Serial killer Raman Raghav, who roamed the streets of Mumbai in the 60s, became a subject of interest for filmmakers and IPS officer-turned-author RS Kulkarni, also known as the Sherlock Holmes of India. Though Anurag Kashyap’s film is not about Raman Raghav,Sangeeta Yadav tells you why this psychopathic killer is not just a dead & dusty file in the police record room
He was an ordinary man who walked alone, holding an umbrella in his hand on the busy streets of suburban Mumbai. He liked being well-groomed, would regularly massage his body with coconut oil, comb his hair and carry a mirror to see how he was looking. His love for chicken curry finally made him spill the beans about his killing sprees. He never got into any fights or kept grudges. Yet, 40-year-old Raman Raghav terrorised Mumbai in the late 60s, murdering over 40 people, including slum-dwellers andchawlresidents.
“If you looked at him, nobody could have said that he could be a killer, that too a serial killer. His outwardly appearance was deceptive and showed no symptoms of madness. A well-groomed killer like Raghav was extremely conscious about his appearance. It’s much more easier to identify a mad man than a person like Raghav,” Vasan Bala, co-scriptwriter of Raman Raghav 2.0, tells you.
It all started in 1965-66 when a series of murders took place in the eastern suburbs of Bombay along the Central Railway Line. Eyewitness Krithika, a relative of one of the victims, gave a statement to the police that she had seen a man of Raghav’s description lurking in the area the night her kin was killed. According to RS Kulkarni’s book Footprints On The Sand Of Crime, Raghav was caught and interrogated by detective inspector VV Vakatkar who recalled that ‘he was a hard nut to crack.’ Vakatkar also mentioned that a pocket diary had been recovered from Raghav in which he had penned down words like khatam and khallas.
Due to lack of evidence, Raghav was set free only to return in 1968, killing over a dozen people, this time in the northern suburbs. Nobody knew who was behind the gruesome killings. Some thought it was an animal, others thought it could be aliens. But the cops suspected Raghav.
“Vigilante groups in the suburbs would often lynch or beat up a homeless stranger or migrant on the suspicion that he was Raghav. There were absurd rumours like the killer could turn into a dog or a bird and that’s why nobody could catch him,” director Sriram Raghavan, who first made a short film Raman Raghav, A City, A Killer in 1991, tells you.
With no leads in the case, in 1968, the case was handed to the newly appointed head of the Crime Branch Ramakant Kulkarni. Observing the pattern of the crime and trying to connect the dots with the 1965 cases, Kulkarni observed that “19 people had been attacked while asleep and had head injuries. While nine of them had succumbed to their injuries, none of the survivors could not recollect anything useful enough to establish the identity of the assailant. They were killed by having their skulls smashed with a hard and blunt instrument” Kulkarni wrote in his book.
“More than 2,000 cops were on the manhunt around the Malad-Goregaon-Jogeshwari area. During that time, there was no television and to make matters worse, there was a newspaper strike in Mumbai. So there was a lot of panic and rumour mongering amongst the populace,” Raghavan recalls.
“My idea of a serial killer was based mostly on crime fiction and movies from the West. Raghav helped shatter that. He was a semi-literate migrant living on petty thefts. He was suffering from schizophrenia and heared a voice in his head telling him to kill random people. He mercilessly bludgeoned a pavement dweller and sat next to the corpse and had a meal. I used to wonder what must be going on in his head. Raghav, I was told, used to be lucid in conversation and suddenly got provoked and fly off the handle,” Raghavan says.
It was the then sub-inspector Alex Fialho, who was roaming around Bhendi Bazaar and he spotted the suspect.
“Those days, I used to carry a photograph of Raghav in my shirt pocket. I was waiting for a bus and I saw a well-built man in khaki shorts and a long blue bushshirt walking towards me. Something about the man struck me and I instinctively decided to follow him. As he walked past me, he gave me a casual glance as I was in uniform. He glanced again and drew my suspicion,” Fialho said in an interview to a newspaper in 2007.
Fialho observed that Raghav was carrying a wet umbrella. As it had not rained in south Mumbai that day
“I asked him where he was coming from and he replied Chincholi (Malad). This strengthened my doubt. He was also carrying half-rimmed spectacles and a thimble that belonged to a Malad tailor who had been killed a couple of days back. Later, I found out that he was going to sell it in chor bazaar. I called for a jeep and asked Raghav to sit in it. He unsuspectingly sat and we drove off to the police station. I called in the fingerprint experts and the prints matched with him,” Fialho, who was then felicitated and rewarded Rs 1,000 for the big catch, said.
His personal belongings consisted of a pair of spectacles which he stole from a victim, two combs, a pair of scissors, a stand for burning incense, soap, garlic, tea dust and two pieces of paper with some mathematical figures on them. Looking at his criminal records, it was found that Raghav was a history-sheeter and had spent five years in prison for robbery. He had also raped his sister before murdering her. His records disclosed that he had several aliases like Sindhi Dalwai, Talwai, Anna, Thambi and Veluswami. But Raghav refused to speak for weeks even after going through third degree torture.
“His murders didn’t have any motive other than the ones he himself justified. He used to kill for five paise or two paise or for the household goods and food. He was a necrophiliac. He would just pick on people who were helpless and alone, which is why he went untraced for a very long time,” Bala says.
“It was a strange mix of power and fear. Probably, he would have killed someone older to show power but someone as young as a six-month-old to show fear. A baby is the most powerless person. It’s very difficult to explain why Raghav killed the baby. But one thing was certain. There was no guilt about his cold-blooded acts & he was completely remorseless, which made him scary,” Bala says.
The investigation took the cops to a village in Tamil Nadu where Raghav grew up. Michael, the man who made akada (a metal object) for Raghav, with which he would kill people, knew him since childhood, revealed that Raghav’s roommate was also found dead, but no one ever suspected him. Michael told the cops that Raghav was a small-time thief who was never went to school. It was around this time that Raghav left Tamil Nadu for Pune. Since his return to killings in 1968, he had been living in jungles outside the suburbs of Mumbai.
“Not much is known about his life before he came to Mumbai. Some said that he was married and his wife left him because he was jailed on the day of his marriage. There were different stories that were circulated but none had any validation,” Bala says.
Meanwhile, the cops in Mumbai were having a tough time trying to make Raghav speak. The only thing he kept saying was that he wanted chicken curry. After a few weeks when all efforts failed, the cops decided to serve Raghav some chicken curry.
“We were sitting in the interrogation room of the Crime Branch office when someone casually asked Raghav whether there was anything else he wanted. Without a moment’s thought, without even batting an eyelid, Raman Raghav said, “murgi.” Next, he wanted hair oil, a comb and a mirror. ‘I would also have liked a prostitute, but I guess, the law does not permit that while one is in custody’,” Raghav was quoted as saying in Kulkarni’s book.
After massaging his body with coconut oil, he combed his hair and looked into the mirror for a few seconds. He then agreed to talk and what he revealed shocked every cop present in the room.
Raghav went on to say: “I shall tell you all about them. Get a vehicle, an armed guard and two witnesses. The law requires that. And I shall show you the iron akada I used to commit the murders, knives and other things which I have hidden in the bushes at Areray Milk Colony.”
Raghav confessed to committing 41 murders. Asked why killed people, he said that he had directions from God to do so. He also detailed the modus operandi.
“A few days later, I saw a hut where a family was sleeping. I cut the string which fastened the front door and then hit the husband with an iron rod, killing him instantly. The woman and child who woke up, started shouting. I killed them too. I was thinking of sleeping with the woman but someone came and I ran away. The gold necklace turned out to imitation jewellery,” Kulkarni quoted Raghav in the book.
Talking about another murder Raghav said: “On the Malad side, I saw a hamlet. A bearded man was sleeping. The door was open. I hit him and he died on the spot. I took his wristwatch and when I saw some money in his jhabba. I also took some peanuts, an umbrella and a torch. Once home, I tore the jhabba to make handkerchiefs.” Raghav also confessed to killing a woman and two children sleeping in a hut. He hit her twice or thrice until she died. He then removed the bedsheet and found she was naked. Kulkarni doesn’t elaborate on this because what Raghav said was too disturbing and horrifying to pen down.
A chargesheet was prepared and the trial began. Raghav’s defence lawyer PV Pawar pleaded to the Additional Sessions Judge that his client did not understand the repercussions of his acts. A psychiatrist observed Raghav for a month and declared him mentally sound. He was sentenced to death.
But Pawar appealed that Raghav was mentally ill. This led the Bombay High Court to refer Raghav to a Special Medical Board of three psychiatrists. The panelists said that Raghav was suffering from chronic paranoid schizophrenia.
In all the five interviews he gave to the medical board, Raghav showed ideas of reference and fixed and systematised delusions of persecution and grandeur. The delusions which the accused experienced were about two distinct worlds, the world of kanoon and the world in which he lived. He had an unshakable belief that people were trying to change his sex but that they weren’t successful because he was a representative of kanoon, and that he was a divine power or Shakti. He firmly believed that people were trying to put homosexual temptations in his way so that he was converted into being a woman. A homosexual intercourse, he insisted, would convert him into a woman.
He said that the Government had brought him to Mumbai to commit thefts and other criminal acts. He believed that there were three Governments in the country — the Akbar Government, the British Government and the Congress Government and that these Governments were trying to persecute him by tempting him into wrongdoing.
On the basis of the medical board’s report, his death sentence was commuted to life term in 1987. He spent time at Yerwada Jail in Pune till his death at Sasson hospital due to a kidney failure in 1995.
But why a movie on a killer? Director Anurag Kashyap was curious how a homophobic could turn do such horrendous killings.
“One thing I wanted
to explore was that he was homophobic. It was exactly like the shooter in Orlando’s gay night club who had a homosexual orientation, according to his wife, and feared this tendency. So he became homophobic and took it out on others. I feel, Raghav was like that. In the 1960s, homophobia was not clearly defined and people were ashamed of being homosexual. I wanted to explore these things in a time where it was not talked about openly,” Kashyap says.
“He had a superiority complex. He came from a warrior background and he used to take pride in it. He was a misogynist. When I was researching for my film Paanch and investigating Rajendra Jakkal, who committed several murders and was serving a jail term wrote a book which got banned, the jailers talked about it. In the book, Jakkal refers to Raghav as extremely respected and saintly person. For me, how that transition in Raghav happened, was a big gap. That made me curious and through our imagination, we have tried to fill the gaps in the film,” Kashyap says.
Making of the film
The life of Raman Raghav was first projected on celluloid by Sriram Raghavan.
“I was looking for work. There was no satellite TV then, only Doordarshan, and the VHS business was booming. Video magazines were very popular. My producers had an idea of doing a video magazine on true crime in Mumbai. That was when I came across RS Kulkarni’s book Footprints On The Sand Of Crime. The moment I read about Raman Raghav, I was hooked,” Raghavan says.
For his project, he met Kulkarni, ES Modak, Commissioner of Police, and Dr Patkar, the psychiatrist who had examined Raghav.
“The initial script focussed on the manhunt from the police point of view but I got interested in the killer. My biggest asset was Raghubir Yadav who played Raghav,” Raghavan says, adding that his film has come into the limelight after 25 years because of Anurag Kashyap’s Raman Raghav 2.0.
It was Anurag who saw Raghavan’s film and decided to make Raman Raghav 2.0. Talking about his idea of projecting Raman Raghav as two people in his film, Kashyap says:
“By doing this, I wanted to show that we are living in a world where a poor man like Raman will always be pulled up and the powerful Raghav won’t. The film has come out of an extremely patriarchal mindset and I didn’t want to underline it by giving a lecture. Instead, I showed how realistic the world is in a very subtle way.”
(The article got published in the Pioneer Newspaper – http://www.dailypioneer.com/sunday-edition/sunday-pioneer/special/raman-the-ripper.html)