Raat Akeli Hai review: A riveting whodunit with a twiddled plot

Honey Trehan’s directorial debut is a sincere attempt at narrating an intriguing suspense thriller packed with some powerful performances led by the dependable Nawazuddin Siddiqui.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

By Ariba Neyaz

Edited by Ruchika Shah

The directorial debut of Honey Trehan carefully portrays the story of an illustrious debilitated family that is connected to a convoluted murder mystery. It’s investigation by a small-town cop Jatil Yadav (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) slowly reveals some gory secrets, resurfacing the past.

The film fittingly opens up with a scene set on a lonely highway which leads to the murder of a woman and her driver. The very beginning of the film establishes the tone of the story, with its past being twiddled with whatever follows next. Five years later, another murder takes place during the groom’s (Raghuveer Singh) wedding festivities which sets the ball rolling for an intense, dark murder mystery.  To investigate this case which has many plausible culprits, Jatil Yadav,an unmarried cop, gets summoned. The plot from here on deftly moves on to unearth secrets that lie buried with the dead and in the hearts of the survivors – deviants, accomplices and victims alike.

Raat Akeli Hai [2020] attempts to cover multiple issues through its structure. It knocks on evil territories like patriarchy, perversity, lust and greed via its plot. 

Honey Trehan’s directorial debut definitely does justice to this gripping script, giving it the essence of a classic film noir. The screenplay by Smita Singh (Sacred Games), feels like an ode to Agatha Christie and a tamer version of the spectacularly crafted Knives Out (2019). Besides the story going back and forth, the film keeps the storyline clear and effective for the audience.

Coming to the cinematography, Pankaj Kumar of Tumbbad [2018] serves some stunning frames, retaining the rawness of the film. Kumar’s camera captures  some sharp shots that lend its beauty to the film. The vibrance of its colour play and gorgeous foregrounds and backgrounds make its visuals worth remembering. However, the wickedness of the plot set in an extreme dark scenario makes it a rather extra gloomy and tensed watch.

The arc of the film is rightly defined and complemented with well etched characters in the delicately simmering Raat Akeli Hai.  Jatil Yadav is someone too human to be a cop who unhurriedly unfolds his own beliefs along with his investigation. Siddiqui sheds his garb of a goon after three years and dons the uniform of a cop which lends a fresh appeal. Siddiqui last played cop in Raees (2017). The actor has never let down when it comes to his craft and it’ no different this time, standing out with an incredible performance, Siddiqui seems to overshadow everything else till the first half. Although, towards the end his character kind of loses its edge. His ambivalent feelings for Radha (Radhika Apte) who is the mistress of the victim, complicates his journey while cracking the case.

On the other hand, Radha (Apte) lends spark as a mischievous yet bold woman. However, Radhika’s potential of sculpturing such a character remains partially unexploited  throughout the film. The film is not just steered by powerful lead performances, its supporting cast too backs it with a punch. Noted actors like Ila Arun, Aditya Shrivastava, Nishant Dahiya, Tigmanshu Dhulia and Shweta Tripathi – all their characters are perfectly sketched and add-up to make this film furiously interesting. The dialogues are embedded in way that comic relief for the audience remains ensured.

The smooth, sleek editing and the tempo of the background score create a momentum leaving us glued to the story. However, right before the climax the film seems a little stretched and the duration of 2 hours and 29 minutes looks overextended, distorting the end a little.

It might look like the film resembles the old-fashioned whodunit by Rian Johnson with some cleverly deployed twists and challenges. However, overall Raat Akeli Hai is a whole new puzzle box, with intense and intermeshed connections to the murder mystery of a rich patriarch.  

A decently executed intense, dark and entertaining whodunit, Raat Akeli Hain seems like an enjoyable stroll by a Rohit Shetty cop in Anurag Kashyap’s universe.

Raat Akeli Hai is currently streaming on Netflix.

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