Talking Movies

Talking Movies
Talking movies

Friday, 3 April 2015


       (This article first appeared in

His introduction is not very impressive. His voice is heard: cut and dry. He is seen eventually over some carom moves. A side parting, a neat moustache, a dull orange sweater jacket over a white dhoti and kurta are enough to make Sushant Singh Rajput look like an ordinary Bengali in early 1940s. So ordinary that he even gets knocked down in the first scene. It’s quite a challenge then that he has to live up to a not so ordinary background of his famous character seen last on television in 1993.
Sushant never quite becomes the legendary Byomkesh Bakshy as created by novelist, Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay in the thirties. While Bandyopadhyay’s Bakshy is as Bengali as a Roy or Dutta phraam a Kolkota phamilee in the original stories, director, Dibakar Banerjee’s Bakshy could belong anywhere. In fact, he quickly switches from the uncaring carom playing, jobless guy to an extremely emotional detective who yells at a household help in a particularly weak moment. However, one significant aspect  from the past, remains consistent. That is, Bakshy’s cigarette.
Unlike a Sherlock Holmes or a Poirot, there are other things about the film beyond the detective, which fascinate and keep you hooked. First and foremost, Banerjee and his set designer, Vandana Kataria, create a convincing and an eerily beautiful dark world of the 40’s Calcutta. Local trams and vintage cars transport us instantly into the interiors of the crowded city. The gradual, unfolding of the case to be solved, is  as intriguing it should be, in this genre. The plot weaves itself into your mind, like a creeper that keeps branching into new and unseen directions. Halfway into the film, there are so many deliberate traps that you lose count of the ones you fall into, along with near hysterical Bakshy.
Bakshy is hired by Ajit to look for his missing father. A nice comic relationship develops between the two as Bakshy's conclusions regarding Ajit’s father being a dubious guy, keeps changing. Bakshy takes up a room in a lodge where the father had stayed. Dr Anukul Guha (Neeraj Kabi—scene stealer) who runs the lodge, along with the other inmates, is quite helpful. A box of paan (perfect Bengal device) leads to the sensuous and mysterious singer, Angoori (Swastika Mukherjee, exquisite).
The lighting gets dimmer, the Kolkata bylanes get murkier and smokier. The noir look, lit to perfection by cinematographer, Nikos Andritsakis, is heightened by a particular background score that accompanies Bakshy’s walk upto a bathtub with the exquisitely made up siren Angoori, covered with soap bubbles. A cigarette exchange between the two makes it complete.
The thick Kolkata air of mystery gets filled with moments of violent drama. A death sequence featuring a man’s legs flapping around helplessly, evoke the sense of deeper trouble looming in lamp lit rooms. Wall paints suggesting blood splatter, take on more meanings.
A simple murder mystery takes up a larger and somewhat unconvincing  dramatic proportions, adding touches of Japan and China  amidst a drug deal. As more and more subplots, guns and even daggers make their way into the story, Bakshy and we are trapped in one confused web.
When suspense unfolds halfway, it’s great but when it comes in the end, it does not hold much surprise. Yet, the unforgettable performance by the villain of the crime piece and a slow motion shootout makes it a gratifying climax.
Dibakar Banerjee, known for his eye for detail, right from Oye Lucky days, does not disappoint. His best work, till date, has been a short film based on a Satyajit Ray story in Bombay Talkies. Dibakar’s foray into mainstream cinema with Yashraj Productions, is a huge step towards more original filmmaking.
Sushant Singh Rajput, made popular after Kai Po Che, is much like the shadows in the film: sometimes steady and earnest, sometimes not.
Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! is a well stylized Noir that gets stretched into unbelievable dark corners of Bollywood.  Worth the thrill.

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