Many filmgoers remember Neil Nitin Mukesh for his character of a possessive army major in Vishal Bhardwaj’s crime drama, 7 Khoon Maaf. Efficient in his acting debut, Johnny Gaddar, a neo-noir film helmed by Sriram Raghavan (2007), and much better than that in Kabir Khan’s terrorism drama, New York (2009), Mukesh’s acting talent could have been used far more meaningfully. That hasn’t happened though.
The under-utilised actor played an assassin in Bejoy Nambiar’s Wazir (2016), a businessman and killer in Rohit Shetty’s Golmaal Again (2017) and an undercover agent whose character has grey shades in Sujeeth’s Saaho (2019). That none of these characters made an impact indicates that Mukesh hasn't found many roles of substance in his career.
Bypass Road, a suspense thriller, will be a serious test for Neil. The film’s soundtrack includes a remake of the hit song ‘So Gaya Yeh Jahaan’ from N Chandra’s Tezaab (1988) partly sung by Neil’s father Nitin Mukesh. The new version has become a blockbuster on social media, which is a good start of sorts.
Neil’s talents as a creative all-rounder will be on display for the first time. He plays a wheelchair-bound paraplegic named Vikram and has also written the story, screenplay and dialogue. The film has been directed by Naman Nitin Mukesh, his brother. Bypass Road, in short, is a family venture.
The intriguing trailer has a series of crisply edited shots. It declares that every character has secrets, which is typical of many murder mysteries. The film stars Adah Sharma as the female lead, Rajit Kapur as Vikram’s father, and Gul Panag as his stepmother. Shama Sikander is Sarah, who gets murdered. Her murder is being passed off as suicide. A masked person is on the prowl, leading to the obvious question: who is he? At this point, all we can hope for is that this mysterious person doesn’t have a stereotypical association with a ‘conspiring’ stepmother.
Vikram has met with an accident that has restricted him to the wheelchair. Sarah has been murdered. Somebody named Jimmy has disappeared. All these happenings have taken place around the same time. Surely, that is not a coincidence?
Bypass Road has its share of nail-biting sequences, whose impact will be dependent on the element of surprise. The trailer is an indication that the sequences have been well-shot. However, the film will work only if too much focus on Mukesh’s author-backed character doesn’t lead to less emphasis on the story itself.
In an era when stories, not stars, matter to a sizeable number of viewers, Bypass Road can find audiences if critics and viewers respond to the film favourably on the first day. Neil Nitin Mukesh will hope that happens and so will his brother.