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
Sponsored Content BY 

Some of the most significant innovations in automotive history made their debut in this iconic automobile

The latest version features India's first BS VI norms-compliant engine and a host of 'intelligent' features.

The S-Class, also known as Sonderklasse or special class, represents Mercedes Benz’ top-of-the-line sedan line up. Over the decades, this line of luxury vehicles has brought significant automotive technologies to the mainstream, with several firsts to its credit and has often been called the best car in the world. It’s in the S-Class that the first electronic ESP and ABS anti-lock braking system made their debut in the 20th century.

Twenty first-century driver assistance technologies which predict driver-behaviour and the vehicle’s course in order to take preventive safety measures are also now a staple of the S-Class. In the latest 2018 S-Class, the S 350 d, a 360-degree network of cameras, radars and other sensors communicate with each other for an ‘intelligent’ driving experience.

The new S-Class systems are built on Mercedes Benz’s cutting-edge radar-based driving assistance features, and also make use of map and navigation data to calculate driving behaviour. In cities and on other crowded roads, the Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC helps maintain the distance between car and the vehicle in front during speeds of up to 210 kmph. In the same speed range, Active Steering Assist helps the driver stay in the centre of the lane on stretches of straight road and on slight bends. Blind Spot Assist, meanwhile, makes up for human limitations by indicating vehicles present in the blind spot during a lane change. The new S-Class also communicates with other cars equipped with the Car-to-X communication system about dicey road conditions and low visibility due to fog, rain, accidents etc. en route.

The new S-Class can even automatically engage the emergency system when the driver is unable to raise an alarm. Active Emergency Stop Assist brings the car to a stop if it detects sustained periods of inactivity from the driver when Active Steering Assist is switched on. If the driver doesn’t respond to repeated visual and audible prompts, it automatically activates the emergency call system and unlocks the car to provide access to first responders.

The new Mercedes-Benz S 350 d in India features another notable innovation – the country’s first BS VI norms-compliant car engine, in accordance with government regulations to control vehicular pollution. Debuting two years before the BS VI deadline of 2020, the S 350 d engine also remains compatible with the current BS IV fuels.

The S 350 d is an intelligent car made in India, for Indian roads - in the Mercedes Benz S-Class tradition. See the video below to know what drives the S-Class series by Mercedes Benz.

To know more about the 2018 S-Class, click here.


This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Mercedes Benz and not by the Scroll editorial team.