Available on: Netflix
"Bahaar ki duniya bahut kharaab hain," warns Jatil Yadav (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) to a damsel-in-distress (Radhika Apte), when he rescues her in a train. But what happens when you realize that things can get sinister even within the four walls of a mansion? Honey Trehan's home-grown murder mystery Raat Akeli Hai treads on a similar path.
What's Yay: Performances, Cinematography
What's Nay: Slow-paced screenplay
Just like the title, the film too, begins on a lonely night. The piercing headlights of a car on a dark highway give you a hint that an ominous event is about to unfold. Within few minutes, a brutal crime is committed. However, the cover-up leaves behind a few traces, hinting that the buried secret is just the beginning of 'something dark'.
Five years later, Raghuveer Singh, the rich patriarch of a 'Thakur' family is found dead in his bedroom on his wedding day. His head all bloody, points out that the killer had a motive. Enters the investigating police officer, Jatil Yadav (Nawazuddin Siddiqui). We are later told that his strange first name is because of a clerical error on his school certificate.
Speaking about the crime, the needle of suspicion points at every family member, since each of them have a dark past and their own reasons to kill the old man. As the investigation progresses, Jatil steps into the murky waters, only to realize that there's more to this than meets the eye.
At one point when Jatil asks a suspect who might be the killer, the latter quips, "Koi bhi ho sakta hai - humse zyada himmatwala, humse zyada trast. Par aise kisi ko hum toh nahi jaante." The cop rolls up his sleeve, even more determined to expose the culprit.
Honey Trehan makes an impressive directorial debut with Raat Akeli Hai. Together with Sacred Games co-writer Smita Singh, he crafts an interesting suspense thriller. At times, the film does take help of cinematic troupes, but Trehan and Singh's layered writing shapes it into a different mould. Also, a hat tip to Trehan for his spot-on casting.
On the flip side, the director takes his own sweet time to tell his story, as a result of which, the slow-paced narrative ends up diluting few thrills.
Nawazuddin Siddiqui, as Inspector Jatil Yadav is in a solid-form. He digs his teeth deep into his character of a cop hell-bent on solving a case. But Siddiqui's Jatil is a man with his own set of flaws, and that makes him more relatable. Radhika Apte lends a mysterious touch to the film with her character Radha who has a tragic past. Shweta Tripathi and Shivani Raghuvanshi stand strong in their respective roles. The rest of the cast including Aditya Srivastava, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Nishant Dahiya, Swanand Kirkire and Ria Shukla lend a strong support to the film.
Pankaj Kumar's camerawork and rich colour scheme adds more drama and tension to the whodunit. Sreekar Prasad's taut editing covers up the bloated screenplay and thus, less damage is done.
Rather than as a standalone music album, the songs of Raat Akeli Hai are more effective in taking the narrative forward and expressing the mood of the scene.
Honey Trehan's directorial debut Raat Akeli Hai is a slow-simmer with well-crafted performances and rich frames. In one of the scenes, Nawazuddin Siddiqui's character says, "Naam yaad rakhayega, Inspector Jatil Yadav." Well, his cop act does linger with you even post the end credits!
We give 3 stars out of 5 for Nawazuddin Siddiqui-Radhika Apte's Raat Akeli Hai.