Starring: Vidya Balan, Ram Kapoor, Shahana Goswami, Neeraj Kabi, Niki Walia, Amrita Puri, Shashank Arora, Rahul Bose, Dipannita Sharma, Prajakta Koli, Danesh Razvi
Director: Anu Menon
A classic whodunit in the ilk of an Agatha Christie mystery is one where the audience is kept in the dark about the real killer and his or her motive till the very end. This recent Prime Video mystery-thriller is very much conceived in that mould, including a very Hollywood ‘Knives Out’ kind of canvas with an array of suspects to choose from.
Ashish Kapoor (Kapoor) is a filthy rich self-absorbed billionaire who has decided to fly out all his “friends” to a cliff-top country castle in remote Scotland for his birthday celebrations. As his assortment of guests begin to arrive one by one, the weather forecast is warning of a deadly Storm Irene that will soon be blocking all roads and bridges to that remote locale.
Among the guests is the billionaire’s trusted tarot card reader Zara (Walia) and her pet pooch, his one of many on-off girlfriends Lisa (Goswami), his close friend Sanjay Suri (Kabi) and former lover and now Sanjay’s wife Noor (Sharma). Completing the assortment of misfits is Kapoor’s junkie stepson Ryan (Arora), his dubious girlfriend Gigi (Koli), trusted and besotted assistant Kay (Puri) and the overly efficient manager of the castle Tanveer (Razvi).
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Last to join this very odd mix is Mira Rao (Balan), who is introduced to the group as a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) officer sent by the Indian authorities. Kapoor greets her conspiratorially and later announces to the gathering that he intends to surrender to Rao to face the Indian courts over allegations of fraud and money laundering once her Scotland Yard colleagues are able to override Storm Irene to make it to the castle.
But before such a handover can take place, Kapoor is found dead at the bottom of the nearby cliff leaving behind a suicide note. While Zara insists she witnessed the billionaire jump to his death, Mira Rao is convinced that the death is murder rather than suicide. As the only law enforcement officer present at the scene, she sets about establishing each and every suspect’s motive for killing Kapoor.
For a whodunit of this nature to really work, the gripping edge-of-the-seat mystery element that is crucial is sadly missing from this particular thriller. While it is engaging enough to keep you guessing, with the final twist not particularly obvious, the lack of character definition means the audience isn’t too invested in the climax.
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The central character of Ashish Kapoor and his evident link to a real-life fugitive Indian billionaire on extradition watch from the UK also fails to inject much pathos to the lacklustre script. The always excellent Vidya Balan does her best to give her character some depth but ultimately struggles to overcome the underlying weakness of this film.
So, one for a lazy stream on a slow weekend perhaps but certainly not topping any watchlists.