Most would agree that the most important part of writing a locked room mystery is to make the audience invest in the characters, and bring the audience to the edge of their seats by the time the big reveal starts to unravel. Alas, Anu Menon’s Neeyat starts with a long, predictable and pretentious build-up before the second half somewhat salvages this otherwise routine, by-the-numbers crime drama. There are moments that promise a delicious ode to manor murder mysteries but Neeyat remains well short of what it intends to achieve.
Despite a highly competent cast and plenty of atmospherics, five writers — at least two of them are novelists — could only conjure up a tale that feels laboured and create characters that are stereotypical. It belongs to the genre of Knives Out, but the tools are rather blunt and the suave look doesn’t hold. More importantly, the screenplay is bereft of genuine frisson and dramatic flourishes, and the plot unfolds in a rather mechanical fashion till the serviceable denouement saves the day.
Ashish Kapoor (Ram Kapoor), a hotshot businessman who is a fugitive in the eyes of Indian law is languishing in Britain. Sketched like Vijay Mallaya, Ashish has invited his friends and family for a birthday party on a stormy night in his luxurious castle in Scotland. The long and loud introduction of the weather and the guest list makes it clear that it is a party of parasites keen to suck up to their host, perhaps for oone last time. The only exception is Mira Rao (Vidya Balan), a CBI agent whose name is not on the list but is specially invited by Ashish for a purpose.
Director: Anu Menon
Cast: Vidya Balan, Ram Kapoor, Rahul Bose, Dipannita Sharma, Shashank Arora, Shahana Goswami
Duration: 130 minutes
Storyline: A hotshot businessman invites his friends and family for a birthday party on a stormy night, along with a CBI agent whose name is not on the list
There is Lisa (Shahana Goswami), Ashish’s much younger girlfriend who is not as stupid as she seems. Then there is Zara (Niki Aneja Walia), a mysterious tarot card reader who rigs people’s minds as well. Jimmy Mistry (Rahul Bose), the broke brother-in-law of Ashish, carries conflicting emotions for the businessman. There is Sanjay (Neeraj Kabi), Ashish’s doctor friend and his pushy wife Noor (Dipannita Sharma) who are surviving on the crumbs thrown by Ashish. There is also Ashish’s devoted secretary Kay (Amrita Puri) and his cocaine-addicted son Ryan (Shashank Arora) who turns up with his nosy girlfriend Gigi (Prajakta Koli). A sniffy event manager Tanveer (Danesh Razvi) is also around. Each one has an axe to grind with the tycoon, and as the night progresses their secrets tumble out.
Ram has plenty of scenery to chew and wins the hamming contest hands down. Vidya gives hope as someone who shoots straight with a straight face. Her blank eyes reveal a lot about the character that we gradually get to know, but with only cardboard to play with in between, she is literally reduced to a :walking talking encyclopedia” as Zara describes her in the film. The clues are so conveniently placed around Mira that she hardly breaks a sweat, and one doesn’t feel like rooting for a character that one is not allowed to be intimate with.
Amidst the long list of imposters, it is Shahana’s honest performance that stands out. She fills Lisa, a shallow socialite with lots of substance. Rahul provides a few moments of his whimsy magic and so does Shashank, but as one said, they only have a storm in a teacup to stir.
Neeyat is currently running in theatres