Raat Akeli Hai Hindi Movie Review
The new Netflix Original movie, Raat Akeli Hai begins with a series of deaths, one of which is an old man's. He lies lifeless on his bed, and we suspect foul play instantly. Why else would there be such an intrigue in the title? He should be murdered. No, he is murdered. But how?
Enter Jatil Yadav (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), a bachelor police officer who straight away seems so hell bent on solving the case. You can sense this man's determination in Siddiqui's disposition. He goes into the crime scene, and then asks a set of routine questions to the people there. He also has a thing for the underdog. Just as he enters the scene, he hears an elder member of the deceased's family scolding the house maid for leaving the scattered glasses unattended there. Siddiqui pauses on hearing this, then he looks around with watchful eyes and says in his low voice, "Dekh rahe hai" (I am noticing it").
Siddiqui does not make this character trait of intelligence so obvious. The same goes for his soft spot for the underdog. The script helps him much in this regard. It is not just the cleanest suspense thriller script in years, but it is also one that allows its leading man to work without having to condescend to it, like Akshaye Khanna's cop had to in 2017's 'Ittefaq'.
There is an emphasis on Siddiqui's bachelor status throughout Raat Akeli Hai, and the movie has many remarks on his skin color too. Early in the film, his mother shows his photograph to a rich girl, who instantly rejects him citing the skin color as the reason. She sees him and looks away while giving him one of those rich girl looks. Even the bit where Yadav's mother refers to him as Ajay Devgan in a cop uniform, plays out as a nod to the years of neglect our leading man faced in the industry for his so-called lack of color.
Amazingly, these portions that talk about his bachelorhood and skin color have everything to do with the main events of Raat Akeli Hai. It is a film that looks at the deeply ingrained patriarchal values in society through the lens of a socially neglected police officer. Even for a rather straightforward suspense thriller, there is much meat in Honey Trehan's devilish debut film. The dead man Raghubeer Singh (Khalid Tyabji) in the bungalow is the patriarch of an affluent family, whose main members care little about his passing. The main suspect in the eyes of all cops except for Siddiqui's officer is a woman from the low rung of society, Radha, played by Radhika Apte. A plot point involving Aditya Srivastava's MLA Munna Raja having much political influence, Siddiqui's Yadav, and Tigmanshu Dhulia's SSP Lalji Shukla paves way for much of the fun. Nishant Dahiya is also in fine form here as Vikram Singh, one of the suspects heavily linked to the murder.
Trehan's film scripted by Smita Singh leaves little to the imagination, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. There is neither any phony suspense element here nor some cheap red herrings along the say. It is Radhika Apte and Siddiqui's chemistry that elevates the film to a few notches above your standard suspense thriller.
At any point, we are not quite sure where the makers of the film are going with their characters. And, Apte and Siddique play them with such finesse that it is highly unlikely that you will second-guess their motives. At an early scene, Yadav quietly tells Radha to remember his name just as he leaves the crime scene (Naam Yadh Rakhiyega Jatil Yadav). This is a man who is searching for his own identity, not just for some random clues in the low-lit bungalow at night. And, Nawazuddin Siddiqui plays him with aplomb, to say the least.