Opening this week

'Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!' is an elegant but lifeless tale filled with dead bodies

The director's latest movie, set in 1943, follows the iconic Bengali investigator on his first major case.

Dibakar Banerjee’s adaptation of Bengali crime fiction writer Saradindu Bandopadhyay’s most enduring creation is littered with corpses. Is that why the movie is so inert?

Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! is set in 1943 in a Kolkata populated by grim Bengalis, Chinese drug-runners, expansionist Japanese and at least one oomphy lady from Rangoon who swims in the Hooghly and gives Byomkesh Bakshy what is probably his first kiss. Actor and rich man’s mistress Anguri Devi (Swastika Mukherjee) is one of several characters who don’t actually leave their mark on Byomkesh, who remains as self-contained on the screen as he is on the page.

Anguri Devi injects a welcome frisson of excitement into an otherwise studious and thrill-free origin tale of Byomkesh’s first major case. Mukherjee’s only brief is to breathe heavily, and she does this with as much aplomb as she can muster.

Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! is baggily based on Bandopadhyay’s first mystery, Satyanweshi, with enough revisions and genre tweaks to indicate that a great deal of thought has gone into differentiating this latest production from the numerous film and television adaptations that have preceded it. Banerjee and co-writer Urmi Juvekar re-imagine Byomkesh (Sushant Singh Rajput) as a student rather than an accomplished sleuth, who learns the tricks of mystery-solving as he goes along. He is so green that he fails to see the answer that is staring at him ‒ and possibly the audience ‒ in the face. The backdrop to the action is provided by World War II, which sees Kolkata under the threat of Japanese bombardment. The musical score is anachronistic to the period, Vandana Kataria’s evocative production design is grungy rather than nostalgic, and cinematographer Nikos Andriatsakis’s smooth tracking shots and mood lighting complete a contemporary spin on the past.

Neither revisionist nor adventurous

In an early sequence, Ajit (Anand Tiwari) meets the detective whom he will follow in awe for the rest of his fictional life over a carrom game. Ajit’s father, a brilliant but uncaring chemist, has disappeared. Byomkesh callously brushes off Ajit’s request for an investigation, and earns a slap in return. The sequence promises to shake up the Byomkesh template, one in which the shadow thinks nothing of its owner. But then, Banerjee and Juvekar allow Ajit’s temerity to pass without further scrutiny.

More characters flit in and out of the picture as Byomkesh investigates the disappearance of Ajit’s father from Anukul Lodge: the homeopath Dr Basu (Neeraj Kabi), lodger Kanai (Meiyang Chang), Byomkesh’s future wife Satyawati (Divya Menon), and actors trying to pass themselves off as Chinese and Japanese people.

Byomkesh appears to be having the time of his young life, and Rajput convincingly portrays his character’s youth and industry while sporting a unibrow and a darkened complexion. The actor has the tough task of transforming himself from a novice into an expert, and under Banerjee’s direction, Rajput slips comfortably into the period even as he retains the attitude of a modern nation-saving hero.

Yet, fun is mostly a bad word in this movie’s universe. Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!'s elegant production values and attention to detail sets it apart from previous film and television adaptations. But in its stiffness and dialogue-driven plotting, it is closest to Satyajit Ray’s Chiriakhana, a middling version of one of Bandopadhyay’s best and most complex mysteries. Banerjee turns his back on the lightness, irony and rich characterisation that mark contemporary British adaptations of Sherlock Holmes’s adventures, but it’s not clear what he is heading for instead.

Although Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! works hard on creating a convincing setting for Byomkesh to make his mark, the characters are mostly under-written and the central mystery lacks tension and a sense of imminent danger. The movie is neither a cerebral reworking of an iconic detective’s first brush with evil nor a pulpy joy ride. The 150-minute narrative finally gains steam towards its powerful closing moments, when it all comes together nicely but a bit too late.



We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Advice from an ex-robber on how to keep your home safe

Tips on a more hands-on approach of keeping your house secure.

Home, a space that is entirely ours, holds together our entire world. Where our children grow-up, parents grow old and we collect a lifetime of memories, home is a feeling as much as it’s a place. So, what do you do when your home is eyed by miscreants who prowl the neighbourhood night and day, plotting to break in? Here are a few pre-emptive measures you can take to make your home safe from burglars:

1. Get inside the mind of a burglar

Before I break the lock of a home, first I bolt the doors of the neighbouring homes. So that, even if someone hears some noise, they can’t come to help.

— Som Pashar, committed nearly 100 robberies.

Burglars study the neighbourhood to keep a check on the ins and outs of residents and target homes that can be easily accessed. Understanding how the mind of a burglar works might give insights that can be used to ward off such danger. For instance, burglars judge a house by its front doors. A house with a sturdy door, secured by an alarm system or an intimidating lock, doesn’t end up on the burglar’s target list. Upgrade the locks on your doors to the latest technology to leave a strong impression.

Here are the videos of 3 reformed robbers talking about their modus operandi and what discouraged them from robbing a house, to give you some ideas on reinforcing your home.

Play
Play
Play

2. Survey your house from inside out to scout out weaknesses

Whether it’s a dodgy back door, a misaligned window in your parent’s room or the easily accessible balcony of your kid’s room, identify signs of weakness in your home and fix them. Any sign of neglect can give burglars the idea that the house can be easily robbed because of lax internal security.

3. Think like Kevin McCallister from Home Alone

You don’t need to plant intricate booby traps like the ones in the Home Alone movies, but try to stay one step ahead of thieves. Keep your car keys on your bed-stand in the night so that you can activate the car alarm in case of unwanted visitors. When out on a vacation, convince the burglars that the house is not empty by using smart light bulbs that can be remotely controlled and switched on at night. Make sure that your newspapers don’t pile up in front of the main-door (a clear indication that the house is empty).

4. Protect your home from the outside

Collaborate with your neighbours to increase the lighting around your house and on the street – a well-lit neighbourhood makes it difficult for burglars to get-away, deterring them from targeting the area. Make sure that the police verification of your hired help is done and that he/she is trustworthy.

While many of us take home security for granted, it’s important to be proactive to eliminate even the slight chance of a robbery. As the above videos show, robbers come up with ingenious ways to break in to homes. So, take their advice and invest in a good set of locks to protect your doors. Godrej Locks offer a range of innovative locks that are un-pickable and un-duplicable. To secure your house, see here.

The article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Godrej Locks and not by the Scroll editorial team.