‘Neeyat’: Vidya Balan’s Murder Mystery is Unoriginal, Familiar

By Shubhra Gupta

A colourful billionaire is hosting a bunch of his good friends on an island. It’s all fun and games till someone gets bumped off, and a clever coot shows up to solve the mystery. Now, what does the central premise remind you of? Why, ‘Knives Out 2’, right? Make that rich guy a salt-and-pepper bearded desi who looks astonishingly like a real-life billionaire on the run, turn the sunny isle into a Scottish castle with storm clouds looming, and you get ‘Neeyat’. So much for declaring that this is not a ‘Knives Out’ rip-off.

Still, having said that, the first half of this whodunit is got through quite briskly, with an array of characters arriving one after another, each of whom has a motive to kill. Ram Kapoor plays Ashish Kapoor aka AK, the dashing tycoon who has more than a few secrets up his expensive sleeve. So does everyone else trooping into the castle: his devoted slave K (Amrita Puri), his old friend (Neeraj Kabi) and wife (Dipannita Sharma), his new girlfriend (Shahana Goswami), his coke-addict son (Shashank Arora) and girlfriend (Prajakta Koli), his trusted healer and her little dog (Niki Walia). As well as an event manager (Danesh Razvi) who is holding the fort on his own, till a CBI officer (Vidya Balan) shows up from India, with the stated intention of carting off said billionaire back home.

You will find many influences here: the spread-eagled body lying on the rocks below looks straight out of Agatha Christie’s ‘Death On The Nile’; the rising body count is very ‘And Then There Were None’, also by the same author; so is the process of gathering all the suspects, and focussing on each person’s dark past till the real culprit is caught. You can also spot a Daphne du Maurier touch from her acclaimed Gothic novel, ‘Rebecca’. ‘Neeyat’ is a film trying hard to be original but never quite shaking off the feeling that it is treading familiar ground.

Post-interval, the petering out is rapid. Some of the performers are game triers, especially Ram Kapoor, but the milling around doesn’t help. Neither does Balan’s stolid clomping around, trying to pull off a smart sleuth, who also, that’s right, has something to hide. Smart viewers know a red herring when they see it.

Cast: Vidya Balan, Ram Kapoor, Rahul Bose, Shahana Goswami, Shashank Arora, Neeraj Kabi, Dipannita Sharma, Amrita Puri, Niki Walia, Danesh Razvi, Prajakta Koli
Neeyat movie director: Anu Menon
Neeyat movie rating: 2.5 stars