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Nawazuddin Siddiqui Carries the Weight in ‘Rautu Ka Raaz’ A Mild Murder Mystery in Rural India

He is sharp but weird. These are the two adjectives that the residents of Rautu ki Beli, a quiet village nestled in Tehri Garhwal, use to describe Deepak Negi, played by the ever-versatile Nawazuddin Siddiqui. Deepak Negi is a police inspector struggling to break free from the lingering effects of personal trauma. This insomnia-ridden yet astute police officer wakes up one morning to find his village’s tranquillity shattered by a heinous crime—murder.

The victim, Sangeeta, portrayed by Narayani Shastri, is the warden of a school for the blind. She has been found lifeless in her room, and while the school’s staff ascribe her death to natural causes, something about it doesn’t sit right with Inspector Negi. His team, led by the well-meaning but sluggishly efficient Dimri, played by Rajesh Kumar, seem reluctant to go beyond routine. Yet, Negi’s instincts and circumstantial evidence pull him towards an unsettling conclusion—this is no ordinary death.

The murder scene provides ample red herrings, witnesses, and backstories that entangle the narrative. Suspicion first falls on the school’s founder Kesari, enacted by Atul Tiwari. However, like the winding mountain paths, Negi’s investigation meanders and repeatedly hits dead ends. Obstinate and unyielding to external pressures, be it political or from within the department, Inspector Negi remains undeterred, driven by a dogged determination to uncover the truth.

Nonetheless, the adjectives ‘sharp’ and ‘weird,’ used to describe Negi, could equally apply to the storytelling itself. Director and writer Anand Surapur, along with co-writer Shariq Patel, attempt to unfurl a murder mystery that promises much with its intriguing vision but stumbles in the delivery. It harks back to the Doordarshan era of simpler crime stories that, while not overly gruesome, managed to convey social messages through multifaceted characters and layered storytelling.

Indeed, ‘Rautu Ka Raaz’ sets out to offer an analogous experience.

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. It distinguishes itself from the often fast-paced, urbane murder mysteries populating modern streaming platforms by incorporating humor derived from small-town stereotypes and social dynamics. However, this approach also inadvertently highlights the underlying motive of the project, making it seem somewhat superficial. A few more script revisions and more robust control over narrative arcs could have deepened the story, removing the instructional undertone that occasionally mars the film’s simplicity.

Quite disappointingly, Inspector Negi’s personal backstory feels fragmented and doesn’t fully mesh with the main narrative. Kesari’s character and his tendencies remain half-baked, while the intriguing setting—the school for the blind—misses opportunities to be more compelling and less reductive. Rajesh Kumar shines among the supporting cast as the laudable yet cumbersome Dimri. Even in a film headlined by the iconic Nawazuddin, Kumar’s portrayal proves the adage that less is indeed more.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui finds himself at the story’s core, tasked with shouldering a significant burden due to the lack of substantial support from the directorial vision. While Siddiqui delivers a competent performance, he lacks the nuanced direction that could allow him to fully unleash his range. Much like his character, there are moments where Nawazuddin seems to be merely functioning without the dynamic flair he’s known for, making it feel as if he turned up for some scenes without fully reengaging his acting prowess. For much of the film, he seems to be just ‘being Nawaz,’ a fate that perhaps not even an actor of his caliber can escape without the right directorial guidance.

Despite its flaws, ‘Rautu Ka Raaz’ does offer a uniquely picturesque setting—a rural village in the hills of Tehri Garhwal—which adds to its visual and contextual appeal. The storyline is compelling enough to spark curiosity, even if it doesn’t consistently sustain it. The film’s measured pacing and modest stakes make it a distinctive watch in an era dominated by high-octane crime dramas.

Streaming now on Zee5, ‘Rautu Ka Raaz’ is a reminder of the potential and pitfalls of rural-set mysteries in Indian cinema. It leaves viewers with a mixed but intriguing experience, revealing that even when a story is not told perfectly, it can still linger in the mind, much like the implacable Inspector Deepak Negi himself.