Detective Byomkesh Bakshi (2015)

Quite recently there has been too many films in the making about the this sleuth that it has already seemed to feel monotonous. Amidst of all other Byomkesh films, Detective Byomkesh Bakshi directed by Dibakar Banerjee brings in a fresh new face of the satyanweshi.

Detective Byomkesh Bakshy, follows a simlar pace as the superhero origin stories like Batman & Man of Steel, and therefore, very un-mistakingly, has a very dark and moody touch to it, which often feels quite delicious. But don’t go in watching it for original Saradindu stuff.

Banerjee’s Calcutta in the 1940s, a city of secrets and shadows lurking at every corner. A terrific opening scene – in which mysterious sinister elements show up and thwart an opium deal in the dead of the night – sets the mood for the film’s noir-ish leanings. With World War II currently at its peak, the threat of oncoming Japanese bomber-jets looms large. It is against this landscape that Byomkesh (Sushant Singh Rajput), a recent graduate on the verge of taking up a teaching job, lands his first investigating assignment.

Dibakar re-creates the period of Calcutta with patience and accuracy, which emerges a beautiful painting of the city in those days. Even the old tram models are shown running on the streets, which fascinates me much. Byomkesh is shown wearing the dhoti with shoe, a typical Bengali costume in those days. Every frame of the movie is crafted lovingly; the cinematography is stylish and evocative, Sneha Khanwalkar’s mostly heavy-metal soundtrack terrific, and the film’s production design simply first-rate.

Far from the sure-footed, razor-sharp sleuth of Bandopadhyay’s stories, Byomkesh, in Banerjee’s film, is an amateur investigator slowly coming into his own. ‘Slowly’ is the operative word here, as Banerjee and co-writer Urmi Juvekar spend more or less the entire first hour setting up the plot. Sushant Singh Rajput nicely slinks into the part of the unibrowed detective who’s clearly learning on the job. He has a fragile ego, he gets queasy at the sight of blood, and oftentimes he misses clues that are staring him in the face. Rajput has a boyish quality that serves the character well; he gets the Bengali mannerisms right, the body language down pat.

The story unfolds as  Ajit Bandyopadhyay (Anand Tiwari) approaches an arrogant collegiate Byomkesh Bakshy with a case of his missing father. After brushing him off at first and learning that his lady love is getting hitched to someone else, a broken hearted Byomkesh decides to solve Ajit’s case. Thus begins a tale of interlinked stories as Bakshy tries to join the dots.

Aside from the odd clunky performance, by Swastika Mukherjee as the unintentionally hilarious seductress, the acting too is solid, particularly by Anand Tiwari, the Dr Watson to Byomkesh’s Holmes, who brings stray moments of much needed lightness to a largely humourless film. Ship of Theseus’ Neeraj Kabi also makes a big impression as a wise homeopath and the owner of the lodge where much of the action unfolds. Also Chang as the Chinese drug dealer ‘Kanai’ delivers a solid performance.

But one much needed element that is missing from the story is the term ’satyanweshi’. Byomkesh in Sarandindu babu’s stories, never likes being called a detective, and prefers ’satyanweshi’ – the explorer of truth. As opposed to that, in the film, Byomkesh bluntly refers to himself as a Detective.

In the end, this is one film with an acquired taste.  If you like your cinema fast and furious, then head to the seventh instalment of that franchise.  Detective Byomkesh Bakshy is a film to savor and roll around in your head.  

I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five for Detective Byomkesh Bakshy. There is a chance that it’ll stay with you just alike the other origin stories of Superheroes.