The atmospherics are so regular that you look back fondly at movies like Gumnaam as trendsetters.
A storm is on its way, the sole bridge to a large and stand-alone castle in Scotland can’t be crossed, wifi and network aren’t available and the staff has been sent away. On duty are only Kay (Amrita Puri) and Tanveer (Danesh Razvi).
Host Ashish Kapoor (Ram Kapoor) who arrives in a helicopter is a Vijay Mallya kind of economic fugitive and he’s called everybody over to celebrate his birthday.
Director Anu Menon along with a heavy writing department (Girvani Dhyani, Advaita Kala, Kausar Munir, Priya Venkataraman) introduces all the suspects with Tanveer ticking off their names from the guest list as they arrive. Everybody is present except for one mantriji who has backed off.
Sundry family members like late wife’s brother Jimmy Mistry (Rahul Bose), Noor and Dr Sanjay Suri, a high society couple from London, personal healer Zara (Nikki Aneja Walia), son Ryan (Shashank Arora) who’s a cokehead, young girlfriend Lisa (Shahana Goswami)…The list goes on as each one troops in nursing their little secrets.
Ashish Kapoor’s surprise guest is straight-talking CBI officer Mira Rao (Vidya Balan).
A chandelier falls, nobody’s hurt. But the mood for murder is set.
Meanwhile, the resemblance to Mallya is thinly disguised as dialogues and TV shows establish non-payment of salaries to employees, some have committed suicide, while the offender lives life large-size after fleeing India with political help. And among Ashish Kapoor’s last big ventures was an airline that crash landed. How subtle.
The royal dining table is a favourite setting for murder mysteries as tampering with food and drink is a compulsive distraction.
A couple of killings, Mira on the trail, dirty little secrets tumbling out and lights going off are all familiar tropes in murder mysteries. There are twists and turns and identity swaps too.
So what’s missing?
It’s the element of thrill, anxiety and edge-of-the-seat excitement that Anu Menon is unable to whip up. Besides, the characters and their secrets are all so seen before that there’s dire need for freshness.
Vidya Balan, Rahul Bose (hilarious in places) and Prajakta Kolhi (as son Ryan’s girlfriend) are skilled performers and Shashank Arora has one last laughable moment as a man in a haze. But there is no extraordinary performance or exceptional scene that makes Neeyat stand out as a crime story. In fact, even though there are surprises, there is a ‘ho-hum, okay, what next’ feeling. Character traits like Shahana Goswami, a woman who thinks she has a sense of humour, are soon forgotten. A guest carrying around a paternity test result (especially when he’s always known his limitations) is unconvincing. And the nod to normalising the LGBTQ community has become so mandatory that is no longer an unexpected element. Watchable? Yes, if it was a show on an OTT platform. Will you buy a ticket and go to the theatre to catch it? I doubt it.
Watch Neeyat Trailer:
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