Starring: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Radhika Apte, Ila Arun, Tigmanshu Dhulia
Director: Honey Trehan
Any crime drama starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Radhika Apte can be regarded a safe bet when it comes to entertainment value. As two of India's top screen actors, they have carved their names and reputations as the victims and perpetrators in cinematic and digital streaming hits like 'Gangs of Wasseypur', 'Badlapur' and 'Sacred Games'.
The two powerhouse performers come together once again for 'Raat Akeli Hai', a new Netflix Hindi-language original helmed by former casting director Honey Trehan. This time the pair sidestep contemporary gangster territory in favour of the murky world of the traditional whodunit. Think Agatha Christie's Miss Marple and Inspector Poirot with an Indian twist and you'll get the picture.
Siddiqui plays a police inspector from Uttar Pradesh, Jatil Yadav - a leather jacket wearing, Bullet motorcycle-riding cop who takes on a dangerous mission to unravel the truth behind the murder of an influential landlord on his wedding night. In true Sherlock Holmes style, Siddiqui tries to piece together the clues and sniff out the red herrings in order to figure out who is involved.
The signs all point towards the landlord's young bride and former mistress/prostitute Radha (Apte), alongside her handsome lover, who also happens to be the victim's boarding school educated nephew. However, Inspector Yadav has an inkling that all is not what it seems on the surface. Added to his stress of solving the complex case is the irritation of his meddling mother (a hilarious Ila Arun), hell bent on finding him a bride, despite his “dark complexion”, bad attitude and dangerous job.
Yadav's sharp deduction skills and brave battle against the corrupt system within which he resides add spice to the screenplay by Smita Singh ('Sacred Games'). In the search to uncover his unknown powerful nemesis, Yadav's puzzling attraction towards prime suspect Radha adds another level of complication.
Set out like a traditional murder mystery, there's plenty to like about 'Raat Akeli Hai'. Siddiqui and Apte's memorable dialogues and deadpan delivery are pure paisa vasool (money's worth). Add to the mix, great supporting roles by Tigmanshu Dhulia and Swanand Kirkire and there's plenty to hold your attention.
That said, the level of suspense required to fully grip and pull in audiences is somewhat lacking. Darker plot twists and turns could have boosted this from an average entertainer to a superior drama. While the lead pair's intensity and star power are in no doubt, both could have benefited from a meatier script and edgy climax.
If you love solving riddles, add this to the watch list.
by Jaspreet P. Bajaj
*iGlobal Review Series