Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! review: An edge-of-the-seat thriller

  • Rohit Vats, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Apr 06, 2015 13:26 IST

Film: Detective Byomkesh Bakshy

Cast: Sushant Singh Rajput, Anand Tiwari, Swastika Mukherjee, Meiyang Chang

Director: Dibakar Banerjee

Rating: 4/5

Rajit Kapur’s popular TV show of the '90s set a benchmark for all those who wished to weave a story around detective Byomkesh Bakshi’s adventures, without doubt one of Indian literature's most recognisable figures. Understandably, many didn't give director Dibakar Banerjee much of a chance when he announced last year that he's planning a film around this cult figure. Even Sushant Singh Rajput, as the detective, didn't inspire much confidence either.

Now that we've seen Detective Byomkesh Bakshy, here's what we have to say about it: This film will take the enigma around the popular Bengali sleuth many notches higher!

It's Byomkesh Bakshy's first case.

Banerjee sets his film in war-torn Calcutta of the early 1940s, a time when Japanese and Chinese agents and smugglers were engaged in covert activities to usurp the city from British control to get a foothold in the Indian and Burmese markets. The locals, caught in the crossfire, are just too tired of the proxy war.

In the midst of all this, we have our hero Byomkesh Bakshy (Sushant Singh Rajput): A socially-awkward youngster, readying himself to a meaningful life in the future. His life takes a turn for the good when he encounters Ajit Bandopadhyay (Anand Tiwari), who is searching for his missing father. This meeting begins a journey that would eventually transform a raw, analytical mind into a great detective.

He is socially awkward but good at his work.

Yes, this is Byomkesh’s first case, but it is so dangerous that it could easily be his last. It is way beyond the limits of a common whodunit story, but his intelligence, determination and instincts are guiding him to a dark corner. The haze around the city is getting thicker and so does the ambiguity, and the only person who can sail through this dark time is Byomkesh Bakshy.

The action in the film starts taking place from a distance and the director slowly involves the audience into it. Pre-independence Calcutta serves as the backdrop in the opening scenes, but it soon turns into a character. The attention to detail is obvious in almost every frame of the film. From the right clothes to correct signboards, every detail has been planned and put to a good use. Be it Brylcreem or be it Lipton, every signboard tells a story. If you've been to any really old Kolkata house near the Howrah Bridge, you would be able to relate to the utensils, wooden gates and the mystical surroundings of Ganga ghats the film has so successfully captured.

Byomkesh is the only person who can crack the case.

When Byomkesh eats mango with fork, you laugh but also recall the university area and how Bengal used to be the cultural melting pot of those days. Byomkesh is a courageous chameleon who can easily mouth lies if it serves his purpose, and thus the audience couldn’t easily decide how to react when he expresses sorrow after somebody’s death. It is hard to say whether he is sad because of the death or is happy because he has just got a new clue. It completely takes you by surprise when he candidly says, "Iss duniya me aise hi kuch nahi ho jaata hai." This man has no qualms in expecting that he has been bluffed and in the very next scene he bluffs back. After all, he believes, "Sach ke aas paas waala jhooth pakadna mushkil hota hai."

But, Sushant Singh Rajput is not the only good thing about the film. Angoori Devi (Swastika Mukherjee) looks every bit a potential exotic dancer who also knows a lot about what’s going on. A bit of diffused light on her face and she becomes as opaque as a butter paper. Ajit (Anand Tiwari), Byomkesh’s client who unknowingly changes into his assistant, is a man of average intelligence, but he is so intrigued by the pace of the events that he decides to carry on. A fitness freak like Ajit is a valuable asset for any detective. Other character actors like Meiyang Chang and Divya Menon have also done justice to their roles.

A puritan may have some problems with the accent of the lead actor, but the director has tried to justify his fluency in Hindi. Byomkesh was born and brought up in Bihar and when he came to Calcutta, he saw it in a different light than people who were always there.

The suspense is good, but the film is more like a thriller in its structure. The background score seems absurd as it’s hard to imagine hard rock in Calcutta of those times, but trust me, it absolutely fits into the scheme of things. In fact, it may ring in your head every time somebody mentions detective Byomkesh Bakshy.

One more thing that clearly stands out is Nikos Andritsakis' cinematography. His frames have brilliantly captured the colonial City of Joy in different colours and many moods.

It’s a film that will keep you glued to the screen for all the 135 minutes it runs into. Don’t think of even missing a minute of it.

Detective Byomkesh Bakshy review: Don’t think of missing even a minute of it

(Interact with Rohit Vats at Twitter/@nawabjha)

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