Movie Review: Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!

Detective Byomkesh Bakshy, the latest directorial venture of the acclaimed director Dibakar Banerjee, is like the city in which it is set in. The film is as moody, mystical, laid-back yet vibrant as the city of joy Calcutta itself. Unraveling at its own unhurried pace and absorbing you in the process, like how sponge absorbs water, Detective Byomkesh Bakshy is a heady blend between a fascinating TV series and a well-made edge-of-the-seat-thriller.

Set in 1943 Calcutta, when the east Indian city was the flash point of Japanese territorial ambitions, Detective Byomkesh Bakshy chronicles the journey of Bakshy (played by Sushant Singh Rajput), the protagonist, from a fresh college graduate to a sharp and fearless detective. Approached by a budding writer Ajit (Anand Tiwari) whose father has been missing for a couple of months, Bakshy finds himself embroiled in a deeper mystery every time he gets closer to solving the puzzle. What unravels in the process is a murky world of drugs, nationalistic ambitions, deceit and mistaken identities that is threatening to uproot the very existence of Calcutta.

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Let’s get the facts out first up. Detective Byomkesh demands a lot of patience and concentration. And if you manage to shell the two out, it rewards you with ample thrills and joyrides. The film has a splendid canvas (good to see Yashraj Studios backing this ‘almost’ noir film) in form of 1940s Calcutta that is bustling with adventures and misadventures. Dibakar has managed to capture the mood of the city and the era with near perfection. Credit to the director for not falling prey to the temptation of infusing ‘pace’ in the film just because it happens to be a thriller! Detective Byomkesh Baksy breezes along at its own leisurely pace, akin to the times it is set in, but never really goes out of the radar of your attention! Also, the film’s true strength lies in how Dibakar manages to amalgamate the exploits of an iconic character from the bygone era with the present day noir/neo-noir sensibilities.

Some of the scenes in the film are pure stunners that leave you either in splits or with your mouth wide open. Watch out for the opening sequence which sets the tone for the rest of the film. Ditto for the scene in the climax where you get ample hints that there is likely to be a Bakshy franchise in the making (we are waiting)! And then, there is an absolutely humorous episode towards the end where Ajit babu (Anand Tiwari) instructs the servant to mop up the blood on the floor and make some tea for the soon-to-be-arriving police. Maybe you want to leave everything behind and just play some free slots at piggyslots after a busy day at work. The film does get sluggish at places and you may find it a little tough to connect all the dots (because, there are too many dots), but a little perseverance is all you need to sail through the thriller.

Sushant Singh Rajput looks sincere and gets the histrionics of Byomkesh spot on. He may not be flawless but you can see a visible leap in his acting prowess and Detective Byomkesh Bakshy is likely to fetch him good points as an actor. The supporting cast, led by Anand Tiwari and Neeraj Kabi (who plays the mysterious Dr. Anukul Guha), does a good job of keeping you engaged. The film’s background score is very restrained and appropriate, used only at places where there is a need for the tempo to go up. The city of Calcutta is always a part of the proceedings through the DoP’s camera but it never really has an overbearing presence (like how it did in Sujoy Ghosh’s Kahaani).

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There will be parallels drawn between Sherlock Holmes and Bakshy babu, but Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay’s character has its own charms and mannerisms (apart from some obvious and ‘natural’ similarities with Holmes). All said and done, you got to give credit to Dibakar Banerjee for ticking off most of the points in the list of a good, absorbing thriller and reviving our very own detective hero whom I last remember watching in a DD National TV Series several years back! Get you thinking caps on, sit back and enjoy the ride! Khoob bhalo!

Rating: **** (Excellent)

Ashish Anant

Ashish calls himself a 'corporate sellout' but swears by anything Bollywood. He has a strong opinion on films, cricket and politics - the top three fascinations (in no particular order) of India. Ashish loves to eat and sleep, and if he gets time in between, he hopes to finish his first novel very soon.

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