A still from the movie.
A still from the movie.

'Rautu Ka Raaz' Movie Review: Nawazuddin Siddiqui is back in this simple, soothing procedural

Set in a quaint, little hamlet in the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand, this film is a comforting mystery

KOCHI : Rautu Ka Raaz is a misleading title. The word ‘Raaz’ suggests a dark secret, brings to mind a diabolical force lurking in the woods of the hills the film is set in (thanks to Vikram Bhatt’s 2002 horror flick). Rautu... is anything but that. Set in a quaint, little hamlet in the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand, this film is a comforting mystery. It has the pacing of a bedtime story which doesn’t succumb to the juicy trappings of the fast-paced mountain thriller. There are no occult fires being burnt in the forests, no wall bears the shadow of a maneater approaching. The film is a truly tranquilising tale of a sleepy old village and the slow-life of its members.

SHO Deepak Negi (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) can’t get a shut eye. A murder will keep him further awake. At the local blind school, a hostel warden has been found dead in her bed. It seems like a regular case of the age-old heart attack. Rautu is no place for a killing. “We haven’t had a murder case in 15 years”, exclaims his deputy Dimri (an excellent Rajesh Kumar). Negi himself isn’t a keen gumshoe. When the post-mortem report states that the warden died of unnatural causes, like a weekday-weary employee he rues “Kaam badh gaya (Sh**, more work). Investigation reveals that the warden Sangeeta (Narayani Shastri) was more evil than hostel wardens tend to be. An affair, a molestation attempt, builders eyeing the school’s land, there are multiple pieces to this meditative whodunit.

Director Anand Surapur (The Fakir of Venice, 2009) and writer Shariq Patel weave an investigative that saunters like life in the hills. Rautu... is in no hurry and the story unfolds calmly. The dialogues don’t sound witty and convey the gentle conviction the makers have on the material. At the centre of it is the casually brilliant Nawazuddin Siddiqui. After a tryst with forgettable family-comedies, the actor gets back to a serious story which bears no weighty seriousness. Although Negi is a character who gets nightmares of a lost lover, Nawaz steers clear of the cliched boorishness of the drunkard detective. His cop nonchalantly does his duty while appearing to be a Yes Man. He even solves the case without a suspension.

Rajesh Kumar plays the perfect sidekick. His Dimri isn’t reduced to an ignorable sycophant. Rajesh embodies the character’s clumsiness. He is hilarious without trying. In a sequence, I noticed how he treats his juniors in the same sarcastic manner he is being treated by Negi. Just another part in the authority machine.

Rautu... doesn’t try to be a riveting thriller. In a scene, a team of cops led by Negi have to entrap an absconding suspect. Numbed by murder mysteries over the years, I expected a chase sequence in the narrow by-lanes of a hill or in the marketplace swarming with tourists. The man gets a topple on the head and is pushed into a police car as he tries to sneak out the back door. Brilliant. The film also shines, like the morning sun on a lake, in sequences like Negi shutting his eye and trying to get down the stairs, after witnessing a visually-impaired kid rush up them or when he discusses the meaning of a painting with a blind school student. Although it has one song, there is a certain musicality in Rautu...that attaches itself to every scene. It flows like a late-night ghazal near the fireplace. Rautu Ka ‘Saaz’.

Film: Rautu Ka Raaz

Director: Anand Surapur

Cast: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Rajesh Kumar, Atul Tiwari, Narayani Shastri

Streaming on: ZEE5

Rating: 3.5/5

The New Indian Express