If we want to narrate a story in the vein of Agatha Christie, we have a long way to go.
A murder at the birthday celebration of exiled billionaire Ashish Kapoor (Ram Kapoor) has everyone in his inner circle under suspicion. CBI officer Mira Rao (Vidya Balan) must use all her resources to solve a case where nothing is as it seems and everyone is hiding something.
We have seen the biggest Hollywood stars feature in Agatha Christie-style films and slay in them. From Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile to Knives Out and Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, people have seen it all and yet look forward to more in this whodunit genre. Of course, questions arise: why do we need another Knives Out when a Hindi movie is announced? However, there is a sense of excitement that emerges when you see a substantial cast that features Vidya Balan as the star.
Ashish Kapoor (Ram Kapoor) owns a castle in Scotland, which serves as the film's isolated opening set. I wonder when the tag "Mr. Kapoor" will leave the actor, which has stuck with him since Bade Acche Lagte Hain. Anyway, the actor's look is totally modelled on infamous businessman Vijay Mallya. Oh well, even the story is; yes, the movie demonstrates how the Indian government has not yet extradited him and how he has not paid his employees for about two years. This birthday party is a celebration amid making his employees suffer, and even eight people have died by suicide because of his crimes.
This even draws similarities to the public event Mallya hosted on the occasion of his birthday, which didn't go well with many. Mr. Kapoor's close friends and family, who treat him like a dog, are present in Neeyat, though. There's constant touching on his cheeks and arms while they are talking to him. How does everyone have the same trait of having no boundaries?
As the party kicks off, a so-called unvited guest arrives, Mira Rao (Vidya Balan), and Mr. Kapoor reveals that she is a CBI officer who has come to arrest him as he is ready to surrender. She is shown as someone who excels in deductive reasoning in no time. However, it's her deadpan expression that makes you confused, or you can give it to her being a no-nonsense cop. The first half keeps an engaging buildup as murder doesn't take place until then.
There's a sense of predictability about why each of the guests and even Mr. Kapoor's "neeyat" is not in the right place. However, the usual trope that rich people are dumb and thus cannot perform a perfect crime comes into play. The film's script severely disappoints the supporting cast, who are among the most talented people in the industry.
How do you make each of the cast members, including Rahul Bose, Dipannita Sharma, Shashank Arora, Shahana Goswami, Neeraj Kabi, and Amrita Puri, perform so badly together?
The first 15-20 minutes of the film are filled with small talks and everyone greeting each other like long-lost friends. However, it doesn't seem like they have been away, as each is so close-knit that it looks incestuous.
Whodunit thrillers have underlying comic elements that make the plot a little more interesting, but they always stay on the darker side. In Neeyat, the dialogues by Kausar Munir fail to bring that comedy, which becomes nothing but stupid and caricaturish, to another level. When you have a detective with you who is hunting down the murderer, if you can't communicate, you might expect not to ask questions, which themselves have answers.
There's never a bad Vidya Balan performance; even in a bad film, the actor is a saving grace. Similarly, even in Neeyat, the actor's cheekiness is toned down, something we have seen in Sherni also. But the actor maintains that mystery throughout, and the very last twist justifies her characterization the way it is. Another question: How does she get hit like three times in the film and not a drop of blood is seen anywhere?
Anu Menon, along with Girvani Dhyani, Advaita Kala, and Priya Venkataraman, have co-written the script, and the four of them just couldn't enter the conclusion phase, making the entire second act falter completely. It's so destructive that you just don't want to see a mass murder spree as the final nail in the coffin.
The twists that keep coming are surely there to engage and make the thriller compelling, but the fact of the matter is, they serve another purpose.
The supporting cast features Rahul Bose as Ashish's financially strapped brother-in-law Jimmy, Nikita Walia as the tarot card reader Zara, Shahana Goswami as Ashish's considerably younger lover Lisa, Neeraj Kabi as Ashish's best friend and ex-plastic surgeon Sanjay, and Dipannita Sharma as his wife Noor.
We also meet Ashish's devoted assistant Kay (Amrita Puri), his spoilt and drug-addicted son Ryan (Shashank Arora), his girlfriend Gigi (Prajakta Koli), and a less fortunate relative (Ishika Mehra) that Ashish has been helping financially through college. Last but not least, there's Tanveer (Danesh Razvi), the event manager, who acts superior to everyone else there.
But no one hits quite the mark except maybe Ram Kapoor, but the actor brings a similar range when he plays a businessman, whether a good or bad person.
Neeyat could have been an Indian mystery that would have worked, going by the meaty cast. But no, we are still yet to arrive in this genre if we plan an Agatha Christie-style story narration.
Anu Menon has also directed a couple of episodes of Killing Eve and an entire season of Four More Shots Please!, along with the Vidya Balan-starrer Shakuntala Devi. But Neeyat is not quite there; the film is all over the place and wobbly.