Netflix’s Raat Akeli Hai is a must watch whodunit starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Radhika Apte

Directed by Honey Trehan, written by Smita Singh, Raat Akeli Hai is now available on Netflix…

You often associate ‘Raat Akeli Hai’ with a song about flirting, or at least Hindi Cinema has made us believe so. In my wildest dreams, I never thought of it as something associated with a thriller, but here we are with Honey Trehan’s Raat Akeli Hai which is both flirtatious and thrilling. Well, it’s not exactly flirtatious, but there is a hint of romance in the film.

Raat Akeli Hai is a classic whodunit. It’s not a genre that hasn’t been explored yet. But this is a very refreshing film. With Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Radhika Apte at the helm of their film, Trehan and writer Smita Singh create Raat Akeli Hai with a certain freshness and skill. Freshness that new writers tend to bring about and skill that comes from experience. This sounds like a contradiction in itself, but you’ll probably understand what I’m trying to say once you watch the film. A whodunit can go terribly wrong. Take Abhinay Deo’s Game (Abhishek Bachchan, Kangana Ranaut) for example. A possibly good setup but incorrect treatment. It’s easy to go the wrong way. But Trehan and Singh keep you on your toes. I thoroughly enjoyed the film, while I waited to find out who killed the groom.

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Nawazuddin Siddiqui in a still from the film; Source: Netflix

Raat Akeli Hai is the story of a broken family. It’s about a rich, affluent family, the head of which has been murdered, but not one person shows apt amount of grief. Shivani Raghivanshi’s Vasudha remarks at one point that she didn’t know him well enough to show grief. Should she fake it, she asks. Instead, everyone is pointing fingers at and abusing the woman (Apte) the old landlord was marrying — a woman he bought from her father.

At first, Raat Akeli Hai comes across as a thriller. But it is much more than that. It’s also a commentary on patriarchy, misogyny and abuse. The women in the film are given voices, but most of them are asked to shut up by the male characters. Even Siddiqui’s Jatil Yadav seems to be surrounded by patriarchal norms. He wants to get married and is looking for a decent girl to marry. Because he is dark skinned, he applies Fair & Lovely. But the good thing here is that Raat Akeli Hai never tries to become about this commentary. The film knows it’s a thriller at heart and continues to be so, while things are spoken about in the background.

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Radhika Apte in a still from the film; Source: Netflix

What works best for Raat Akeli Hai are the characters and the actors. Halfway into the film the writing of many characters seems to fall apart (as Trehan and Singh hold the suspense tightly), but every single actor contributes to hold their own character together, resulting in the saving of a mishap. Nawazuddin Siddiqui as a small-town inspector is brilliant (when is he not brilliant?). He’s there in almost every single scene of the film and does a wonderful job. Giving him her full support is Radhika Apte, who plays Radha, the mistress of sorts. The brilliance of Apte lies in her eyes, and she knows exactly how to use them!

The supporting cast – Shweta Tripathi, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Shivani Raghuvanshi, Aditya Srivastava, Nishant Dahiya, Padmavati Rao, Ila Arun, Swanand Kirkire, Shree Dhar Dubey, Khalid Tyabji are all wonderful in their own rights, especially Ira Arun. As Jatil’s constantly nagging mother, she is perfectly comical and serious at the same time. Watch out for her scenes with Siddiqui. And also Shweta Tripathi. She gets few scenes, but is a show stealer!

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Shivani Raghuvanshi, Shweta Tripathi and Ila Arun in stills from the film; Source: Netflix

There are faults in Raat Akeli Hai, definitely, but Trehan and Singh give us such an interesting premise, that you often look beyond the loopholes. It’s interesting, intriguing and just when you think it missed the mark, the actors make up for it, or the next scene does.

All in all, there’s little to complain about in Raat Akeli Hai and a lot to look forward to…

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#BBSeenScene: Shakuntala Devi In Anu Menon’s (@directormenon) #ShakuntalaDevi, there is a defining moment for the relationship between mother (Shakuntala) and daughter (Anu), which remains with me as the emotional highlight of the film. Hindi films have generally ignored toxic relationships between mother and daughter. They always tend to focus on problematic fathers and sons (Baghban, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham), while women mostly show kinship. But are relationships between mother-daughter always a fairy tale? Anu Menon questions just that. Shakuntala Devi is an insecure mother. She often fears losing her daughter and hence makes her daughter travel with her wherever it is that she has to go. For the longest time, Anu doesn’t even go to school because Shakuntala fears losing her. That’s when Anu begins to dislike and even hate her mother. When in one scene, Anu asks Shakuntala why can’t she be a normal mother and why can’t they have a normal home, Devi has a moment of thought. She realises that in her hunger of earning name and fame and in her pursuit of running away from home, she (a) forgot what home meant and (b) didn’t realise that for all these years she has been depriving her daughter of a home (that’s how the film projects Devi, not our thoughts). In the next scene, Menon shows that Devi has bought a home for herself and her daughter. Devi no longer wants Anu to be confused as to what is home, which hotel is home. She wants Anu to feel at home in her own home, and also spend time with her daughter. Anu is born into legacy. Rather into a genius legacy, but what she searches for in life are the simple things and perhaps Devi failed to understand the same. This scene saw a change in her, and in their relationship as mother and daughter. But for how long can this genius live within the confines of domesticity? @balanvidya @sanyamalhotra_ Words @kunsahuja

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