Neeyat Movie Review: Neeyat, directed by Anu Menon, is a whodunnit influenced by Agatha Christie's works, with Vidya Balan playing the detective investigating a murder involving several suspects. The previous sentence has quite a few parts that would usually make me excited about a film. An Agatha Christie-inspired mystery, cool! Vidya Balan as a "Jane Marple" figure, so exciting. However, what I got with Neeyat was a mystery that was pretty dull, uninspiring, and unimaginative. Neeyat: Sound Work for Vidya Balan's Film Done at Renowned Abbey Road Studios.
Ashish Kapoor aka AK (Ram Kapoor) is a Vijay Mallya-inspired tycoon: flamboyant, ultra-rich, and a fugitive billionaire who created a financial crisis back in India that led to several suicides. He is celebrating his birthday at an isolated Scottish manor of his, where he invites his close friends and relatives. Among them are his estranged step-son Ryan (Shashank Arora) and his new girlfriend Gigi (Prajakta Koli), his gay brother-in-law Jimmy (Rahul Bose), as well as his young actress girlfriend Liza (Shahana Goswami) and her niece Sasha (Ishika Mehra).
Other guests invited are his close friend Sanjay (Neeraj Kabi), his wife Noor (Dipannita Sharma), and their teenage son who aspires to be Christopher Nolan. There is also Kay (Amrita Puri), Ashish's besotted PA, Zara (Niki Aneja Walia) who is his psychic, and Tanveer (Danesh Razvi), the event manager.
There is also one other guest in the form of Mira Rao (Vidya Balan), who isn't related to anyone at that party. At the dinner table, AK reveals that he plans to surrender to Indian authorities out of guilt, who will confiscate all of his properties. Mira is the CBI officer assigned to extradite him home, but she cannot do it then as there is a typhoon raging outside. While the news is met with mixed response, later AK is found dead, apparently having died by suicide by jumping from the cliff. However, Mira believes he has been murdered and the killer is among them since each had a motive to kill AK.
Watch the Trailer of Neeyat:
Look, the basic premise of Neeyat is something we have seen umpteen times, whether in Hollywood or Bollywood. Some of them, like Neeyat itself, are inspired by Agatha Christie's stories (check out Vishal Bhardwaj's series Charlie Chopra). How such a whodunnit succeeds is in keeping the mystery alive until the very end. It doesn't have to be that the identity of the killer has to be something mind-blowing, but the investigation itself should be kept riveting.
Neeyat, unfortunately, fails both in terms of the investigation part and also in the reveal. Let's talk about the reveal first. Not that I am spoiling anything for you here, but the big twist is something you can see from miles away, and the film does a terrible job of keeping it hidden from our prying eyes and average intelligence. There is one more twist about a certain main character that comes afterwards, but it feels like a pale imitation of an iconic twist from a film that starred the very same actor!
Now, let me talk about how we reached that portion. While the motives of the red herrings and building up the murder victim in relevance to a real-life fugitive tycoon do raise some interest, they don't scratch beyond surface level and remain paper-thin characters as such. The performances also range from just about acceptable to wildly jarring.
It also doesn't help that Neeyat is not very clear about its own intent in how to present its mystery. It could have played as straightforward as Sidney Lumet's Murder on the Orient Express. Or take a more light-hearted approach as done with Jonathan Lynn's Clue. Or take a subversive but entertaining route with plenty of social commentary like Rian Johnson did with the Knives Out films. Glass Onion A Knives Out Mystery Movie Review: Rian Johnson-Daniel Craig Pull Off Another Brilliant Benoit Blanc Murder Mystery.
Neeyat tries to do all that, but sticks to none and the tonal dissonance stands out weirdly. There is a scene near the end where Mira reveals why each of the suspects had reasons to kill AK, and Jimmy breaks down into revealing his feelings for the brother-in-law. While it is delivered passionately, the reactions of the onlookers afterwards take a more comical tone, and it is promptly done away with. Considering how seriously Mira was handling the part, this sudden change of tone felt quite erratic and the same issue keeps happening at various junctures.
Even when it comes to the suspense, Neeyat often takes the viewer's intelligence for granted in fixing the pieces of the puzzle together. There is not a single reveal that made me go "Wow" or even "Hmmm". Even when the entire solved puzzle is laid out in front of you by Mira, I was still left with many, many new questions that should not have been raised at all. The film tries to address class divide and the nonchalance of the privileged towards the sufferings of the less-privileged. But the clumsy approach it takes does the conversation no favour and it keeps reminding us how the Knives Out films did the same with more wittiness.
Which brings us to the main protagonist, who I believe is Neeyat's Achilles heel. No shade on Vidya Balan, who does a good job with what she's given, although her hairdo was a bit distracting. The problem is how the character is presented. In many successful whodunits, it's how the investigator commands the scene that makes the proceedings arresting. The issue with Mira Rao is that she's too low-key and underplayed, to the point where even her introduction brings the energy level of the film down. This is a shame, as the actress playing the role is a scene-stealer otherwise. The finale gives her a reason for why she is the way she is, but it feels like a wrong writing idea for the character since it doesn't benefit the film in a better way in the earlier portions.
Technically also, Neeyat doesn't raise the bar. There's only one song in the film, and it fits the theme well.
Neeyat is a disappointing whodunnit that fails to live up to its Agatha Christie-influenced premise, and an underwhelming followup to Vidya and Anu Menon's delightful previous collab, Shakuntala Devi. The mystery is dull and predictable, Vidya Balan is under-served, the investigative portions are lacklustre and the finale tests our intelligence and not in the right way. No Knives Out, this one!
(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Jul 07, 2023 10:02 AM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website latestly.com).