7th July 2023, Mumbai: Following Shakuntala Devi (2020), Neeyat is the second project that director Anu Menon and star Vidya Balan have worked on together. Neeyat, on the other hand, imagines them in a very other setting, where Vidya plays CBI officer Maya Rao, an unlikely detective tasked with solving a murder in a remote Scottish castle. Vidya Balan and Anu Menon opened up in an interview about the mystery, the captivating power of telling stories, their response to the Knives Out analogies, and other topics.
Anu, I have a question for you first. Describe how you came to the decision to make Neeyat your next movie. Vidya, how did you become involved in this endeavour, then?
Anu: I used to jokingly say that my next movie will just have one location and one costume when we were filming Shakuntala Devi, a very demanding movie that required over 500 costumes and 60 locations. (laughs) It initially began as a joke, but as time went on, I also wanted to push myself and attempt something new. I decided I really wanted to attempt this genre after that. I then began to consider what the tale would be and began pitching ideas to the writers room. We took a while and I hope you like it! Eventually when it was ready I sent the script to her and bit my nails!
Vidya: It took me a few days to finish reading it. Because our experience together was a true collaboration in the best sense of the word, I want to work with her once more. I finally read it, and it was like making a swift choice since I adored the screenplay. It was a conventional murder mystery, but I really liked how unpredictable and unique it was. So I answered right away, “Yes.”
You previously portrayed a detective in Bobby Jasoos, Vidya. You played a sort of investigator in Kahaani as well, even if you are not a real detective and are instead searching for the truth. Mira Rao is currently in Neeyat. What about playing these characters has you found most enjoyable?
Every character must, in my opinion, be fascinating for me to continue reading about them. I need to find… It’s not just internal, either. It must be natural to the individual and an inherent aspect of their essence and personality. Which you must achieve. I did that with Anu. Therefore, I may have played characters in the past who have said less. However, each character has been unique.
For you, Anu Neeyat is in a completely new genre and feels like a step up from your last movie. You are now collaborating with such a sizable ensemble cast. It’s intriguing that you are examining several script types. What were your influences, and were there any particular detective novels that really influenced you?
I adore the category. You could say that’s one of my favourite and go-to genres. I’ll watch a murder mystery while people watch action movie. It’s a part of London culture, the English village, etc., where I dwell. An enormous Agatha Christie adaptation is produced by the BBC every Christmas. On Boxing Day, you watch a murder mystery while it’s chilly outside. I adore that, and I share those aesthetics. It therefore seemed like bringing all these ideas that have been floating about in my head for so long together when I discovered those in this story, for these characters, in Scotland. I bounce between genres, but ultimately they are all stories about people. The decisions I make for myself also intrigue me. You begin with a quick concept in your head. People then arrive and assist you. Actors then continue it.
Since the trailer was released, viewers have often commented on how much Knives Out resembles this film. What comments do you have regarding these responses?
A: Since it is of the same genre, it will probably make people think of Knives Out. They can claim that a spy movie that came out looked like James Bond. So even if it belongs to the same genre, this story is original. Therefore, if you liked Knives Out and enjoyed seeing it in a theatre, which many people did, you would also like this. Knives Out was a good movie, but Neeyat, in my opinion, shares the same swaad (taste) but it is a different dish!
How do you feel about these analogies, Vidya? Benoit Blanc, played by Daniel Craig?
Vidya: Were any comparisons made? (Laughs) Wow, I honestly had no idea because I don’t read the comments. Knives Out was frequently compared, and it was a successful movie, so that is a valid comparison. Since all they’ve seen so far is our caravan, that makes a fine place to start. Since I am familiar with the movie we made and know that when people enter theatres to view Neeyat, they will also be familiar with it, I am not afraid of any of these parallels, so I am loving it! That it is a unique work that Anu Menon and the other authors, sorry Neeyat, spent valuable jail time creating. (laughs) I said Night Out! (laughs).
Anu: Call it Neeyat Out from now! (We both laugh)
Vidya, After four years, you finally get a theatrical release with Neeyat. How does that affect you? Do you believe that the rise of OTT has made audiences more picky when it comes to theatrical releases these days?
Vidya: People do go to the theatres when there is excellent word of mouth in this age, but I hope that they like Neeyat and that the word of mouth is strong. I believe that people have gotten more frugal with their money. I believe we gave it our all, and that’s all anyone can ask for. Every movie has a viewer, and if they enjoy it, they will watch it in theatres, and again watch it on OTT later in my opinion. We welcome that!
Neeyat released in theatres on July 7.
-by Kashvi Gala