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Raat Akeli Hai

As The Swivel Chair Spins #12

Fridays are better than most days. 

Particularly the ones that come with detective movies. 

Raat Akeli Hai is indeed an evocative title, more so for Bollywood buffs of the Dev Anand song, but it hardly captures the movie that follows it. We could push a little more and say it’s a romantic title, much like Inspector Jatil Yadav- who’s secret gaze of women contradicts his lofty expectations from his future wife. “Decent” & “good looking” is what he tells his mother, how difficult would that be to find? 

Later on a lonely night, somewhere in the Gangetic plain,as Jatil bhai sits down to have his reheated dinner, a gruesome muder is reported. 

A large mansion. A dead old patriarch and suspects reaching to the double digits. It’s a classic Christie setting. 

Wait! A short detour into what catapults the best Christie adaptations into classic status, hmm, it’s only five things that we really need.

  1. There’s the idiosyncratic detective (mostly accented) 
  2. There’s the avengers type collection of the best of acting talent and all of them  colorful suspects 

(Maybe you can look up the list from Sidney Lumet’s Murder on the Orient Express) 

  1. Of course, who could forget multiple motives
  2. Easy deception or more deaths 
  3. Finally, climatic exposition of what happened, preferably in the drawing room. 

Netflix’s Raat Akeli Hai has all of the above! Typing this makes us very happy, to see writing that loves genre elements like we do. 

But that’s not all, if it’s classic Christie in part, writer Smitha Singh seems to have been bitten by the Chinatown bug and weaves in Radha (Radhika Apte), a shifty femme fatale and layers of social commentary. 

Hmm, mostly it works well, no one can fault Nawaz as he limps through the small lanes in the search of clues and solve the murder of Raghubeer Singh. Nawaz believably goes from frustrated to sufficiently self confident. 

Where Raat Akeli Hai loses the plot, is in its inability to differentiate the suspects, this is important in a classic Christie setting because the tension is wholly sustained on who the killer is? 

Could it be him? Could it be her? Could it be them? Or could it be one of those unbelievable sleight of hands that Christie does and stumps her reader, just for sakes. 

All of this tension comes from us knowing the characters, glimpses of their lives, their worries and motives from the interviews that the detective would take and frame the narrative. Here, after a point (the third act), it didn’t really matter who the killer really was and our characters are just names painted behind foldable film shooting chairs. 

For the viewer tired of Christie’s Mysteries, there are lots of other things to look at, like the elaborately designed rooms in Thakur saab’s mansion, mirrors and Pankaj Kumar’s effective cinematography.

Yes, but it’s hard to watch this film  and not think about Knives Out.

Raat Akeli Hai is now streaming on Netflix.