Review: Raat Akeli Hai, a cozy murder mystery

Raat Akeli Hai (The Night Is Lonely) hails from Honey Tehran, a Bollywood casting director-turned feature film maker and is one of the more promising films to come out from India this year.

Raat Akeli Hai

Raat Akeli Hai (The Night Is Lonely) hails from Honey Tehran, a Bollywood casting director-turned feature film maker and is one of the more promising films to come out from India this year. A classic whodunnit with a cop as the protagonist; Raat Akeli Hai doesn’t reinvent the wheel by any means but it it still provides a cozy murder mystery to sink ones teeth into.

Raat Akeli Hai: The premise is simple

On the wedding night of a rich old aristocrat Raghuveer Singh, he is found dead on his bed. The weapon seems to be his own gun that was fired at a close distance by someone within the house, effectively placing his entire family under the shadow of suspicion.

The Singh family comprises of his two kids, his sister-in-law, her son, and daughter who has her husband living with her. There is also the new bride, an outspoken younger woman who seems to be quite despised among the family.  The cast playing these characters consists of a fairly unknown bunch of actors: Nitesh Kumar, Riya Chukla, Shweta Thepati, Shivani Raghuvansi, Shweta Thripati, Padmavati Rao among others.

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Out of this cast of lesser known faces, CID actor Aditya Srivastava and Sacred Games star Radhika Apte are more familiar and consequently given more to do. However, leading the ensemble and the beating heart of the movie, is Nawazuddin Siddiqui, adding another fine performance to his increasingly impressive resume.

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Raat Akeli Hai is darkly satisfying

The movie is a well written and acted mystery movie with an ending, which while bitter, finishes on a high note. The resolution isn’t so simple that it will be easily predicted even if you have your finger on the pulse from the moment the movie begins. While further calibration would have made the film more kinetic and gripping, Raat Akeli Hai is nonetheless darkly satisfying.

Although the entire roster of well rounded characters are far from being likable, Siddiqui’s role is one of the oddest lead roles to originate in some time. His Inspector Jatil is the stern but honest officer who makes an appearance at the third act of most Bollywood thrillers and whose characteristic seems to hinge on his bad temperament. In Raat Akeli Hai, that role is opened up and expanded upon.

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Tactful casting and direction

The film knows that he’s not your stereotypical lead, neither being young nor fair, a plot point that is commented on through a litany of snide remarks and scenes throughout the film.

As well as it commits to his tough bravado though, the movie fumbles its attempt at doing his character justice with how hyper-masculine his alpha male depiction is. His actions particularly towards Radhika Apte’s Radha in the movie appear as excessive and go beyond the microaggressions we are accustomed to witnessing from our Bollywood leads.

For every clever jab at colorism the movie makes through Inspector Jatil’s marriage obsessed mother, there is a needlessly aggressive scene of him being physical with Radha. It is one of the most irksome things about the film, simply because the movie is in the dark about how his antics seem more creepy than romantic.

Lengthy runtime does little to up the momentum of the film

Another fatal flaw the movie has its lengthy runtime which does little to up the momentum of the film and could reasonably prevent many from finishing the film. Those looking to power through would be better advised to split the film into two sittings if the movie becomes too tedious in the second hour.

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The lack of any levity doesn’t help matters, and the movie as grim as it is feels longer with its dour tone. People interested in action more than a well shot mystery would not find much to like in Raat Akeli Hai but that is simply because the film isn’t going that route.

Raat Akeli Hai is a small film in scope, and it benefits from that. More style and less retreading of familiar territory would have distinguished Raat Akeli Hai, but it is still a respectable first entry in Tehran’s filmography.

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