Memos from Asia

Review of Netflix’s New Indian Film, Raat Akeli Hai: This is Not Just a Whodunnit

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CHIANG MAI ,THAILAND – March 31, 2018 : Close up Netflix website in laptop screen. Netflix being popular internationally.

Raat Akeli Hai is Netflix’s latest murder mystery from director Honey Trehan.

It stars Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Radhika Apte, both known for their performances in the critically acclaimed Netflix series Sacred Games.

New Netflix film just released in July

Raat Akeli hai exclusively available on Netflix.

Review: A bit long, but it’s worth watching.

A white ambassador car, a symbol of power and politics in India, is thrown off the road by a truck. The driver then proceeds to murder a woman and the man driving the ambassador. The film begins with a murder to keep at the back of your mind.

Five years later, a small town Police Inspector Jatil Yadav (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), is a single aging man who lives with his mother (Ila Arun). After a call at night, he visits the mansion of Raghuveer Singh (Khalid Tyabji), who has been murdered on the night of his wedding.

Jatil is greeted by the deceased’s brother-in-law from his first wife Ramesh (Swanand Kirkire), who introduces a visibly unmoved family of the ‘thakur.’

The family includes Raghuvir’s children Karuna (Shweta Tripathi), and Karan (Nitesh Kumar), Raghuveer’s sister-in-law Pramila (Padmavati Rao), her son and daughter Vikram (Nishant Dahiya) and Vasudha (Shivani Raghuvanshi) and Karuna’ husband Ravi (Gyanendra Tripathi). The housemaid Chunni (Riya Shukla) is also present in the house.

The death of Raghuveer by his own gun becomes a mystery as everyone claims to have heard nothing because of the celebratory gunshots that are common at many marriages in rural India.

The movie then introduces Radha (Radhika Apte), the mistress-turned-bride of much older Raghuveer, and Jatil shows signs of early infatuation.

Ravi, who was supposed to be the next patriarch of the family being Karuna’s husband, becomes violent, seeing Radha getting all the wealth. Radha’s character comes into question, and the Indian society’s prejudices are exposed very well.

You’re definitely left guessing “whodunnit” until the climax. The movie checks the first one on the to-do list of a good mystery.

The film also highlights a number of social issues in India, including human trafficking, corruption, dowry, domestic abuse, toxic patriarchy, colorism, rapes, and sexual assaults.

Even though the movie touches so many things, it never forgets what it is, a murder mystery, and that’s the best thing about Raat Akeli Hai. Also, the understated tone carries all the serious topics, and nothing graphic is shown more than necessary for viewers to know.

The local politician Munna Raja (Aditya Srivastava) who was also attending the wedding and Senior Superintendent of Police Lalji (Tigmanshu Dhulia) try all they can to obstruct the hero’s search for murderer eventually making Jatil rebel against the corrupt Police-Politician Nexus to solve the case and keep Radha safe.

One can’t ever decide whether it is Jatil’s infatuation for Radha or his dedication to the job as a cop that makes him fight for her. He shows that he hates Radha and is just trying to help her because he is sympathetic, but his interest is visible, which his junior Narendra (Shreedhar Dubey) points out.

The movie isn’t a stereotypical “Bollywood film” but rather a commentary on society woven around a worthy whodunnit, which can keep you stuck to screen for the 2.5 hours length. Honey Trehan’s direction is impressive throughout the film, especially when it comes to little things like avoiding unnecessary dialogues and unrealistic action.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Radhika Apte are praiseworthy in their roles. Swananda, as Ramesh lives his character. The whole ensemble keeps the show running and makes it hard to find any loose performance.

The cinematography showcases rural India in scenic ways wherever possible. The wide shots and different angles add to the experience immensely. Each frame feels made with care.

The shortcomings are few, but to start with, the length is too long. The film is well-edited and has no fluff, but not everyone fancies watching longer movies.

Many characters don’t get the screen time they deserve, especially Shweta Tripathi, a talented actress whose character Karuna adds little to the story.

The movie tries to tell a story of women suffering under Indian patriarchy with some great insights like how women become complicit in it because of superficial excuses. But, the movie goes on to show the hero as a savior and tries its hand at romance as well, which feels unnecessary and too much in one movie.

Verdict

Overall, Raat Akeli Hai brings a fresh take on the murder-mystery-whodunnit trope with focussed performances, calculated storytelling, and interesting cinematography, which you shouldn’t miss just because of its length!

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