav who killed 42 people in the 60s in Mumbai. It was privately commissioned as one of the pilot episodes for a TV serial on police cases that had been successfully solved. But sadly, the serial never got made, and ‘Raman Raghav’ remained unseen by most people.

Yesterday, while we watched it, it ended with the voice-over that Raman Raghav died in prison due to medical complications on 7 April, 1988. Yesterday, was the 7 April, 2010. Sriram also told us of another queer coincidence that occurred when they shot the film.

There is a scene in the film where Raman having lost his first murder weapon, goes back to a local iron-smith to get another welded. The vision in his head calls for an iron pipe turned in a particular way. Sriram said that even in 1992, when he shot the film, there were not many iron-smiths around who still worked the bellows and the hammer with their hands. They found one forge in Jogeshwari, and it so turned out during a conversation with the iron-smith, that it was the same forge where Raman Raghav had actually had his weapon made in the 60s. The iron-smith then was the present iron-smith’s father.

My usual grouse against films made about criminals is that the cinematic medium in itself willy-nilly turns the criminal into a hero. But ‘Raman Raghav’ escapes this trap. You never forget the horror of the killings though you do feel pity for the mentally sick Raman Raghav. The noise from the telegraph poles that hums in Raman’s ears, made me wonder how much easier it must be for people to go mad these days, in this city, with the continuous noise of traffic, horns, and film music dinning in our ears.

The sound of the film remains unmixed. The DVD quality, copied as it is from Hi-Band, is not of the best. And yet, the film holds your attention for 70 odd minutes. Goes to prove that a good script, camera work, editing and performances can beat DI and special FX any day.

Oh yes, we also spoke at length about piracy yesterday. It was strange that most of us ‘intellectuals’ gathered there were against intellectual property rights and for piracy. (More on that in some other post). So if you find a copy of ‘Raman Raghav’ somewhere, even if it is pirated, watch it. Specially if it comes accompanied with lots of food lovingly prepared, lots of friends, and lots of gup-shup. Thanks to the MAFIA.

18 thoughts on “raman raghav (1992) – and some curry and rice

  1. hehe I am all for piracy too – but (I suspect) not for the same reasons as you! πŸ™‚ Why are you and your fellow film-makers for it? You really must do that post.

    Hopefully I will find a copy of Raman Raghav… Even without the food and friends, it sounds like a must-watch. Its so rare to find Raghuvir Yadav in a decent role and he is a superb actor – the only other film where he has a meaty part (that I know of) is Massey Sahib. Usually he just tends to be relegated to bit parts or comedian-in-chief.

    1. Yes, he did ‘Massey Sahib’ around the same time too. Guess that was his good period. But then got lost in the usual commercial racket. Sad.

  2. superb piece batul!! πŸ™‚
    i will be happy to share it(along with curry and rice and booze, or perhaps chai and biscuits if its in the daytime) for other folks too… so even if they dont know me personally… please write in to :yahoogurpal@gmail.com …. will probably have another round of screenings in end april ( for today’s screening raghuvir yadav is also expected πŸ™‚ will be great to see HIS reaction after all this while)

    1. Hi Gurpal, Do you still have a copy of Raman Raghav by S Raghavan? I have been looking for it of quite some time now with no luck. Am interested, do let me know. Thanks!

  3. I remember everyone being very excited about this in 92-93 when I was at SCM. Sadly never got to see the film, though. You have a copy? Can I see it when I’m in Bombay?

    1. Gurpal has a copy. And he does this ‘Docus at home’. We’ll ask him if we can do something while you are here. Either at his place, or mine. πŸ™‚

  4. Great piece Batul! Makes me want to see the film again after so many years. I have seen it so many times and I have a VHS copy too somewhere, but never knew it was available on DVD now. So will look up Gurpal and get a copy and show it to people who have not seen the film – spread the good word around, so to say.

  5. Comes down to greed/ mispricing. If corporations priced DVDs at about the same price people now pay for pirated DVDs, there wouldn’t be any piracy. Plus, why is it that we are supposed to pay again and again for different formats of the same product – (i) for watching the movie (2) for the DVD and (3) for the music CD/ Mp3?

    1. Damn right, Lekhni. And it’s not as if the creative people involved in the making of the film/music/book actually benefit from all this. So it’s just corporate greed.

    1. Yes, it’s a fab initiative. The first camp they had for 3 days, with around 18 people, including 2 kids and a dog, lots of fun. πŸ™‚

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