Raat Akeli hai opens up to a name appropriate scene where a truck hits a car followed by a brutal double murder. Cut to 5 years later, we enter a resplendent bunglow in UP that just wrapped up a wedding function, the groom is shot dead. Whodunit?
Enter Jatil Yadav, Nawazuddin Sidiqqui as the investigating officer. While he discovers the house full of relatives and guests, I find myself making a family tree. There is a daughter, her husband, her cousins, her aunt, a househelp and the mistress turned bride. Nobody knows nothing and everybody is a suspect. Like a good thriller, Raat Akeli hai manages to keep you interested and guessing.
The gradual revelation of twists is the key here. It keeps you aligned with Jatil Yadav’s investigation, but at the same time feeds you and him different pieces of information that creates a conflict in your and his loyalties. It has an old school charm of a ‘matter of fact’ thriller, faintly reminiscent of Byomkesh Bakshi. Jatil Yadav doesn’t have an army here. He is not even fighting against the system or out there with any political or social agenda. He is just seeking truth, as is expected from his job.
The rest of the characters are well placed but with limited screen time. Which could be intentional, to not let you incline towards one suspect more than the other, because you never know enough till the end.
While the film stays sincere to its subject and genre, it does make subtle statements against patriarchy and small town politics. Also we see an interesting reversal of gender stereotype where the guy (Jatil Yadav) keeps getting rejected for his dark skin. That ends with a satisfying closure of him throwing ‘Fair/Glow and lovely’ into the dustbin.
Dialogues are kept at minimal; dimly lit frames help keeping the tension alive throughout despite distractions.
Honey Trehan makes a brilliant directorial debut and also continues to bring together an exceptional cast. Nawazzudin Siqiqqui is stripped of his usual gangster swag; he doesn’t get any hefty lines either. He is a regular cop caught between duty, hierarchy, politics, etc. No doubt he delivers it all with ease. Radhika Apte comes as an obvious choice for a poor, distressed, mysterious girl. Tigmanshu Dhulia, Shweta Tripathi, Shivangi Raghuvanshi, Aditya Srivastava, Nishant Dahiya all are equally convincing. Not to miss the delightful Ila Arun who is the only chance at humour here.
The flaws that stand out the most are that of an unnecessary romantic subplot and a slightly relaxed pace for a thriller. Raat Akeli hai is a thoroughly engaging attempt at a classic murder mystery without any frills.
Going with a 3.5/5 cutting for this.