Byomkesh Bakshi – Gripping!

Nipon Haque

Byomkesh Bakshi

My initial delight at the news of the ressurection of the Byomkesh franchise, decades after Satyajit Ray’s Chiriakhana, was soon fraught with scepticism, for old school detective stories were by no means considered Anjan Dutt’s forte, and it remained to be seen to what effect the self-styled director, known for his comfy factor with themes like Anglo-Indian community or rock music, could revive Byomkesh!

What we got on August 13 is really promising. A gripping tale of crime and drama with suspense till the very end. Dutt has stayed true to the original story which is why most of the shots are indoors and there is hardly any edge-of-the-seat stuff! The film progresses at a slow pace as the tight script gradually unfolds. The only points where the script gets slack is whenever Anjan Dutt overdoes his preaching. Right he hasn’t spared even Byomkesh Bakshi from his antlami!

If you compare Chiriakhana with Adim Ripu, the latter has a much simpler plot. Anjan Dutt deserves credit for making a fine movie out of that. To talk about the cinematography, I am totally floored by the sheer bangaliana of the movie. With its 60s feel it is a treat to watch, a visual delight. The movie boasts some excellent old-world shots. To add to that, some great acting makes the film memorable indeed.

There are things Dutt could be mindful of. The riots and pogroms were indeed part of the original story. But in the film the shots look so unrealistic. We even see Ajit braving the riot in an open street with the detachment of an ascetic! The movie is rife with minor goof-ups. The entire money is never burnt. Nanibala Debi manages to change to a new saree in the ending roof sequence! The names of the suspects are pinned by Byomkesh openly in his drawing room visited by outsiders, much to the dismay of an observant viewer!

A year ago when Rituparno Ghosh was toying with the idea of making a Byomkesh movie, guess who did he have in mind for the role? No prizes for guessing! Prasenjit! Give me a break! Credit goes to Anjan Dutt for roping in a relatively new face! As we all have our preconceived notions regarding our favourite characters from books, impressing the reader is no piece of cake but newcomer Abir Chatterjee plays a very convincing Byomkesh. With his smart and sharp looks, he delivers an impressive performance as the super sleuth. Expecting to see more of him in the sequel.

With Topshe of yesteryears around, Anjan Dutt din’t have to look far to find out Ajit! Saswata Chatterjee looks solid in the role of Byomkesh’s closest friend and the candid narrator. His voice-overs throwing light on riots and independence take the character to a whole new height. Dutt also gives due importance to the character by sending Byomkesh away to Patna, leaving Ajit on his own to keep an eye on the suspects.

The selection of Ushashie Chakraborty does great justice to Satyabati. I have always admired the character of Satyabati for she is no ordinary woman. She is a woman of substance and adds her own charm to the stories, rare in detective stories for Byomkesh is the only sleuth to have a wife apart from Samuel Dashiell Hammett’sNick Charles, through her brief but meaningful appearances. In the two phone call scenes where Satyabati appears, Ushashie doesn’t fail to impress. She looks very intelligent and very Bengali! Looking forward to see more of her in Chitrachor where Satyabati has a significant presence.

The feminist in Anjan Dutt makes the character of Shiuli, a sultry singer played by Swastika Mukherjee, speak up, going out of the original storyline and she gives Byomkesh a mouthful more than once in the movie. Dutt can have this liberty for Sharadindu was not a politically correct writer in his politically incorrect, colonial period. The character had a lot of potential but got spoiled by Swastika’s amateurish acting, although she most definitely adds a lot of oomph to the screen.

Biswajit Charakaborty as the rich crafty businessman Anadi Haldar, Kalyan Chatterjee as his blackmailing friend Keshto, Chandan Sen as the unscrupulous arms dealer Bantul all show great acting talents. Swagata Banerjee was an apt choice as Nanibala, the woman high on testosterone. Rudraneel looked like Prabhat straight out of the story book. Special mention is required of the actor who played the little role of the hotel owner.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Byomkesh Bakshi – the first of the trilogy Anjan Dutt plans to make on the franchise – is definitely worth a watch. Now that the promise has been kept, a lot more is expected from the director. Can’t wait to see the sequel! Chitrachor has a very complex plot and makes great movie material. The expectation is too much!

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"Byomkesh Bakshi – Gripping!" by @bongbuzz

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  1. Nippon a few addition to our discussion on this topic before

    I think Abir Chatterjee with his sharp features is the right choice for Byomkesh and he proved so by his restraint acting and ably assisted by Saswata who acted as Ajit the friend of Byomkesh who pens down all his experiences like Watson with Sherlock Holmes..the dhoti clad duo had a chemistry working between them..Anjan Dutta tried a gay angle in the relationship by allowing Byomkesh planting a kiss on Ajit’s cheek..bringing a gay or lesbian angle is the in thing now a days and Anjan Dutta fell in that trap..it was uncalled for.. beside living in relationship between ajit and byomkesh further proves the point
    .the film was brought forward to 1963 from 1947 when there was Hindu Muslim riot in Bengal..but then it is not correct in 1963 as there was no such thing then..the riot scenes are overstretched..sometimes those appearing silly as Byomkesh and Ajit are strolling like as though in peaceful city but then there are sounds of running feet and glimpses of scared people running around..
    the cabaret by Swastika reminded of Rekha’s number in the Hindi film Pareenita..he could have refrained from giving a gyan on Hindu Muslim Bhaichara which is already an overhyped subject..
    I am sure in his next film we will get a better take on the rest of 3 stories for which he has purchased the right..may be more cameras to give a wider view.

  2. Thanks a lot for the additions. Well to talk about the relation between Byomkesh and Ajit, it is one of loyal friendship and brotherly affection. But the peck on the cheek was totally uncalled for. But wouldn’t it be too far fetched to assume that Anjan Dutta tried a gay angle in the relationship, as you think? Or may be you are right, given Dutt’s eccentricity! In which case, I am aghast!

  3. Actually i am pretty sure he really meant it to be a gay angle
    just to touch the nerves of intellectuality in some way
    actually read a discussion of this issue in t2
    seriously yuck shall we say

  4. I found the movie really dragging at times.. with too much unwanted thrill-spoiling dialogs like ‘ke khoon korlo boloto’… I didnt like the editing also. The movie should have been shorter and very much to-the-point to make it more-than-once watchable. The peck on the cheek was irritating like hell! Lets just hope our dear Anjan creates a smarter Bomkesh movie next time..