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  • Release date : 7 June 1996
  • Directed by : Sudhir Mishra
  • Written by : Nikhil Advani, Sudhir Mishra, Shivkumar Subramaniam
  • Story by : Sudhanshu Mishra
  • Cast : Nirmal Pandey, Smriti Mishra, Tara Deshpande, Ashish Vidyarthi
  • Music by : M. M. Kreem
  • Cinematography : Sukumar Jatania
  • Edited by : Renu Saluja

I was reading up on Is Raat Ki Subah Nahin for the purposes of this review when I came to realize that this film might have just been the precursor to the poster-boy of Bollywood Noir crime films, Satya. It was interesting to note that Saurabh Shukla, the man who co-wrote Satya with Anurag Kashyap played a pivotal role in Is Raat Ki Subah Nahin. He himself reiterated that the seeds of Satya were sowed and germinated in his mind through the course of the making of this film. It is not too hard to believe that since a lot of what we see here was faithfully recreated in Satya albeit in a different way of things. What remained common was the mood and the manner in which the characters were approached here.

Is Raat Ki Subah Nahin unfolds through the duration of a night. Time is crucial here and it is time and again time-stamped using the visuals and milieu of the film. Aditya (Nirmal Pandey) is an advertisement consultant who is married to Pooja (Tara Deshpandey) and is having an affair with a colleague Malavika (Smriti Mishra). He has been successful in keeping his game safe and secret from his wife until that fateful night when his treachery bursts open in front of his wife and girlfriend. Pooja throws him out of her house and in his desperation he tries to talk some sense into her using a phone at a nearby bar.

Raman Bhai (Ashish Vidyarthi) is a top don of the city. He has recently received news that one of his trusted aides Vilas (Saurabh Shukla) has betrayed him and is about to kill him for 10 lakhs. He breaks into Vilas’ room and realizes that Vilas might not be what he thought he was. As they are having a discussion, Raman Bhai’s colleagues believe that he is under threat and start a shootout that kills Vilas’ wife. Raman is crestfallen and is forced to capture and hold Vilas who is apparently now vying for Raman’s blood. He is constantly under a lot of duress until he too arrives at the same bar as Aditya and is waiting to meet a certain person. His colleagues are using the same telephone as the one used by Aditya in tandem to call up the man they are there to meet.

As tempers soar and the phone becomes a point of conflict, Aditya ends up slapping Raman Bhai in a fit of rage not knowing who he is. The rest of the film is about Raman and his men vying for Aditya’s neck as he tries his best to save himself and juggle between the two women in his life who are inconsolable. There is also Vilas trying his best to pack off Raman Bhai and works as a catalyst to many confrontations and standoffs. If that was not enough, there is a cop who changes sides faster than a chameleon changes color and a friend of Aditya who might just be helping him for all the wrong reasons.

Is Raat Ki Subah Nahin was written by Nikhil Advani, Sudhir Mishra and Shivkumar Subramaniam based off a short story by the late Sudhanshu Mishra (Sudhir Mishra’s brother). It was heard that the short story was based on a true story. Whatever may be the case, the screenplay of Is Raat Ki Subah Nahin is densely populated and is brimming with so much of content that it is difficult to wrap one’s head around it in one go. I own the DVD for the movie and I watched this film multiple times before even thinking about writing this review. Still, it won’t be wrong to say that I might have missed some tidbits here and there. What I didn’t miss was the vitality and detail with which the screenplay captured the characters and the situation.

Raman Bhai’s men are the biggest documents of this very fact.  One of them wears a checkered shirt and has a book in his hand constantly which he is seen perusing through at times when he is not involved in ultra-violence or verbal abusing. Another is forever in trouble with his shoes that just don’t seem to fit. Raman Bhai himself is not the traditional baddie. For a large chunk of the film, he doesn’t do anything that would incite our hate for him as is the case for most baddies. On the contrary, I was more in his support than that of the lecherous Aditya who treats his women like commodities.

The first time we see him with the terrific track “Jeevan kya hai” playing in the background, Nirmal Pandey as Aditya appears towering and bigger than he actually is. That’s it. After that, he is forever in tatters first because of his inability to remain loyal to one woman and then because of the fact that he is chased the night through by men vying for his blood. The manner in which his wife slaps him before leaving him for the night felt strangely satisfying. The whole night that he spends running for his life and trying to reach an amicable solution with the women in his life gives us a plethora of scenes ranging from chase sequences, to manipulative dialogues to his finally facing the problem head-on. Easily this makes for an intriguing watch.

Ashish Vidyarthi as Raman Bhai is brilliant. He not only looks the part but also makes us cheer for him. He is considerate to his men and listens to their babbling without any fuss. When one of his henchmen says that no matter how rich they get they will never have a life like the urban upper class, he doesn’t abuse him. He even takes a far cry from the traditional Bollywood trope when he reveals that he knew about the affair of one of his henchmen and his sister and that he had plans of getting them married in a Five Star Hotel. For all this and more Raman Bhai is nobler than the lecherous Aditya. When he learns of Vilas’ honesty for him, he is all set to take him back but disaster strikes. Throughout the duration of the film, he tries to bring him back to the fold and is shown caring for him. This was a far cry from what we were used to from the traditional Bollywood villain. Ashish Vidyarthi wonderfully grasps the tone of the character and brings it to life.

The two heroines Tara Deshpandey and Smriti Mishra are apt in roles tailor-made for them. Smriti Mishra gets the more composed of the two roles and she revels in her modesty and honorable conduction of a situation that is far beyond her control. Tara is cranky and evidently crestfallen by Aditya’s betrayal. She brings out the nuances of that feeling perfectly. Saurabh Shukla is a superlative actor. Here he does exceedingly well in a role that demanded control. He feels real and hence his actions are affecting.

Is Raat Ki Subah Nahin set a benchmark for many Bollywood films to come in the future both in terms of content and treatment. The film’s cinematography was another aspect that really made me stand up and take notice. I was made aware that it was shot through the course of many nights on actual locations in guerrilla style. Sudhir Mishra is in love with Mumbai as was evident in “Dharavi” and he brings a similar kind of uniqueness to this film. The manner in which he captures the subtle nuances of the city through the lenses adds another dimension to the whole experience. The editing goes on to add to that exasperating feeling of the screenplay. It couldn’t have been better.

Is Raat Ki Subah Nahin came and went without being noticed. However, over the years, people have gone back to it time and again and basked in the glory of all that it had achieved all those years ago. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that it was way ahead of its time and the people were unable to understand its quality simply because of that and their inability to invest in the narrative without the traditional tropes to lure them in. I loved this film in the first viewing and I have loved it even more in every subsequent viewing. For any lover of Indian Cinema, this is a must watch.

Rating 4/5 (4 out of 5 Stars)




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