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Raat Akeli Hai review: Intermittently engaging

Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Radhika Apte shine in this whodunit thriller

Source: SIFY

By: Sonia Chopra

Critic's Rating: 2.5/5

Tuesday 04 August 2020

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Movie Title

Raat Akeli Hai review: Intermittently engaging

Director

Honey Trehan

Star Cast

Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Radhika Apte, Shivani Raghuvanshi, Shweta Tripathi, Aditya Srivastava

What’s not to like about a whodunit? Raat Akeli Hai has a fantastic cast, an engrossing plot, slick storytelling, and great music.

But for a murder mystery to be effective, the viewer has to be emotionally invested in the characters involved. Despite a fairly engrossing plot, this is where Raat Akeli Hai wavers.

Reminiscent of the 2019 hit Knives Out, the film has a similar plot of a murdered patriarch and the family members as suspects.

Set in Kanpur, the story begins with a couple of brutal murders. There is a highway truck ‘accident’ and the woman and her driver are both killed.

A few years later, we see an ageing, affluent man Raghubeer Singh murdered on his wedding day. His young bride (Radhika Apte) and all the assorted relatives are immediate suspects.

Cop Jatil (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) arrives and begins his interrogation process. Turns out he has a soft spot for one of the main suspects. We flashback and see why.

The interrogation reveals several family secrets— the proverbial can of worms. Despite the story moving at a steady pace, we are unable to connect with the characters. With no motivation to root for or despise the characters, the whodunnit loses its edge.

The final revelation of who committed the murder and why is grim… perhaps too grim! It also leaves several unanswered questions. This separates Raat Akeli Hai from fun,

light whodunits, and takes it to a much darker space.

The film ticks several boxes that make up the typical sinister tale that we’ve been seeing so often now. It has a story set in a small town, toxic male characters, sexual violence against women, corrupt politicians in cahoots with the police, an about-to-be-suspended honest cop triumphing in a murky system.  

As far as toxic masculinity goes, even our upright cop Jatil is not above feeling entitled enough to roughly grab a woman’s arm several times, especially when he’s wooing her. This happens thrice in the film, and the gratuitous act is extremely jarring.

In the beginning of the film, we see his mother (a fabulous Illa Arun) looking for a bride for him. She shows his photo to everyone, and the pretty girls reject him saying ‘rang saaf nahin hai’ (he is dark-complexioned). He himself states that he wants a simple, conservatively-dressed, sanskaari bride. His mother, far more progressive than him, tries to make reasonable arguments. That he ends up with someone who’s had quite a tumultuous past, is a delicious twist.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui could play this role in his sleep, and is dependably good. The character’s secret beauty routine adds a fun layer to his otherwise tough persona. Despite its curtailed potential, Radhika Apte convinces us of the character’s inner strength and vulnerability. The peripheral cast is top-notch. No surprises there, as director Honey Trehan is also a talented casting director who has worked on several notable films.

A special mention to Pankaj Kumar’s cinematography and Sneha Khanwalkar’s music that brings in the dread ever so subtly.

Written by Smita Singh (Sacred Games) and directed by Trehan, Raat Akeli Hai at two-and-a-half hours demands your patience.

It is an intermittently engaging watch. But it had the potential to be so much more. 

 

Sonia Chopra is a critic, columnist and screenwriter with over 15 years of experience. She tweets on @soniachopra2

 

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