Saturday, April 04, 2015

Detective Byomkesh Bakhi 

Heart Of Calcutta 

This film is a triumph for the production designer and cinematographer. It is very rare in mainstream Hindi films to see such meticulous attention to period detail—even though the music is anachronistic.

Dibakar Banerjee’s Detective Byomkesh Bakshy is set in Calcutta of 1943, a city battered by World War ll; even then overcrowded and grimy. Impressive to see trams, old cars, period costumes and props. Byomkesh is Saradindu Bandopadhyay’s much loved fictional detective, who has been the subject of quite a few films and a TV serial.

The film is based on characters and stories written by Bandopadhyay, but Banerjee has given it his own stamp and worked hard to sign it with a cinematic flourish. When Byomkesh (Sushant Singh Rajput) is introduced,  playing carom by himself, for a few minutes his face is not seen—an unnecessary gimmick. Ajit (Anand Tiwari) has come to ask for help to trace his missing father and Byomkesh is so blunt that he ends up being knocked down by his angry ‘client.’

It is not clear why Ajit goes to Byomkesh, he is not yet a detective, this seems to be his first case, and far from being the preternaturally brilliant Holmes-ian type, he is a bungler, often going ‘oops’ since he has missed an obvious clue. Anyway Byomkesh heads for the boarding house where the missing man lived, a grungy lodge run by Dr Guha (Neeraj Kabi), who gets dragged into the case too, as do the other strange-looking inhabitants.

Byomkesh and Ajit run about Calcutta trying to piece together clues, and frequently trip over red herrings, but also fortuitously find a crucial blueprint carelessly carried in a pocket.

The case is so convoluted—Chinese opium dealers, Japanese spies, a slinky Burmese seductress, British cops and Indian freedom fighters are tossed together into a plot that is devoid of thrill or humour.  Not once does the stomach clench or pulse quicken in what-is-going-to-happen-now anticipation; all you can do is admire the look of the film as it moves at a sluggish pace. When it ends, there isn’t much of a revelation anyway, but there is the promise of a sequel. Hopefully, it will be more fun than this all atmosphere-no adventure film.

Sushant Singh Rajput, Anand Tiwari and Neeraj Kabi make the best of their underwritten parts; the two females, Swastika Mukherjee as the temptress and Divya Menon as Byomkesh’s love interest, are not given much to do. The cast is full of very peculiar faces—where, for instance, did they find the actor who plays the put upon servant in the lodge?


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