Movie Review: Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!

April 3, 2015

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

If beauty is skin-deep, then Dibakar Banerjee’s re-telling of Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay’s detective series set in 1943 Calcutta (now Kolkata) is beautiful.  Right from the costumes to the set design, everything is period-perfect. But the attention to detail never translates into atmosphere – that elusive element that makes for a successful whodunit film. The intrigue that is suggested through dialogue never turns into an edge-of-the-seat mystery, thanks to a shallow plot.

11Banerjee recreates detective Byomkesh Bakshy’s adventure in “Satyanweshi”, the first novel in Bandyopadhyay’s detective series, and embellishes it with enough sub-plots and characters to make it almost indistinguishable from the original. There are Japanese agents, a drug cartel, India’s freedom struggle, and at the centre of it all – a young, cocky detective. Sushant Singh Rajput brings a level of arrogance to Bakshy that we haven’t seen in past characterizations; and in this tale, it works to his advantage.

But Banerjee also makes it too easy for his sleuth – the red herrings are immediately obvious, and the solutions present themselves far too easily. The peripheral characters, including Swastika Mukherjee as femme fatale Angoori Devi and Anand Tiwari as Ajit Banerjee, all walk in and out of the frame without being given a chance to develop in the tale.

The cinematography by Nikos Andritsakis is excellent and leads the camera through the musty lanes of Chinatown and the 21dark alleys of Calcutta, while Sneha Khanwalkar’s music is used sparingly but to good effect, especially towards the end, when the confrontation scenes are filmed.

The biggest disappointment in “Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!”, though, is the central mystery, which is far too insipid and a little too contrived to make for an absorbing tale. Banerjee and co-writer Urmi Juvekar take their time getting to the conclusion, and by the time the climax rolls by, the whole effort seems self-indulgent, and yet underwhelming.

Rajput immerses himself as Bakshy and comes out on top, but the film itself never manages to soar, despite threatening to do so many times. The trimmings on this one are plenty, but it’s the meat that is missing.

(Editing by David Lalmalsawma; Follow Shilpa on Twitter @shilpajay and David @davidlms25This article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced without permission)

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