Rautu, in Uttarakhand, is described as the kind of village where there hasn’t been a murder in over a decade. So when the warden of a hostel at a school for the blind is found dead in her bed, the local police force is unusually excited.

Finally, here is something to do for the feared disciplinarian Deepak Negi (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), sub-inspector Dimri (Rajesh Kumar) and the rest of the squad. There is evidence to be bagged, witnesses to question and a soft board with photographs connected by string to be mounted.

The question of whether the warden Sangeeta (Narayani Shastri) has actually been killed or simply died naturally lingers long enough to raise the hope that Anand Surapur’s Rautu Ka Raaz is parodying your average police procedural. Might Deepak and his posse, in their enthusiasm to liven up their humdrum routine, be chasing a chimera?

Alas, Surapur (The Fakir of Venice) and co-writer Shariq Patel actually have a murder plot in mind, and not a very absorbing one at that. Glacially paced by design, the 113-minute movie involves a bunch of mostly dull suspects and a motive as old as the hills that surround the characters.

The Hindi-language movie is out on ZEE5. The alacrity with which Deepak slips into Sherlock mode is puzzling, given the lack of blood-letting in this supposedly peaceful corner of Uttarakhand. The back story given to Deepak to justify his zeal is unconvincing, just like the school’s founder Kesari (Atul Tiwari) is a stretch as a lothario.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui attacks scattershot material with unrewarded focus. Rajesh Kumar too huffs and puffs about like a trekker on a climb that he didn’t sign up for. The air is thin in these parts, like the mystery itself.

Rautu Ka Raaz (2024).