Rautu Ka Raaz is a secret worth uncovering!

Nawazuddin Siddiqui in Rautu Ka Raaz. Photo: Trailer Video Grab

ZEE5 has always been delivering mixed fare—in series as well as OTT film releases. Thankfully, Rautu Ka Raaz (The Secret of Rautu) is a better than average offering from them. A murder mystery set in the picturesque hills of Uttarakhand, including Mussoorie, the film has all the ingredients needed for such a thriller—but something extra by way of quality and depth.

Reminding me of the olde-worlde British whodunits penned by the likes of Agatha Christie, John Dickson Carr and of course with a whiff of Sherlock Holmes and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, it is a placidly moving drama whose best part that it does not bore. Something relevant is happening all the time in the 114-minute narrative, and we keep getting pointers and clues like any good whodunit but are led to think something other than the truth!

Inspector Deepak Negi (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), who has lost his love and hasn’t really recovered from the trauma, is summoned to check on the death of a school warden, Sangeeta (Narayani Shastri), who seems to have died in her sleep. The main trustee of the school (which is for blind students) is Manoj Keshri (Atul Tiwari), and soon it is revealed that Sangeeta and he were having a full-blown affair.

Forensic evidence points to unnatural death and so the cops label Sangeeta’ death as a murder. A dry and unused syringe found nearby is discarded by Negi, while video footage also suggests a missing mobilephone. As Sangeeta’s character comes slowly to light, she emerges as a whimsical and strict woman who had no sympathy for two blind students, a girl and a boy, who were merely holding hands. Then there is a third girl who has gone missing, a staff member who had molested her, and buzz that Keshri and Sangeeta were both in cahoots with builder Ashraf Jaani (Nitinn Rana) to sell the land on which the school stands for a great profit.

As Negi relentlessly pursues the case, there is political pressure on him to go easy on Keshri. Clearly, all is not what it seems with everyone.

The best part about Rautu Ka Raaz is that it never strays from its focus, never goes into hysterical drama, does not get needlessly humorous (thrillers normally have an undercurrent of wit and humor) and does not ramble on any sequence. It also eschews needless blood and action. The characters too are sharply-etched and come across as very human, whether it is Kesari, his wife (unknown actress) and son (Harshit Verma), the builder, the politician (again I do not know their names) and even the few blind students who play relatively prominent roles.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui makes for a believable cop, reminding me of his 2020 thriller, Raat Akeli Hai, though this one is far better, both as a film as for his no-nonsense-no-frills performance. Atul Tiwari’s character seems initially typecast, but he scores as Keshri. Narayani Shastri’s brief cameo-like role (initially, she is just seen as a dead body!) and Rajesh Kumar as Negi’s leading assistant are both effective. Samriddhi Chandola as the female cop does well too, and there is yet another actor playing the fourth cop in the team. In a brief but well-etched role, Harshit Verma does well as Tanmay Keshri.

Crisp scripting (Anand Surapur, and the other writer is Zee honcho and this film’s co-producer Shariq Patel) and businesslike direction (Surapur) embellish this  saga of intense emotions (which it finally turns out to be!). Deft editing (Manish Jaitly and Anand Surpaur again) and vibrant cinematography (Sayak Bhattacharya) only add to the charm of this modest mystery. Zeb Bangash’s background score also works with its unobtrusiveness.

Yes, this raaz (secret) is worth knowing. Go for it.

Rating: ***1/2

ZEE5 presents Zee Studios’ & Phat Phish Records’ Rautu Ka Raaz  Produced by: Zee Studios, Umesh Kr Bansal, Anand Surapur & Chintu Srivastava  Directed by: Anand Surapur  Written by: Anand Surapur & Shariq Patel  Music: Zeb Bangash  Starring: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Rajesh Kumar, Atul Tiwari, Narayani Shastri, Samridhi Chandola, Harshit Verma, Tanmay Mehra, Nitinn Rana & others






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