Who has a motive for killing fugitive businessman Ashish Kapoor (Ram Kapoor)? Who doesn’t, actually? Nearly every guest at Ashish’s birthday celebration in a windswept castle in Scotland brings along fake smiles and grinding axes. It’s left to the outlier at the gathering, Mira (Vidya Balan), to solve Ashish’s murder, which she does in due course through a parsing of readily available clues and sheer guesswork.
Anu Menon’s Neeyat (Intention), modelled on English manor murders of yore, is mild fun but easily forgettable too. It could have been more. The diluted Agatha Christie-style mystery, written by Menon, Advaita Kala, Girvani Dhyani and Priya Venkatraman, has a serviceable plot but lacks the memorable character sketches or strongly staged individual scenes that might have elevated a mechanically plotted crime thriller.
The list of actors apart from Balan is long. They play characters who often behave suspiciously or act dishonourably.
The roll call includes tarot card reader Zara (Niki Walia), Ashish’s much younger girlfriend Lisa (Shahana Goswami), his shady doctor Sanjay (Neeraj Kabi) and Sanjay’s wife Noor (Dipannita Sharma), and his broke brother-in-law Jimmy (Rahul Bose). There’s also Ashish’s loyal secretary Kay (Amrita Puri), wayward son Ryan (Shashank Arora) and his girlfriend Gigi (Prajakta Koli), and a poor relative whom Ashish has been putting through school (Ishika Mehra). Finally, there’s supercilious event manager Tanveer (Danesh Razvi), who sometimes behaves as though he owns the place.
As a storm rages outside, secrets are revealed on the inside. Since every one of the guests has a back story, the revelations come thick and fast. Split screens, a moving camera, and quick cuts are deployed to ratchet up the tension. The denouement is satisfying, and at least one late-breaking twist is well handled.
Among the noteworthy actors is Ram Kapoor, in full-blown corporate charlatan mode. Rahul Bose has a few fun moments as the eternally vamping Jimmy. Vidya Balan, who has previously played a rookie detective in Bobby Jasoos (2014), is as serviceable as the film itself. Clad in a single costume throughout, Mira is highly focused, nerdy and observant. She sees the things she isn’t supposed to see, as well as things that have been conveniently placed within her eyeline. Mira looks like she is working very hard, but she actually isn’t.