Raat Akeli Hai Review (SPOILERS): A Film Noir Romance

Have you been craving romance in your films? Surprisingly, you may be able to find it here! A little bit dark and less fantasy than usual, but still here. If that intrigues you, go watch the movie and then come back here and tell me how wrong/right I was.

Whole Plot in Two Paragraphs:

Nawazuddin is a smart cop who is also a bit insecure. He’s short, he’s dark, his father was just a cook, and his mother keeps trying to get him married but girls reject his picture. He’s called to an odd crime scene, a rich old man shot in his own bed in the middle of the night after his wedding to his mistress. His wife died in a car accident 5 years earlier and shortly after that he brought home a teenage human trafficking victim, Radhike, who he finally got around to marrying the night before he died. The suspects are his nephew and heir, his angry son-in-law who resents the new widow, and his teenage son brought back for the wedding who has a drug record. Also the only guest at the small wedding, the MLA family friend whose daughter is engaged to the nephew. Nawazuddin’s boss keeps trying to steer him to the widow and away from the family and the MLA. But Nawazuddin is stopped short after his first meeting with the widow when she reminds him that he saw her 5 years earlier, she was trying to escape from a train and Nawazuddin stopped her and handed her back to her father, her father who then sold her into sex slavery in this household. Nawazuddin sympathizes with her and keeps investigating, even after he learns she was having an affair with the nephew and everyone assumes the two of them killed her husband. His investigation turns up the death 5 years earlier, and he learns the young maid of the household is the daughter of the driver who died. She tells him something is wrong with her father’s death, he called saying he was driving home and never arrived. Nawazuddin goes out to the country to investigate and finds evidence of a hit and run, including a truck part with the name of the company on it. He goes to the company and learns it is owned by the MLA, begins to put it together that 5 years ago the rich man asked his friend the MLA to arrange the death of his wife with the driver as collateral damage, and the MLA did it and then forced a police cover up. As he is investigating,t he young maid is killed. Nawazuddin is now sure that the family is involved in the death of the old man, and that Radhike is about to be arrested and framed for it. He breaks into the house and pulls Radhike out, saving her, and they go on the run together.

Nawazuddin and Radhike go to a remote country home where the rich man used to hide Radhike away sometimes. Nawazuddin realizes this might be where the dead wife was going when she was killed. He asks the servants for more information, and visits the boarding school nearby where the son was going. At the same time, back in the city, his doubtful constable is seeing evidence of the police boss and MLA are working together and reaches out to Nawazuddin instead of trusting the system. Nawazuddin agrees to bring Radhike back for a hand off, but he and the constable are ready for the MLA’s men to attack and try to take her. They hope to arrest the men and get evidence against the MLA. After the shoot out, Nawazuddin takes Radhike back to the family home where the MLA is visiting and arrests him. But then reveals the real truth. None of the men were actually involved in the death at all, the son and nephew and son-in-law and even the MLA were not in control. It was the niece, Radhike, and the elderly aunt who mattered. Nawazuddin learned that 5 years earlier the wife discovered her husband WITH HIS TEENAGE NIECE!!! Confirmed by the school, which had records the niece was given an abortion with the signature of her guardian, her uncle. The wife called home and told her sister-in-law (mother of the niece). The sister-in-law decided a cover up would be better for the family. So she called the MLA and arranged the murder, then to “save” her daughter arranged the purchase of replacement teenager Radhike. The old man was killed on his wedding night by the niece, who couldn’t handle him having escaped any kind of punishment all these years.The aunt accepts her responsibility but claims she did it all for her son, to save him from family scandal. Her son walks out and she shoots herself. Some days later, Nawazuddin and his mother discuss the case. The MLA is arrested, the police are being investigated for corruption, and the aunt is being blamed for everything meaning the poor niece is off the hook. Radhika is leaving town. Nawazuddin goes to the station and jumps on the train, they smile at each other.

Raat Akeli Hai review: Nawazuddin, Radhika film is sufficiently ...

So, that was a LONG plot! And I probably missed a bunch of stuff along the way, so much happened. But I didn’t miss the character stuff, that’s what really mattered.

This film draws a long hard line down between genders. Right at the start, the woman of the household are ignored as suspects or even witnesses. That might have continued if Nawazuddin hadn’t been shocked by the coincidence that he had seen Radhike on her journey to sex slavery and been woefully mistaken in his read of the situation by ignoring her and trusting the man with her. It starts him seeing Radhike as a real person, and then after her the maid who gives details of her father’s death, then talking to the married daughter who clues him in that her aunt and female cousin are acting oddly, then questioning why the wife was traveling five years ago, leading to learning about the cousin’s victimization, and finally seeing the aunt as the original killer and the niece as the current one. These women had silent quiet tragedies hidden away in houses and bedrooms and their stories could have remained hidden because the men who run the world didn’t bother to look. Except that Nawazuddin accidentally looked and then couldn’t stop looking.

Meanwhile, there is the blustering son-in-law, the “perfect” nephew, the sleazy MLA, and the scary hired killer who works for the MLA. All of them, ultimately, controlled by the women around them even though they believe they are not. The son-in-law is revealed to be a drug addict and drug dealer who supplied to his teenage brother-in-law, at which point his wife rejects and turns away from him. The nephew fell into an affair with Radhike but was terrified of losing his proper romance and heartbroken when the fiance walks out on him anyway. And the sleazy MLA is happy to reveal that it was the aunt who controlled him and told him what to do. It’s very satisfying, after everyone but Nawazuddin ignoring these women and assuming the men must be the killers, to learn that they were perfectly capable of killing people for themselves. Heck, even when Radhike the “fallen woman” was being pushed as a suspect it was as a partner with the nephew because of course she couldn’t kill someone all on her own.

I wanna say that love makes Nawazuddin cross that gender line, but actually I think it is crossing that gender line that makes him fall in love? And vice versa, Radhike falling for him. Nawazuddin is introduced being super judgmental of women, he wants to get married but only to a “good” woman who looks “good” too. At first he neatly categorizes Radhike as “bad” and is ready to dehumanize her. But when he is reminded that she was an innocent teenage girl traveling with her father 5 years earlier, he is forced to acknowledge that there is no “good” and “bad”, that a woman can’t even control her life enough to make those choices. Radhike won’t play a role for him, won’t be good or bad, won’t make excuses when he asks her about the affair with the nephew, is just herself. And, surprisingly, Nawazuddin keeps believing her instead of punishing her for being herself. There’s one little wobble, he tries to kiss her after they run off together and she pushes him away, followed by him accusing her of being the murderer and of trying to seduce him. But once she explains exactly what happened the night of the murder (she found the body and lied about it, but that’s all), he swings back to believing her. How can Radhike not fall in love with the first person to see her as a person instead of just a woman?

Raat Akeli Hai review: Pace hurts this otherwise well-shot crime drama

Best part about this love story is how it helps them get out of their own heads. Radhike refusing to kiss Nawazuddin, that’s a big deal. She was used as a sex object for years, and saw her way out by seducing the nephew and believing he loved her. Now, with Nawazuddin, she is breaking free of the romance trap, just being a person and expecting him to treat her fairly simply because she is a person. Meanwhile, Nawazuddin is putting on Fair and Lovely in secret every morning, anxiously trolling the matrimonial websites, and pretending he doesn’t care about romance when he really does. Until he starts talking to Radhike, more interested in understanding her than in what he looks like. When they come together at the end, they are their best selves.

Of course, underneath all of this cool stuff, there is the essential darkness of human nature and blah blah blah. That’s just film noir, can’t escape it. The dead man was a disgusting person who raped his niece, incest and pedophilia. The MLA was ready to cover it all up AND ordered the murder of the innocent young maid as part of the cover up. Radhike’s father sold her, the police boss cared less about justice than politics, the son-in-law was using drugs to stay in good with his in-laws, and of course the Big Bad, the Aunt, who put what she saw as the happiness of her son (his ability to have a clean family background and make a good marriage) over everything else, including her own daughter. The most depressing noirs end with darkness triumphing. But just as many end with a lesson that those who walk into the dark can bring lightness with them. Nawazuddin really was a good cop, and so was his constable, and they investigated until they saw the truth. Radhike and the niece survived it all and are free now. The nephew managed to walk away from his mother and start fresh too. If you stick it out, it really is a HAPPY ENDING. At least, I think so. What do you think?

14 thoughts on “Raat Akeli Hai Review (SPOILERS): A Film Noir Romance

    • Oh, you didn’t spoil yourself, did you? I really enjoyed watching the plot unfold. Although there are enough interesting small touches I think you can still enjoy it knowing who-done-it.

      On Mon, Aug 3, 2020 at 12:57 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  1. I couldn’t tell what had happened until the end of the movie, so that was fun, always guessing. I got confused on the relationships, and couldn’t figure out why Vikram the (now I understand) nephew was even in the house. I don’t understand why the son-in-law felt he had to do drugs to stay in the family? And the tube hidden behind the mirror was a mystery to me until I read your review. But what I did understand, and it was crushing, was how men view women. How the evil Uncle told the niece she should have killed herself years ago, and believed it. How even after marriage everyone discounted Radhike as a whore. ANd how the men, always chewing, is gross. What were they chewing? Paan, Chewing Tobacco? I prefer smoking. I really liked the younger constable. I hope to see him in more films, and Radhike too, but I already knew I liked RAdhike.

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    • Unless I am missing something in Indian culture, I think the nephew being there WAS weird. Not at first since it was a family wedding, but as he stayed and was clearly new head of the household. The dead guy had picked his nephew as his heir and future head of the family, overlooking his son. In general, his own children seem to have been forgotten, his daughter married off to a bad dude and his son sent to boarding school and ignored as potential head of the family. I think it was an early hint that this family was slightly odd, having his sister (sister-in-law?) and her children living in his household and considered his heirs more than his own children. Once we learned that he had raped his niece, it started to make sense to me, somehow he must have seen his own children as flawed (perhaps because he hated their mother?) and saw his niece and nephew as better.

      I think the son-in-law supplied drugs to his young brother-in-law partly to keep the brother-in-law under his control in any inheritance dispute, and partly to make sure the brother-in-law didn’t look like a worthy candidate to take over any properties that the son-in-law might have instead. Just generally he was a bad dude and a drug addict himself, and he saw giving drugs as the simplest path to solve the problem.

      What I really liked was the way the nephew was painted as “not a bad dude but also yeah a bad dude”. He didn’t seduce Radhike, she seduced him, it was a mutually enjoyable relationship. But also, he was a coward who let her be married off to her tormentor and was afraid to tell her he actually loved his fiance. He didn’t know about what was happening in the household, and once he learned, was shocked and walked away. But he SHOULD have known! How could he not have questioned why his sister left boarding school? Or what happened to his aunt? It was sin by inaction and willful ignorance, versus action, but it was still a sin. Versus Nawazuddin who started out that way, but then worked harder and forced himself to look for the true ugliness,

      On Mon, Aug 3, 2020 at 3:56 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • I did not realize that the nephew loved his fiance. He isn’t very kind to those he loves, when he dropped her off after the wedding he backed away before she was even in the house.

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        • Yeah, maybe not “love” as we would understand it. “Care”, “Want”, “respect”? We see him at the wedding talking to her and making her laugh, which no other man bothers to do for the women around her, and he seems sincerely upset about her breaking the engagement, instead of just talking to her father about it.

          On Tue, Aug 4, 2020 at 8:12 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  2. Oh I didn’t think you’d watch this movie! I liked most of it, but somehow I don’t know if I liked the romance angle. That was the most expected, filmy thing. I kept hoping they wouldn’t go there, but of course they did! I feel like Nawaz could have learnt those lessons without needing to fall in love, or having those feelings reciprocated. After being used and abused by multiple men all her life, Radhika could have enjoyed her independence and money without another man for a while. Well, it’s magical I guess!

    The older lady is the sister-in-law, so the victim had a deceased brother. Then it makes sense that she and her children would live there, like a joint family. But it said they no longer lived there, could it be they moved out after the lady came to know of daughter’s abuse? That brings me to, did the niece know that her mother knew of her abuse? She looked shocked at her mother in the end. It’s horrible that lady didn’t even comfort her daughter after knowing the truth! Also she kept saying she did it for her son, was she already planning to marry son to MLA’s daughter five years ago? Did the MLA get his hands dirty just for securing his daughter’s alliance? I might need to watch it again to figure out all the motivations, but it was good nevertheless.

    This is Kainaat, wordpress is giving me duplicate comment alert so I don’t know if my comment went through.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do appreciate that they held off on Nawaz falling in love. Or, went through all the other worse version of it and rejected them. He starts out being taken by her beauty, but then she is aggressive and rude and that fades away. Then he wants to “save” her, and she rejects his advances after that and he gets angry. Finally he backs off, does justice, lets her get her money and prepare to leave town, and only when they can meet as equals do they get together. Still would have been cool to just have him do the right thing because it was the right thing, but they came as close to that as they could and still include a romance.

      Was the brother older? Thus the son of the older brother is expected to lead the family eventually? And I’m thinking the niece didn’t know her mother knew. the solution was to move out of the house and buy a teenage girl to move in and distract the uncle, and never talk about it.

      I’m thinking it must have been an alliance of old money and politics long in the making. The MLA seemed close to the family straight through, even though the engagement was recent. So I’m thinking the engagement or some kind of formal combination was always planned, and now the golden boy nephew gets the house, the money, and is set up to be the MLAs political heir. And the MLA gets a political heir, respectability, and money.

      Great little sub-message there, all the lessons to women about “stay with your parents, stay safe”, and both Radhike and the niece had parents who sold them into rape and torture and all of that. If they’d rebelled, they would have been a lot safer.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. For me a good thriller whodunit is when I am not able to guess the motive and killer till the end.
    So this was a winner for me.

    Did you find any clues regd the eventual murderer?
    On 2nd viewing I only saw the niece getting restless On seeing nawaz 1st time and scolding the Maid but she was nervous and uneasy the whole movie. She was good in made in heaven, she has a solid future. I felt Shweta tripathi was wasted in this film.
    What a screen presence Shweta has, with her sweet bubly image. Bt I felt her role was cut as the pregnant daughter didn’t add much to the narrative.
    Finally I noticed you refer radhika apte as radhike everywhere, any particular reason?

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    • Agree! I even thought I had solved it, I thought the dead wife’s brother was the killer in revenge for the dead guy killing his wife, but I was wrong.

      The biggest clue I think is that we were told over and over again the dead man was a pedophile (the maid mentioned how young Radhike was when she came, Radhike herself mentioned it, someone else I think talked about the stream of young girls in the house). And the niece had an odd affect straight through, strangely happy and giggly and sort of disconnected. And we learned that, for some reason, the niece and aunt and nephew no longer lived in the home but used to. All the details were stuff we didn’t know, but the audience was given plenty of information to see the main secret/motive being his abuse of his niece.

      Agree about Shweta! Her character was really interesting and we didn’t get a lot on her. Was she abused by her father at some point? did she divorce her husband at the end of the film? Did she inherit anything directly from her father or only through her husband? Why was she married off to someone who seemed less rich and lower status than the rest of the family? Was it a love match somehow? Or did her father just want to get rid of her?

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    • Oh, and I refer to “Radhika” and “Radhike” because I am dyslexic. Keep correcting me and eventually the right spelling will burrow into my brain.

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  4. I don’t think I like Nawazuddin as a main lead. He was amazing in Talaash, but I don’t feel like he has the charisma for me to watch him nonstop for two hours. The rest of the film kinda made up for it, and I’m not sure who I would cast in his place.

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    • I kept thinking about Aamir in Talaash and Akshaye in Ittefaq and Mom. I don’t want them to play the role, they wouldn’t be right for it. But I want someone with that kind of tamped down movie star charisma in the part.

      On Tue, Aug 4, 2020 at 1:20 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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