Raat Akeli Hai - A crime drama that works more like a mood piece than a thriller!
Light rays from a speeding car in a pitch dark deserted highway is what welcomes us to the world of Raat Akeli Hai. What follows is a murder but what really gets us hooked to the screen is the rather eerie ambience that has been painstakingly created and the cinematography that captures these initial moments from interesting angles. Even the first shot capturing the headlight isn't captured from the front of the vehicle but at an angle from the side of the road. It almost sets us up for the way in which we view this film, from the sidelines!
The one liner is a bit similar to Knives Out with the head of a rich and influential family being murdered and the killer is believed to be someone within the household. But the comparisons should end here as this is a drastically different film in every way. What we get here is an atmospheric crime drama and the revealing of the killer doesn't become the focal point of the film. Whether that works to its advantage or disadvantage is a different question altogether.
The physical violence is relatively muted but the film showcases the psychological violence thrust upon women in a patriarchal set up. The term slow burn would ideally mean that things gradually build up to a climax. This film possibly opts for that route but the engagement quotient sort of dips a little towards the end. Running close to 150 minutes, the film deliberately opts for a slow pace and that does work well but the length is felt towards the end. One reason is possibly because we aren't really rooting for anyone in the film. While this isn't necessarily a prerequisite, it doesn't help in the sense that towards the end we aren't really desperate to find out what had happened on that fateful night of the murder. But the final reveal does come as a surprise and packs some emotional punch.
The only lighter portions of the film are the interactions between Jatil ( Nawazuddin Siddiqui ) and his mother that almost always revolve around his marriage. These scenes aren't just a diversion but the way Jatil views women changes by the end of the film and this then resonates with what his mother tells him at the very beginning. You marry someone form them to be your partner and the girl's character does not need approval from the world! Jatil's definition of a decent girl itself has probably undergone a change during the course of his investigation of the case.
The performances are effective. Nawazuddin plays the upright cop but he goes about his routine rather unassumingly. All the women in the film (save Jatin's mother) have this gloomy look in them. Each one is possibly holding numerous wounds and secrets deep within them that they no longer know the feel of happiness.
A crime drama that effectively showcases the ugly side of patriarchy and its far reaching repercussions. This one works more like a mood piece than a thriller.