Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!

Directed by Dibakar Banerjee, 2015


Dibakar Banerjee’s Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! is a gorgeous, gorgeous film, and the sleekest, classiest addition to the canon of Byomkesh films that has grown in the past few years in the Bengali film industry. With Banerjee, Byomkesh goes national. Banerjee tries to do with Byomkesh what Guy Ritchie did with Sherlock Holmes, and on more counts than not, he succeeds. The film transports you to the 1940s without the nasal tone, elaborate wigs, and unreal dialogues. The period instead is made evident by the huge posters, trams, and the ancient naiveté which make Kolkata look like a throbbing picture come alive from a black and white newspaper. The detailing is that perfect!

This is Banerjee’s most indulgent film till date and probably even his most ambitious. In a film which could very well in time become a classic example of its genre in Indian cinema history, the opening scene is a marvel and Banerjee in this noir action-comedy constantly flirts with shadows. What initially is presented as an innocuous case of a man gone missing snowballs into an imminent military attack on Kolkata. Banerjee’s leading man is fantastic. Rajput as Byomkesh is innocent, cunning, but also vulnerable. He is complacent at one moment and apologetic at the other. Anand Tiwari is remarkable as Ajit. He is almost always abreast with the leading man, both while pacing ahead and faltering. Banerjee prepares the script like a searing meaty meal and this is here that he falters. His Kolkata, though hauntingly beautiful, falls prey to the director’s uncharacteristic historical inaccuracy. Though set in the 40s, the infamous Bengal Famine casts no shadow in the story, and the characters are seen eating merry amounts of food during dinner. And with the abundance of food, comes the second problem in the plot detail: in an attempt to show the city’s long standing obsession with tea, Banerjee shows his leading man having tea with french fries; even the villain orders the same deadly combination as snacks. Any Bengali can perfectly elucidate on the repercussion of such an adventurous meal. These incongruencies however appear few and far between, and if viewed sympathetically, in a way ascertain the creator’s indulgence with his creation. In fact, the Guy Ritchiesque indulgence with plot quirks is so prevalent that in this whodunit tale, you don’t particularly look forward to who actually is the perpetrator. But does that mean you take out your phone and listlessly scroll through it? Not really, and herein lies the genius of Banerjee. Right from his first film (which had no “hero”) till this, Banerjee has exhibited an unmatched ability of creating exceptional minor characters. And thus, even when the plot no longer engages you, the characters and their idiosyncrasies do. When Dibakar Banerjee disappoints you—promising you the world with this film and not quite delivering—something a character does or say reinstates your faith in the man. And you are willing to give him another chance.

– Ishita Sengupta

Ishita sengupta

Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

Directed by Alex Gibney, 2008

“It will be a Religious War, a sort of Christian Jihad, fueled by religious hatred and led by merciless fanatics on both sides. It will be guerilla warfare on a global scale, with no front lines and no identifiable enemy.”

The infamgonzo-the-life-and-work-of-dr-hunter-s-thompsonous American journalist and author Hunter Stockton Thompson is remembered for many things, but the least for his writing. Mostly, he is remembered for his drug and booze-addled antics and idiosyncrasies, fondly remembered by Johnny Depp. Depp has played his alter egos in two films: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) and The Rum Diary (2011). Even the wardrobe of the chameleon with a delusion of grandeur from Rango (2011) was fashioned after Hunter Thompson, and an animated avatar of Thompson makes a momentary appearance in the film.

Gibney’s highly stylized biographical documentary is temperate and refreshing, and provides the viewer with a consice and comprehensive introduction to the writer. Though it borrows from the energy that was Hunter S Thompson, it does not give in to the madness and chaos exuded by this legendary figure. It has its focus in the right place, his writing and its unmistakable style, and does a good job of elaborating on the literary and political impact Thompson’s writing had on America. The raspy, poised lilt of Depp’s voice does a very good job narrating the story and reading out passages from Hunter’s books, and the choice of music is appropriate accompaniment. Predictably, the documentary devotes a good portion of its attention to Ralph Steadman, Thompson’s longtime friend and companion and gives Steadman his due credit in the development of what came to be known as Gonzo Journalism along with Thompson. From the “fun” years of the Kentucky Derby and the naissance of Gonzo Journalism the film makes a smooth transition to the full purport of Thompson’s coverage of the elections and his scathing criticism of the Government. His writings removed him from the role of a dispassionate observer of events and put him right in the thick of things. In a way, like all great American writers, he became a chronicler of the death of the American dream and Gibney does ample justice to this literary monument.

– Souraj Dutta

A Very Easy Death

A Very EaCB01128-1-osy Death is a subdued narration of an intensely personal loss. As she traces her mother’s slow descent into delirium and death—that “unjustifiable violation”—Beauvoir renders a moving account of moments intertwined in lives and exchanges enlivened by memories: a faithful rendition of infidelity, jealousy, anguish and love which made and marred the bond between the mother and her two daughters conditioned by the shocking awareness of the mother’s decaying body, a slow degeneration of an emotional dependence into medical contingency.

A Very Easy Death locates the despair of loss in the recognition of a stubborn inability to envision the natural-ity of death itself, an aporia consisting in a confirmation as well as a mighty aberration of life.

– Pritha Mukherjee

Apius Bengalis Indiae: Mimicry, Man and a Colonized Imaginary



It was with great foresight that Lord Macaulay had decided to introduce English education in India with the express purpose of creating an intermediary class of people who would be Indian in blood but British “in taste, in opinions, in morals and in intellect”. The foundations of an imperishable empire of the mind that were laid then, continue to remain solidly functional in the existing culture-scape of India where we continue to display our indelible association with ancestral primates through irresistible exhibitions of aping.

Consider for example the nomenclature and self-projection of two ongoing real estate projects near Kolkata at present. One of them is called London City, a luxury residential hub coming up in Newtown, Rajarhat and the other one, Elita Garden Vista, proudly advertises itself as “New York in New Town” and invites consumers to “Own a home with a 6.8 acre Central Park”. The website of the latter categorically claims: “Come and stay in 6.8 acre elevated central park and experience the magic of living in New York at New Town.” As opposed to the postcolonial need to provincialize the West, the West continues to function as a fetishistic superobject in our imaginary and operates as a transcendental signifier of luxury and opulence that the comprador bourgeoisie of the so-called Third World has embraced as its summum bonum. No wonder then that the latest monument to adorn the Kolkata skyscape is a clock tower built in imitation of the Big Ben in London, with further plans of building a Kolkata Eye, in accordance with the famous London Eye. For a city that still prides itself on the magnificence of two architectural hallmarks from the days of the Raj – the Howrah Bridge and the Victoria Memorial – such additions are hardly out of place. And any attempt to suggest that equally magnificent towers and edifices can be located in various parts of Asia (Hongkong, Tokyo, Manila, Bukittinggi to name a few) or that a new structure, if it is to be built, may well be an original one rather than an imitation, might well prove to be an exercise in futility as we Indians in general, and Bengalis in particular, have a remarkable fascination for imitation, especially if the object of adoration has its origin in the West. Therefore, we think of modernization by way of London, improved hill-tourism by way of Switzerland and international film festival in Goa by way of Cannes. Despite the vaunted claims of nationalism, the West thus continues lord over our imaginary and consciousness and Macaulay’s vision of an imperishable empire remains all too strong as the aspirations of the upwardly mobile Indian insistently mirror the West, whatever the extent of distortion.

The extent of such mimicry becomes visible again when we take into account the establishment of schools such as the New York Public School. Why should a school set up in Saltlake, a satellite township adjacent to Kolkata in West Bengal, invoke New York? In fact names such as New York, Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Boston or Washington, for many Indians, have a kind of totemic significance which is capable of uplifting anything from a school to a toilet tissue to celestial heights. No wonder then that if you google “oxford school in India”, thousands of links would throng your screen, directing you to schools from Thiruvananthapuram to Delhi, all bearing the magical name of ‘Oxford’ and the attendant glories of English/European epistemology we Indians have been salivating after for centuries. And all this in the land of Nalanda, Somapura, Vikramsila and such other outstanding centres of learning in ancient India which attracted students and travellers and scholars from all of Asia. Nowadays, Sameer becomes Sam, Parminder becomes Pam and Janardan becomes Jonny as the country continues to spawn call-centre driven Yankee wannabes who embody a gender neutral fusion of Tulsi Virani and the Kardashian sisters.

Unfortunately, in the middle of such a mindless melange we fail to notice that our billionaires have learnt nothing from the philanthropical examples of Bill Gates or Warren Buffet, we have not been able to ensure mass literacy and pervasive public access to education as in the West, our scholars are more interested in API scores and departmental politics than innovation, unlike their western counterparts, our companies do not fund research institutes as they do in the West, our corporates are very rarely concerned about social responsibility, which is more extensive in the west, we are indifferent to both hygiene and sanitation, unlike what happens in the west……and the list goes on. Nationalist movements had sought to secure the agency of modernization from the colonial rulers while retaining cultural difference. What we have achieved is rather a retention of differences that discredit us while engaging in superficial imitations that bear the legacy of colonial hangover and cumulatively contribute to the growth of a manikin generation which wants to flaunt the latest western superbrands, swoons over Justin Bieber or Hannah Montana, speaks vernaculars with a fake accent and cocks its nose at Abol Tabol and Thakurmar Jhuli.

Sukumar Roy’s ‘Tanshgoru’ and whatever gods and sacred structures it held in awe are preparing to swamp us with a vengeance. Get your supply of Miracurall if you can! SOTYI SOTYI KAMRE DEBE VACCINE TA NA PELE…

– Abin Chakraborty