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