Detective Byomkesh Bakshy: Well baked fantasy

April 03, 2015 06:20 pm | Updated 09:01 pm IST



A robust mix of fact and fantasy, Dibakar Banerjee is literally on a high here. Blending opium trade and independence struggle, he takes us back in time when Calcutta was under Japanese air attacks, Chinese gangs were lurking in the corner and Allied forces were trying to hold on. World War II is the stage, the reason is to throw his childhood hero detective Byomkesh Bakshi in these tumultuous times. However, it is no child play as Dibakar has not restrained himself from the bloody details. You can almost smell the rotting bodies and the soot in the air and the grafitti reminds of the Bengal art.

Playing with the shadows Dibakar manages to transport us to a parallel universe where the colour of truth is red. Like a painter who is as much in love as the subject as the backdrop, he paints 1942 Calcutta in multiple hues. The city is as much his muse as Byomkesh. From ignoring Bengal Famine to Quit India Movement, of course, there is plenty of scope for nit picking but then it is not a documentary on 1942 Calcutta nor does it try to be true to Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay’s Byomkesh. It is Dibakar’s Calcutta and Dibakar’s Byomkesh made for an audience who are not trapped in the past. He is looking at the past with the eye of today. It reflects in the grungy background score, the art work and the whole noir mood. The point is nothing sticks out like a sore thumb.

Genre: Mystery/ Adventure Director: Dibakar Banerjee Cast: Sushant Singh Rajput, Anand Tiwari, Neeraj Kabi, Swastika Mukherjee, Meiyang Chang Bottomline: A stylish noir adventure soaked in surprise and substance in equal measure.

Dibakar is talking of times when Byomkesh was not a finished product. And Sushant Singh Rajput reflects that he is a work in process. Just an everyman who preferred to be a detective rather than teaching mathematics. And perhaps it is this ordinary feel that makes Dibakar the right choice to reinvent the home grown detective in a dhoti. Dibakar has a knack to look for extraordinary in the ordinary lives without raising the tone or creating an artifice.

He is talking of times when Byomkesh and Ajit (Anand Tiwari) hadn’t become two shades of one personality. For his screenplay is like an onion with endless layers that seamlessly unravel in front of eyes which refuse to blink lest they miss a clue. Such is the beauty of writing and execution that it takes the audience along as if he or she can also solve this case in the next scene and this process continues till the end. Dibakar and co-writer Urmi Juvekar never drop a curtain to cover the leaps of faith that they take. They make us develop a bond with all the red herrings that inhabit the universe. More importantly, they don’t become the prisoner of Sharadindu text. They retain the essence of his works and then let their imagination fly as Byomkesh comes of age.

Sushant takes time to come to terms with the challenge but when he does, he takes charge. From the nerves on the forehead to that killer gaze he eventually makes Byomkesh his own. He is very well supported by actors who add to the atmosphere. Neeraj Kabi as Anshul Guha, the owner of boarding house where Byomkesh settles, lends a measured performance that makes even a maniac believable. Similarly, Swastika Mukherjee belongs to different era and as the femme fatale presents a kind of cross between Meena Kumari and Nadira.

However, when it comes to the nuts and bits of the case, more than the whodunit aspect it is the why and how he does it aspect that teases us more. The problem is Dibakar approaches the dark fantasy like a stingy visual chemist. In his formula, Byomkesh is not allowed to romance beyond a few amorous exchanges with Satyavati (Divya Menon). It might not work for some but this is the charm of his work. He makes even a fantasy everyday like, believable. With the air already thick with the promise of a sequel, we might have got our answer to Sherlock on screen.

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