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Raat Akeli Hai review: Netflix’s Nawazuddin-Radhika Apte thriller checks all the right boxes

Honey Trehan's crime drama explores greed, corruption and the nexus between the police and the state. With an ensemble cast that delivers, this film would have dazzled on the big screen.

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You know that bittersweet feeling that hits when the final song of a film plays, and the end credits start to roll? And you linger on in the cinema hall, just to bask in the after-glow of a well-told story, and to cling to every last moment? That’s the feeling one gets after watching Raat Akeli Hai, Netflix’s new original that’s now streaming.

Honey Trehan’s film is a murder mystery and a thriller embedded in a complex family drama. Its story is told through the lens of police officer Jatil Yadav, played by the formidable Nawazuddin Siddiqui. The murder in question is of Raghubeer Singh, a powerful and politically connected businessman in Kanpur. Singh is found dead on the night of his wedding to Radha (played by Radhika Apte), his young mistress, who he was marrying after the death of his first wife.

Weddings are such a loud, festive affair in this Uttar Pradesh town that it’s hard to differentiate between the sound of gun shots fired by an excited baraat and those of a murder.

Jatil Yadav arrives on the scene in typical police swagger, pushing down doors of the family haveli and slapping defiant family members. He seems like the standard cop who loves his leather jackets and aviators, and is always up for a challenge.

But he soon realises that this case will not be so easy to crack. Everyone is a suspect, including Radha.

At two hours and 40 minutes, the film is long. But it is evenly paced in how the plot unfurls, and gets juicier with each new piece of the puzzle.

Solid writing, pitch-perfect performances

The film explores violence, corruption, the nexus between police and the state, politicians and their henchmen as a determined Yadav sets about finding the truth, irrespective of how many buttons he has to push.

But there are also lighter moments, like Yadav’s mother’s quest for the perfect bride for her son. The only screw-up about him is that his “rang is not saaf”. But he need not worry. His mother, played by the fantastic Ila Arun, assures him he’s as big a hero as Ajay Devgn while subtly trying to slip him tubes of Fair… sorry, Glow & Lovely.

The only big reveal happens right at the end, so you stay hooked. But even when Yadav finally cracks the case, you realise the whodunit premise of the film is really not the point. The ‘who’ is not as interesting as the ‘why’, given the rich, powerful and twisted family that’s at the centre of all this.

Spinning the idea of victim and perpetrator on its head, Raat Akeli Hai is a story that doesn’t preach. And it is well told, thanks to the the solid cinematography, sound and lighting design, and the script. Full credit to writer Smita Singh, who manages to make even an elaborate plot not feel overwritten, although that might also be a function of the fact that this is India, where Vikas Dubey-like encounters and bizarre situations make you realise that in this country, anything is possible.

And finally, a word on the performances. Nawazuddin’s turn as the quirky but sincere cop is understated and believable, while Radhika Apte is flawless as a feisty yet vulnerable woman with an intriguing backstory. A solid ensemble cast, which includes veterans Tigmanshu Dhulia and Aditya Srivastava, gives the film so much depth and flavour.

The first half of the film is high on male energy. But the second half is when all the female characters come into their own. Actors Shivani Raghuvanshi, Shweta Tripathi and Padmavati make powerful additions to the story.

This is a movie you do not want to miss.

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