The Hindi film Neeyat is directed by Anu Menon and stars Vidya Balan, Ram Kapoor, Rahul Bose, Neeraj Kabi, Shahana Goswami, Amrita Puri, Dipannita Sharma, Niki Walia, Shashank Arora, Prajakta Koli
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The problem for Neeyat, as could be made out from its trailer itself, is its setting and staging. It is a very Agatha Christie kind of background. A confined place full of friends and relatives. One person is killed, and the rest are all suspects. An investigator arrives, and slowly the backstory evolves, and beyond all the bubbling camaraderie and bonhomie, almost everyone has a reason to take out the victim. The sleuth’s job is to see through this skein of exchanges and zero in on the actual killer. Not just Agatha Christie, the two recent Knives Out murder mystery movies starring Daniel Craig as the investigator Benoit Blanc are very much in the mould. The 2022 Malayalam movie 12th Man, starring Mohanlal, which is based on the 2016 Italian flick Perfect Strangers, had a similar setting.
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In that sense, director Anu Menon’s setting, a remote castle in Scotland, is a bit surprising. But the genre thrills that such a story of whodunnit is still gripping. Yet, it also signals a lack of imagination. The way the story unfurls also isn’t all that convincing. The story ends with a bunch of friends and relatives of billionaire businessman Ashish Kapoor (Ram Kapoor) arriving at a beautiful Scottish locale for his birthday bash. The caboodle of people are also the regular suspects in such a story: his dear friend Sanjay Suri (Neeraj Kabhi), his wife Dipannita Sharma), son Ryan (Shashank Arora), Ryan’s girlfriend Gigi (Prajakta Kohli), (niece Sasha (Ishika Mehra). You expect a zany spiritual person in such stories, and you get here tarot card reader (Nikki Walia), Ashish Kapoor’s loud and brash brother-in-law Jimmy (Rahul Bose), event manager Tanveer (Danesh Razvi) and secretary Kay (Amrita Puri). These characters have nothing interesting to offer except that they are all dependent on the riches of Ashish Kapoor in some way.
Into this midst arrives Mira Rao (Vidya Balan), the gauche CBI officer, to extradite the Vijay Mallya-like rich man. But soon, she has to don the mantle of investigating his death. As she keeps piecing together evidence, skeletons tumble out from everyone’s closet. The investigation part is where the film has to show intent and kick ass, but there are also lazy plot twists, carelessly strewn evidence, and convenient reveals. It dilutes the thrills and excitement. The final kick is also a bit underwhelming.
Vidya Balan, for whom this is the first outing in theatres in the last four years, is in good form. She is, as usual, solid as an idiosyncratic CBI sleuth. But some of her mannerisms start to wear thin as the film progresses. Anu Menon, who had earlier directed her in Shakuntala Devi (2020), has wrestled another good show from her heroine. Ram Kapoor, as the gregarious rich man, is more than adequate. Shashank as his problematic son, is also in fine form as his lines land with sharpness. But Rahul Bose is a bit hammy. Andreas Neo’s camera work is excellent. But Anu Menon as the director, could have shown more courage in choosing a more demanding plot and setting.
An engineer-turned-journalist, K Balakumar’s career began in print publications as a sports writer. That also opened doors for other journalistic avenues like films, music, finance, technology and politics, which nobody can escape in India. After 30 yrs in mainstream journalism, now a freelancer for various digital publications.