After various overrated, poor and even awful releases by Netflix, it has finally released a movie that is watchable. The movie boasts a powerful cast and revolves around a cop, charged with the task to investigate the murder of a powerful landlord on his wedding night. The film adds a decent noir edge to a gripping ‘whodunnit.’ These films never fail to fascinate: a story that builds up a smart guessing game over who the murder culprit might be, always stimulates and entertains. ‘Raat Akeli Hain’ does stimulate and entertain, steering away from mainstream Bollywood thrillers by creating an old-world suspense drama by catering to a contemporary audience. Now when you say this, for some reason, the new definition of catering to a contemporary mindset means a dark, noir feel to the movie with a lot of violence and brutality, which I don’t always understand but it with content like ‘Paatal Lok’ it does seem to be working and this film follows the same pattern. However, there are certain aspects that pull the film down.
Honey Trehan gives his directing debut with this film and does quite well with it. The style in which the movie is shot is an interesting amalgamation of various directorial styles, which somehow seems to work. Though the film follows a completely different storyline and a darker approach, there is quite a clear comparison you can draw to the Daniel Craig-starrer ‘Knives Out’ – just Bollywoodized a bit. The mood of the film is set right from the opening scene: a long shot of a car and truck on an isolated highway, lit only by their headlights, no dialogues and two murders – suspenseful and evocative. However, with a runtime of 2hrs 29 minutes, the film tends to drag and sometimes feels devoid of the thrill factor and takes away the curiosity, the excitement of knowing who committed the murder in this ‘whodunit.’
Trehan has done an impressive job in aligning the audience’s perspective with Jatil’s, as we see the case through an outsider’s persepctives allowing us to solve it with only whatever we see, sharing his discoveries and confusions. At times we know things that Jatil doesn’t and at times Jatil knows things that we don’t. These small, clever turns refine the relationship the audience shares with the protagonist and eventually the film.
The screenplay by Smita Singh (Sacred Games) scores well on unpredictability but tends to digress at bits like the ‘love track,’ which makes the film drag. Her writing rolls dark secrets, forbidden passions and a great amount of suspense topped with some well choreographed violence. Smita Singh has done well introducing various characters throughout the film, especially highlighting all the dysfunctional members of the family, with each one of them having a valid reason to kill, creating interesting layers to this ‘whodunit.’ But with having so many characters each one isn’t justified. The characters don’t all have enough substance for the audience to invest in them or their hidden motives. A more tightly bound screenplay would’ve definitely elevated the film. In a gritty crime mystery movie of this kind, the climax is the scene most important scene but in this film it seemed relatively sudden and convenient, which otherwise had great potential.
Jatil Yadav (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), the protagonist, is a grumpy but sincere cop who is looking to get ‘hitched’ but the tough, sharp officer has been marked by curious contradictions – he’s been rejected by girls, his skin colour and how his mother caused a change in his name during his board exams. Though every character isn’t built with a lot of detail, the cast has definitely justified their roles. The film has a lot of powerful performances by Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Radhika Aapte and the definite standout, Ila Arun. All three of them deliver remarkable performances, the quality you’d expect from them. Shivani Raguvanshi, Shweta Tripathi, Padmavati Rao, Riya Shukla, Ila Arun, Aditya Srivastava, Swanand Kirkire, Nishant Dahiya and Tigmanshu Dhulia have all justified their roles that seemed to be only written for them. However, the film doesn’t depend on one or two particular actors, it doesn’t give Nawazuddin Siddiqui the indulgent, heavy dialogues he’s known for but only a simple role with conviction, the same is for Radhika Aapte as well.
All in all, ‘Raat Akeli Hain’ was a much-needed addition to Netflix’s arsenal. It isn’t a technical masterpiece and does have a few negative aspects but it was definitely an interesting watch. The ‘who did it’ is enough to hold your interest throughout the film, though it feels a little dragged-on. If I could think of one phrase to describe it, it’d be a dark, noir Bollywoodized version of ‘Knives Out.’ There’s nothing upsetting about the film, it’s set to delivering one task and it delivers it well. It is definitely one of the better offerings Netflix have delivered, especially considering different OTT platforms have been releasing some powerful, incredible movies and series.
– Aryamaan Dholakia
Aryamaan’s Score – 69/100