A gripping murder mystery invigorated by an intelligent screenplay and powerful performances!!
“I don’t fear anybody, and if you try to hamstring me, come what may, I will dig out the truth”, Nawazuddin Siddiqui plays the sincere, quirky yet grounded cop Jatil Jadhav in Raat Akeli Hai, one of the 17 releases announced by Netflix for July-August, and it has everything you look for in a classic murder mystery thriller.
The movie begins with a prologue where an Ambassador car is being chased down by a giant truck and the passengers gets killed by an unknown man. After around five years, the scene shifts to a mansion where the patriarch of a family is found murdered on the night of his second wedding and the investigation is assigned to Inspector Jatil Jadhav. He quickly learns that anyone could be the killer here as the entire family seemed to be wildly dysfunctional and everyone seemed to be hiding something. The sprawling mansion, the staircase, the hallway, and the stairs at the back, the entire set has huge resemblance to Knives Out (2019) and it is understandable if the viewers start drawing comparisons with the oscar nominated movie at least in the early stages of the movie. But Raat Akeli Hai soon finds its own identity when the complexities pile up on Jatil as he suspects the murder is linked to another case. To make matters worst for Jatil, he develops a deep attraction, out of empathy, towards Radha, the widow of the dead. Radha herself is a puzzling character who doesn’t give away too much and certainly looks a prime suspect.
Honey Trehan in his first offering as director has carved out an evenly paced whodunit here with some solid writing from Smita Singh, Co-writer of The Sacred Games. The makers have remarkably kept the suspense up until the last passage of play and every twists seemed effortless. The screenplay does give certain backstory to each of the characters which has actually helped in keeping the viewers guessing till the final revelation. Sometimes it grows beyond classic genre conventions. Patriarchy, racial discrimination, corruption, greed are all interweaved in the screenplay but never loses the grip of the thriller by overplaying it and it doesn’t waste time by making statements either. Even the love angle between Jatil and Radha never goes overboard; Radha’s character does evoke certain empathy and Jatil’s affection starts from that empathy. It realistically happens with the flow of events and plays an important role as the movie progresses. The story line gives time for character development of the lead pair. It shows Jatil as a person from a very common background and he also bears the regressiveness of the society like most of the men, who wants their women to be neatly dressed and goes along with the norms of family and society. He also keeps a fair and lovely at the back of his mirror in the toilet, showing he does worry about his dark skin. The same goes with the rawness in his attitude. As for Radha, she was the maid at the mansion previously and had to suffer a lot of hardships before being ending up at the mansion. The backstory comes as a revelation from the character but plays an important role in evoking empathy towards her.
As the title suggests, the darkness holds a lot of importance and this is where the cinematography by Pankaj Kumar is laudable. The details we are provided with even in the murkiness of the dark toned visuals are enormous and plays a huge part in the movie. The slick editing of Sreekar Prasad has helped in setting up the narrative in nail biting fashion through out the 2.5 hrs of its runtime. Background score may sound familiar but aptly plays to the visuals and mood of the storyline.
Nawazuddin Siddiqui brings different layers to his sincere, unorthodox cop with sheer brilliance. He often underplays Jatil, who is a no-nonsense, often unemotional character. Radhika Apte gives another superb performance in portraying the toughened widow and plays the enigma surrounding Radha flawlessly. The rest of the cast gives noticeable performances elevating the mood of the story all together; Padmavati Rao, Shweta Tripathi, Riya Shukla, Shivani Raghuvanshi, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Nishant Dahia, Aditya Srivastava have all done perfect jobs in their brief roles.
Raat Akeli Hai is a solidly written, gripping murder mystery invigorated by powerful performances from the cast. Highly recommended for crime thriller enthusiasts!
Language: Hindi, Streaming On: Netflix