There’s something special about detective stories, beyond the obvious whodunit angle they’re weaved in. It’s the detective, with all his idiosyncrasies. One often wonders why we can’t have a ‘normal’ detective. Well, if we had one, he/she would have ceased to come across as interesting as a carrot-chewing Karamchand, Satyajit Ray’s cigarette-smoking Feluda reminiscent of the legendary Pipe-smoking Sherlock Holmes, the mini-moustached Poirot with egg-shaped head distinctly perched towards one side or our own Byomkesh Bakshi who insisted on calling himself ‘satyanweshi’, seeker of the truth.
Director Dibankar Bannerjee replaces the ‘I’ of Bakshi with ‘Y’, perhaps indicating his curiosity about this interesting character written by novelist Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay, once immortalized by actor Rajit Kapur on Doordarshan in 1993 directed by Basu Chatterjee. Dibankar Bannerjee steers clear of the usual trappings of a detective movie, where the narration solely rests on the hinges of whodunit. Even if the ‘suspense’ of this gem of a noir film were to be revealed, you’d still end up enjoying Detective Byomkesh Bakshy, for the simple reason that Dibankar Bannerjee relies on his characters to narrate his story.
This, however, does not mean Detective Byomkesh Bakshy is deprived of suspense, clues, perfect-investigation-gone-wrong, why-didn’t-I-see-this-coming, and moment of revelation. The film has all these ingredients tastefully blended over a slow flame of narration. The slow-paced narration sometimes works wonders for the film and sometimes makes you go: Okay I got your point, what next?
The latter is easily forgiven purely because of the painstakingly detailed screenplay, where they manage to get everything right, be it street-side posters, magazines of the 40s, trams, ethnicity, and even that little patch people used to place between their teeth so as to save their tongues from being cut by the shock of exploding bombs during World War II – the period Detective Byomkesh Bakshy is set in.
The background score plays an important character of the film. According to Dibankar Bannerjee, the music is deliberately been chosen to be contemporary, replete with those guitar riffs and rock flavour, so as to make the audience feel they’re peeking into a past era, rather than time-travelling to the days of yore. Kudos to Sneha Khanwalkar for ‘Bachke Bakshy’, and Mink’s ‘Taste your kiss’ and Hot Box for ‘Life’s a bitch’. The effort is indeed worth it, and it indeed gives the film a noir feel peppered with style.
Sushant Singh Rajput seems to have born to play the role of Detective Byomkesh Bakshy. If the interviews of Dibankar Bannerjee are to be believed, the actor was incurably insomniac during the making of this film. He breathes and lives his character with an effortless gusto and unmistakable charm. Anand Tiwari, as our own desi version of Watson is picture perfect and most often hilarious. Swastika Mukherjee as Angoori Devi/Yasmeen, though reprising the Frisian exotic dancer Mata Hari, comes across more of an inferior version of Madhubala. Last but as the cliché goes, not the least – it’s Neeraj Kabi as Dr. Anukul Guha, who steals the show, right from under the nose of the entire ensemble of talented actors.
Neeraj Kabi, after essaying the role of an erudite monk in Ship of Theseus, proves that he’s here to stay and rule for a long time. The role of Dr. Anukul Guha has been written with such layers that he overshadows the rest. I wouldn’t hesitate to assert that the impact of his role is such immense that you’re sure to leave the auditorium with his character in mind – quite a perilous proposition for the lead character – So much so that you’d already find yourself anticipating an edgier sequel. Go for it folks, Detective Byomkesh Bakshy is indeed India’s answer to Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes.