A great element to whodunnits or mysteries is the story’s ability to put forth all the facts it can as early as possible. It’s not just the detective that solves the mystery but the audience as well. But often the detective solves the case with information the audience never has, and the twist just falls flat. Fortunately, it gives me great joy to say that this film treats its audience with respect. This movie presents evidence and facts as and when it can and everything that we know is what the narrator knows. The opening scene itself sets the tone and structures the story perfectly. Raat Akeli hai (2020) is undoubtedly one of the best murder mysteries from Indian Cinema in recent memory.
Being set in a small Indian City named Kanpur, this movie never concerns itself with an elaborate technique for the murder itself. The premise establishes the probable ‘how’ very early on and is more concerned with the ‘why’ and the ‘who’. No one has a concrete alibi and everyone is a suspect. This movie is more interested in creating a tense atmosphere and having great characters. The film gives everyone a unique personality despite the runtime being so plot-dependent. This is something I often willingly overlook. But somehow, Raat Akeli Hai (2020) manages to balance a great mystery along with its fleshed-out characters.
There isn’t a single performance that pulls this movie down. Huge praise as expected goes to both Radhika Apte and Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Both have amazing chemistry, stay true to their characters, and give thoroughly even performances even with tense moments. The film has also been shot incredibly well with some amazing low or natural lighting shots that are spooky but beautiful. The dialogue never feels like it belongs in a movie that heavily relies on its plot but instead flows naturally.
There are a few plot conveniences which although don’t feel implausible, do feel convenient. These are crucial for the twist in the end and having that information earlier could have made things too easy. At this point, it comes down to your suspension of disbelief and investment, which for me was more than needed. A few character decisions don’t really make perfect sense and some character moments feel slightly throwaway. Thankfully, that is handled with grace and never disrupts the pace of the film. The film still could’ve skimmed at least 15 minutes off its runtime and probably didn’t need the one or two songs in it. These are minor complaints in a very well thought out script that has been executed with immense skill.
Raat Akeli Hai (2020) is an excellent whodunnit that is plausible, exciting, and well-structured in its narrative. Some minor plot conveniences aside, its strong performances and interesting characters make it one of the best Indian murder mysteries in recent memory.
Watch Film Companion talk with the cast and director, here.