Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Radhika Apte in a still from Raat Akeli Hai
  • Release Date: 31/07/2020
  • Cast: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Radhika Apte, Nishant Dahiya, Aditya Srivastava, Shweta Tripathi
  • Director: Honey Trehan

Gripping! Intense! Realistic!…Nawazuddin and Radhika shine bright in one of the finest whodunit thrillers of recent times

Jatil Yadav (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) was christened Jatin Yadav on birth. A silly albeit honest mistake from his mother at the time of his matriculation documentation has forced him to exist with a name that essentially means complicated. Jatil is the only bachelor in Belaghat police station and often gets trolled for it by his colleagues and his mother. His mother is untiring in her efforts to find a suitable bride for her son, carries a photograph of him to every marriage that she is invited to, and tries to draw the attention of the best of girls to her son Jatil. If that was not enough, Jatil’s life is complicated in the truest sense of the term when he is called in to investigate the murder of one Raghubeer Singh, who was shot and then thrashed in his own house on the fateful night of his wedding.

Raghubeer was an influential and rich man who had a close relationship with the local MLA Munna Raja (Aditya Srivastava) and had married his mistress, Radha (Radhika Apte) on the day of his death. He had bought Radha after the death and disappearance of his first wife 5 years ago and had been abusing her ever since. Raghubeer was also slated to contest the election and it was one of the primary reasons why he tied the knot with his mistress to present a clean image of himself. As Jatil questions and interreacts with the member of the family, he realizes that the family was coming together after a long time and that none of the members seemed to be what they were pretending to be.

Jatil is convinced that each of Raghubeer’s family members despised him and would have happily ended his life, making them all possible suspects in his eyes. The matter is further complicated by his rousing romantic feelings for Radha and the fact that she, increasingly starts seeming like the most likely candidate to have committed the murder. Will Jatil be able to shrug off his feelings for Radha and be objective about the case? Is Radha the murderer or is she being framed by the family members to thwart her from inheriting Raghubeer’s enormous wealth? Who killed Raghubeer and why? Will the romance between Jatil and Radha work out? These are just some of the questions that drive the narrative of Raat Akeli Hai.

Nishant Dahiya in a still from Raat Akeli Hai

Raat Akeli Hai is a whodunit thriller, but it doesn’t involve the viewer in unearthing the mystery. The audience here is merely a spectator and follows the protagonist as he goes about digging clues and understanding the reasons behind the crime. Even the clues are not laid out in front of us. I re-watched the film immediately after watching it for the first time to be sure that I hadn’t missed any clues that might have been left for me in the screenplay. In not being participatory for the audience, Raat Akeli Hai loses a key element of keeping the audiences hooked by letting them be a part of the investigation and unearthing the killer in tandem with the protagonist. Thankfully, even without that trait, the narrative is rendered so engrossing and the performances so affecting that I didn’t care whether I was made privy to the investigation or not. All I wanted was to find out who the killer was and why the murder was committed. I was also interested to know if Radha was playing Jatil or if she was being victimized by the rest.

Every character of the film is humanized to such an extent that we are forced to forge a connection with them. You may hate or love a certain character, but you cannot ignore them. By doing that, the film ensures that the viewer is hooked till the end of the narrative to see which way the story went. The performance by the ensemble cast is an important contributing factor to the success of this ploy and every one of the actors deserves brownie points for their committed and seasoned performances. The screenplay remains grounded in realism and nothing happens in the film that cannot be explained by reason. Hence the audience feels completely satisfied by the end of the story and film leaves no unanswered questions. There are no heroic action sequences or elaborate chases that cannot possibly be accomplished by an inspector like Jatil. It also gives the viewers the notion that this could be a story of someone who they know and that elevates the overall impact of the film.

I thoroughly enjoyed the cinematography of the film. There is a very intimate feel to how the characters are portrayed and viewed by the lenses, and it goes on to impact the mood and feel of the narrative. A large chunk of the film unfolds between walls and it is very difficult to keep these sequences fresh. Pankaj Kumar finds interesting angles to shoot and lets long and monotonous discussions play out in the most interesting fashion. While the actors envelop us in their performances, Kumar makes his own impact on our subconscious using effective angles, creative color palettes, and sweeping camera movements. The editing of the film is in strong keeping with the pace at which Jatil’s mind works. While many will sight this film to be too long, I rather enjoyed its leisurely pace. One cannot expect the performance to make an impact on the audiences unless they are given enough time to ponder on the expression and make their own meanings out of it. For that, the speed of the narrative must complement the performances. However, the film could have done away with the two songs.

Aditya Srivastava in a still from Raat Akeli Hai

The writing of the film by Smita Singh (Story, Screenplay, Dialogue) is one of its greatest strengths. The central mystery of the film and the identity of the killer is shrouded under some clever misdirections and the personal nature of the crime. The writing is not only effective in ensuring an intriguing mystery and organic drama but also works at how the characters interreact with each other. The dialogues between them are consistently intriguing and engaging. Even though prolonged discussions are charted between various characters, they never occur without any reason. After every discussion and dialogue, the audiences along with Jatil emerge a little more aware and knowledgeable about the people involved in the mystery and the mystery as a whole.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui was born to play Jatil Yadav. He is so proficient and likable as the character that I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a franchise developed with the character. He is real, frustrated, and comical in his dealing with Radha. At the same time, he has enough intelligence to see through the veil of the dirty secrets and unearth the facts in the case. The fact that Nawazuddin essays the character with such indelible oddball charm and earthen realism makes him one of the best aspects of the film. Radhika Apte reiterates why she is one of the best actresses out there right now with another superlative performance that borders on nearly taking away the thunder from Nawazuddin. Radha is so believable that a look at her is enough to tell us what she has been through and what she expects to go through in the future. I loved how her character gradually warms up to Nawaz and how Apte enacted these portions. Tigmanshu Dhulia, Aditya Srivastava, Nishant Dahiya, and Shweta Tripathi leave indelible marks with their respective essays and elevate the film to a greater extent.

Raat Akeli Hai is one of the finest whodunit thrillers to have come out in recent times. It is moody, realistic, and deliciously intricate. With Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Radhika Apte leading from the front, the performances pack a punch to an already engaging and well-made film. This should be at the top of your watch list this week.

Rating: 3.5/5 (3.5 out of 5 Stars)


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