Murder mysteries can never go out of fashion and have something to do with the murder of some of the best Indian, Hollywood and world cinema. Last week, we saw casting director Mukesh Chhabra as the director for the love saga DIL BECHARA. This week, it is the turn of another casting director, Honey Trehan, to don the director’s hat. For his first film, he chooses an intriguing murder mystery, RAAT AKELI HAI. So does RAAT AKELI HAI manage the entertainment and adventure of the audience? Or fails? Let us analyze.
RAAT AKELI HAI is the story of a policeman investigating a complex murder case. Inspector Jatil Yadav (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) from Belghat, Kanpur, receives a call one night, informing him of a murder in his jurisdiction. This murder was done by Dhani Thakur Raghubir Singh (Khalid Tyabji). Incidentally, it is Raghaber’s second wedding day, with Radha (Radhika Apte), who was previously her fault. Raghubir’s first wife Kavita Singh (Natasha Rastogi) died five years ago in a hit and run case that went unsolved. Raghubir’s nephew Vikram Singh (Nishant Dahiya) told that he had last spoken to Raghubir at 11:30 pm. Meanwhile Radha does not give proper answers, which casts doubt on Jatil and his accomplice Nandu (Sridhar Dubey). However other family members – son Karan (Nitesh Tiwari), daughter Karuna (Shweta Tripathi Sharma), son-in-law Ravi Sisodia (Gyanendra Tripathi), niece Vasudha (Shivam Raghuvanshi), sister Pramila Singh (Padmavati Rao)) and maid Chunni (Riya Shukla) ) Also behaves with suspicion, Jatil cannot help but wonder if Radha is involved in the murder. At the same time, he is absorbed by her and even attracted to her. Meanwhile, Radha is scorned by the other family members and one day she is about to attack Karan, when Jatil slaps him and stops the latter. This affects Ravi and he complains to local MLA Munna Raja (Aditya Srivastava) who was also a close friend of Raghubir Singh. Munna finds Jatil’s investigative method inappropriate and complains to Jatil’s superior, SSP Lalji Shukla (Tigmanshu Dhulia). Soon, Jatil realizes that the Munna Raja is also associated, not only with the killing of Raghuber, but also by the killing of Raghuber’s first wife. What happens next makes the rest of the film.
Smita Singh’s story is promising and also features a DJ vow of last year’s Hollywood flick KNIVES OUT. However, it would be wrong to conclude that RAAT AKELI HAI is a copy since it was first created. But the resemblance is not only a murder mystery, but also supernatural in the home setting! Smita Singh’s screenplay is a big mess. Ideally the script should be submerged and tense. Instead, it is unnecessarily dragged into several locations as the investigation surrounds most parts of the film. Also, the film is quite long with a run time of 2.29 hours. Smita Singh’s dialogues are fine.
Honey Trehan’s direction is average. Technically, he gets the film right and has the space, setting, and even good performances from his actors to perform well. But on Flipside, it takes them a long time to get to this point because the narrative just unnecessarily wanders from here to there. Some developments are also very unrelated. When this type of murder occurs, the investigator should ideally grill everyone present in the mansion. Instead, Jatil mainly focuses on Radha and Vikram Singh. In one scene, he hints that his junior has investigated but it is never shown. It is only in the second half that Jatil finally investigates Karuna and the others. The kind of question she asks him is something he should have asked on the night of the murder! There are many more idiosyncratic examples in the film. In the later part of the film, Jatil received a report of a nursing home. A dedicated policeman like him should ideally check their contents immediately. Instead, he forgets about it and is reminded a few days later while he is waiting for his train at the railway station! As a result of such moments, the film fails to engage.
RAAT AKELI HAI starts on a very terrifying and thrilling note and sets the mood. The introduction of Jatil Yadav’s character and his relationship with his mother (Ila Arun) is fun. The initial scenes of the murder mystery are quite fascinating. But in no time, interest starts falling. Some scenes impress and attract attention such as Jatin Tannery, an investigation of compassion and an action chase leading up to the sequence, but the rest of the time, the film just dips. The last 20 minutes are when the mystery is solved. This is unexpected but thanks to the slow speed and long length, the desired effect is not formed.
Nawazuddin Siddiqui is in his element as usual. It is interesting how he tries to add something new to each performance and RAAT AKELI HAI is no exception. Radhika Apte leaves a huge impression and faithfully plays the role of a mysterious and troubled woman. Nishant Dahiya is a bit polished but it works for his character. Sridhar Dubey is fine in the beginning but gets better in the second half. Ila Arun is hilarious and quite poignant. Shweta Tripathi Sharma does not have much scope initially. However, she makes her presence felt in the second half. Gyanendra Tripathi is a bit over-the-top as per his requirements. Shivani Raghuvanshi is quite good especially in the later part of the film. Padmavati Rao is cultured. Aditya Srivastava is fine but his character should ideally be feared. Tigmanshu Dhulia is ruined. Khalid Tyabji is hardly there. The same goes for Nitesh Tiwari. In fact, his character has nothing to do in the film and is simply added to it. Ravi Bhushan (henchmen) is quite scary and is good for the part. Swanand Kirkire (Ramesh Chauhan) does well in cameos. Riya Shukla is an actor to watch out for. Baljinder Kaur (Chunni’s grandmother) is brilliant in a small role. Natasha Rastogi and Vijay Kumar Dogra (driver Ramadin) have no scope.
Sneha Khanwalkar’s music is forgettable. All three songs ‘Wake up’, ‘Ghoom Charkhaya’ And ‘Aadhe Aadhe Se’ There is not a shelf life. ‘Ghoom Charkhaya’ However, Sukhwinder Singh is slightly affected due to singing. Karan Kulkarni’s background score is subtle and has a sense of mystery. Pankaj Kumar’s cinematography is superb and captures many of the film’s moods and moments beautifully. Shruti Kapoor’s costumes are straight from life. The production design of Rita Ghosh, Vinay Narkar, Niyati Upadhyay is realistic. Harpal Singh Pali’s action is impressive. Srikar Prasad’s editing is very bad and the film ideally should have been 30-40 minutes short.
Overall, RAAT AKELI HAI is a slow, long and flawed murder mystery. The only savings are grace performance and climax.