Raat Akeli Hai, the title itself, invokes a feeling of desolation. This Murder Mystery has an element that most movies in this genre do not tap into, Empathy. There is a sweeping sense of empathy across the canvas of the film, which mostly is derived from the idealistic inspector, Jatil Yadav. A few minutes into the film and you are convinced about the quality of artists that have worked on this film. There is simplicity and restraint in the way scenes are staged and performed. The Murder happens on the Wedding night of the victim and in the presence of a large family that is iffy about their relationship with every other person. The exposition of these family members is done with nonchalantly.
What looks like a Whodunit narrative that plays out among the family members, becomes a medium to make strong political commentary that is relevant to the milieu and region it is set in. Hence, this choice of turning a mystery movie into a sociopolitical exploration, seems natural. Nawaz plays an upright, badass inspector, Jatil Yadav. The endearing silliness about the anecdote about his name is delightful and the film exudes warmth in the moments between Jatil Yadav and his lonely, worried mother who replaces his face cream with Fair& Lovely as he is rejected by a girl because of his skin colour. What Nawazuddin Siddiqui does with this character in scenes with his mother, reminds you of why the country is obsessed with this actor. The protrayal of a rigid, yet reluctantly empathetic man is refreshing shift from his foul-mouthed, obnoxious gangster characters, which have become an insipid stereotype. As with every Netflix/Prime content lately, the performances are all exceptional. Radhika Apte as a mysterious mistress is perfectly cast who carries a disarmingly assured look on her face which is completely opposite to what her circumstances are in the film and this contradiction keeps you guessing about her possible involvement in the murder.
The film is a decent murder mystery which is made by people exercising the quality of their respective arts. Honey Trehan who debuts as a director, displays a top-notch ability to draw the audience into the world of the film and hold onto their attention until the big reveal at the end. Although he is presented with an ensemble that is exceptionally talented, to his credit he extracts the best version of a scene by staging it in a manner that allows the actors to come to the fore to drive the scene to fruition. The most impressive part of his directorial venture is the way he handles the visual revealing of the twist at the end. The reveal itself is not stunning, it does not have the narrative impact that you wish for but the narrative inconsistency is embellished by the skillful filmmaking which involves a distinctive visualisation that is set to a crackling background score.
Raat Akeli Hai is a rare, well made Murder Mystery that is propelled into profoundness by a layered unveiling of deeply entrenched power dynamics in the society. The revelation of this suspenseful film alternates between the uncovering of the murderer and the unearthing of the deeply embedded social textures of our nation, that continue to haunt us. The film goes beyond being a good murder mystery when you understand that the important revelation is not of the killer but of these murderous social stigmas that have shaped our existence. There is a brilliant parallel that the writers draw between the investigation of the murder and the investigation of our social situation.
A subordinate says to Jatil Yadav ” Its a clear cut case, the whore killed her husband , put her behind the bars “
To which Jatil Yadav responds ” Duniya bhar me sirf ek hi suspect hai ? Us ladki ko pakad ke andar karde tho problem khatam ? ” This statement has an underlying commentary about the blame game that we love to play when faced with a social issue, instead of investigating its roots and trying to understand how intricate it’s affect is, on our society. This particular scene displays our emotional and intellectual lethargy in making an effort to understand and dissect a situation instead of finding the most convenient answer/solution to the most complex matters.
The underwhelming narrative withstanding, this film achieves what it sets out to do and that is to transform a generic genre piece into a fascinating unveiling of our societal insensitivity. As the film ended, I knew I would protect this film and nurture my admiration towards it, despite acknowledging the imperfections and it shall be appreciated for what it is. This is one of those films that is made by the filmmakers but is completed by the audience, who consume it, deliberate over it and create an own understanding of the film. The Night could be lonley but is still young, full of potential to be discovered in years to come.