Friday, April 3, 2015

The might watchable Detective Byomkesh Bakshy

Detective stories in Hindi films are rare. Detective Byomkesh Bakshy is one of the rarities. Dibakar Banerjee’s creation is entertainingly gripping – a must watch. 

The name’s Bakshy... Byomkesh Bakshy. Someone who knows the legendary detective character will know his name is pronounced Bomkesh, not Byomkesh. And that he is the Truth Seeker or Satyanweshi. It intrigues me to see Saridindu Bandyopadhyay’s character from pre-independence era still has star power. It takes guts to take up a detective story of this enormity and make it into a large screen wonder in the present Hindi cinema scenario.

Dibakar Banerjee is probably obsessed on making the unbelievable believable. His latest offering to hit the theatres this Friday, Detective Byomkesh Bakshy, brings alive a character which most non-Bengali viewer knew only from Basu Chatterjee’s television series in the early 90s, Byomkesh Bakshi (notice the spelling change). For Bengalis, Byomkesh has appeared on silver screen frequently just for them. Satyajit Ray’s Chiriyakhana (The Zoo) starring Bengal’s Uttam Kumar is the epitome of everything Byomkesh. In recent times, Anjan Dutta has come with two of Byomkesh films, starring Abir Chatterjee rightly as the detective. Ghosh's last offering was a Byomkesh Bakshi film titled Satyanweshi starring director Sujoy Ghosh. There are few other versions too. Detective Byomkesh Bakshy can be in a way the first of its kind in Hindi films.  

The journey starts in pre-independence Calcutta – 1942 to be precise. Young Ajit Banerjee (Anand Tiwari, the best casting ever) meets Byomkesh Bakshy (Sushant Singh Rajput, perfect casting Part II) to find his missing father, Bhuvan Banerjee. An initial hiccup later, Byomkesh goes to Bhuvan Babu’s lodgings for investigation where he meets the intriguing lodging house owner Dr Anukul Guha (the very unrecognisable Neeraj Kabi), Kanai (Meiyang Chang), & others. He slowly realises Bhuvan Babu’s dealing with opium thanks to being a genius chemist, a chemical factory & the very sexy actress/dancer Angoori Devi (Swastika Mukherjee, ooo la laa). More characters get involved – the factory owner & a leading politician Gajanan Sikdar, his nephew & rising political enemy Sukumar & niece Satyawati, the Shanghai-based Chinese gang drug dealing Greenwood, their Calcutta based mysterious biggie Yuan Guang, the Japanese dentist Dr Watanabe. A simple case turns into an international drama o involving drugs trade, nationalism and Sino-Japanese power change in India.

A true Byomkesh fan would throw a fit for the slight changes in the storyline and mixing two stories into one. The Inquisitor is where Byomkesh meets Ajit and solves a case of drug trade. Where There’s A Will is regarding the death of a rich man and everyone in the family being under suspicion, including his niece & nephew, Satyawati & Sukumar. Kudos to Dibakar & writer Urumi Juvekar for combining the two well & creating a Byomkesh story which is different and yet the same. This is the gamble well-played played. You see a Calcutta which is the centre of WWII action. The film does not go astray from its main purpose: a detective story. If you have seen Guy Ritchie’s take on Sherlock Holmes, Dibakar does the same here with much success. The film is a classy take on the detective story. The only point of concern is the film’s pace. One wishes he would have wound up in 2 hours instead of 2 hours 16 minutes.  

Dibakar’s first point of success is in the casting department, courtesy Honey Trehan. While some might speak about saleability, one is happy to see Sushant Singh Rajput be Byomkesh and let his character be the real hero (which he is). Sushant’s Byomkesh is young, intelligent, hyper (much like the beagle) and quirky. His quirkiness allows a certain humour to seep in, apart from putting the energy in the story’s pace. His Byomkesh is a Smart Alec at times, but never over smart getting on one’s nerves. Whether trying to convince Ajit his father is dead or trying to prove his theories, Sushant is his own in becoming Byomkesh. It works well that Anand Tiwari creates an Ajit Banerjee worried about his father but does not lose his consciousness. He retains Ajit’s innocence but never slips into stupidity. He becomes Byomkesh’s better half in every way.

The surprise element here is the casting of Neeraj Kabi as the devilish Dr Anukul Guha. What an actor! You literally feel a shock wave go through your spine when you realise this two-faced devil is the same actor who played the monk’s role in The Ship of Thesus. He unleashes the evil in him to literally scare you deviously. The rest of the cast (mostly unknown to most) is superbly cast. Meiyang Chang as the opium trader Kanai, Divya Menon as innocently intelligent Satyavati and Swastika Mukherjee as the cunningly sensual Angoori Devi stays in your mind. Swastika in particularly will have a lot of male hearts panting with her subtle sexuality. Of course, as an actor, she shows her mettle.

Dibaker has brought together a technical team which keeps the film running at a good pace. His regular cinematographer Nikos Andritsakis makes each frame the detective’s canvas. Calcutta and the era never looked better. Of course, he is ably supported by the art department under whose command 1942 Calcutta comes alive. You live that period. Special congratulations go to the make-up and costume department which completes the perfect look. Though you wish the start could have crisp, the editing is rock solid most of the time. The very talented music directors keeps the era’s felt intact with their music but adds a certain twist with some unique pieces. See & hear the score used in the showdown at the end.

In recent times, few can be entertaining with a difference. Detective Byomkesh Bakshy is surely one of them. It’s engaging and keeps you on the edge. One wishes the 16 minutes could have cut. But we are cool, otherwise.   

Photo Credit: & 

No comments: