Raat Akeli Hai streaming on Netflix: Devotion to a genre often compels filmmakers to turn a blind eye to the socio-political environment a story grows into. This leads to the creation of a narrative that can only breathe in an alien space and serve gratification for the duration it exists. Such films neither manage to communicate to the audience on a personal level nor evolve as an allegory for some aspect of life. Smita Singh prevents herself from falling into the aforementioned trap by getting concerned about multiple things beyond the whodunit core of her story. She is not obsessed with the mystery she is attempting to draft but she is not overriding the requirements either. Honey Tehran doesn’t appear to dilute the implications at the same time. As a result, Raat Akeli Hai gets rewarded with an excellent story considering its genre.
But this is where its list of noteworthy merits terminates. Hindi mainstream cinema is stuck in a catacomb of filmmaking sensibilities. Narrative devices seem to come from a set of rules and regulations that have been written in some book suggesting 101 ways to make a Bollywood film. At some point in the entire duration, films become bound to acquire a patronizing pedestal, assuming they need to explain XYZ through audio-visual cues or through vocal narration because the audience will not get it. It is as if the entire industry believes with conviction that the comprehension capability of individuals is strictly guided by their IQs and hence, they have to choose the individual with the lowest IQ and make a film for his/her/their understanding such that the entire world can understand the film. Hindi films overestimate the volume of their crowd and underestimate the ability of their audience. Raat Akeli Hai is not new. And justifications to why and how do not claim relevance anymore.
Not even an iota of mystery, ambiguity, or characters stay once the film gets complete. Raat Akeli Hai skillfully unfolds pages after pages in a regular fashion to maintain engagement but it also reads out the pages for you and becomes tiresome in many instances. There is absolutely no need to have a visually exposed subplot with its own significant portion of the screenplay so that characters are established. I do not need to know the history of the family to convince myself that the protagonist is stubborn. I do not need him to blurt out misogyny or heroism from his mouth through one-liners to convince myself that my hero is a misogynist or vice versa.
A majority of the information served to establish characters is nonsubstantial, akin to clean garbage that doesn’t stink or irritate but that cannot be recycled or put to use either. Excessive noise does not hide data that is relevant, it just makes data uninteresting by the time it arrives. A slow burn isn’t created by taking a liberal duration and filling it with dialogues, disposable subplots, and short-films within the film for each microfiction told by characters. A slow burn is created by letting the characters breathe, occupy their space through routine, conceal information that we are bound to give importance to, and eventually establish their individual mysteries.
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I wholeheartedly appreciate how the film entwines politics, abuse, and exploitation with the central plot of the investigation. The investigation itself is quite grounded and Raat Akeli Hai abandons a long list of cliches. No character is beautiful. No toxicity is glorified. And no one is burdened with the responsibility to preach.
While the film is shot in an interesting way, the mise en scene boasts a diverse range of colours complementary to the atmosphere. Nothing is impressive when it comes to performances. All actors are repetitive, doing the bare minimum to pull their roles. Tigmanshu Dhulia, Nishant Dahiya, and Aditya Srivastava are just better ones from the lot. Nawaz has been claiming roles that indicate his growing reputation in the industry but his growth rate is his own craft isn’t impressive. He not only needs diversity in the characters he is given to perform but he also needs to bring diversity to the way he performs each. Something that the likes of Naseeruddin Shah and Om Puri did in their inception which contributed to their sustainability.
My second greatest reservation comes from the way the film has been edited. It is as expository as the dialogues themselves. Visual clues interrupt vocal narration accompanied by a change in score, which collectively screams more than suggesting. The last sequence is especially frustrating because first, the revelations get narrated to you vocally in an as comprehensive way as possible, and then they get played in an entire episode. I hardly have any problems with the runtime of films but careful editing might have made this film a little more efficient.
Raat Akeli Hai is a good film that I will definitely recommend to have a meaty discourse around its successes and failures but won’t impose as if my life depended on it.