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Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! Review – ‘Like The Perfectly Slow Cooked Hyderabadi Chicken Biryani’

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By Amrita Roy:

“Sach ka rang dekha hai? Laal.”

Like a huge percentage of the TV show watching population, I am addicted to Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss’s ‘Sherlock‘. It is fast, riveting, amusing and has you on the edge of your seat every time Benedict Cumberbatch pursues a clue down the nooks and crannies of London. You will be disappointed if you go to watch Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! with the same expectations.

detective byomkesh bakshi

“Sach ke aas paas waala jhooth pakadna mushkil hota hai.”

Be it Bollywood or Hollywood, Byomkesh is not your typical filmy sleuth. He doesn’t ride an expensive car but rather walks all across the 1940s Calcutta in his dhoti. He oils and side parts his hair without fail every morning. He isn’t a know-it-all who solves a case hours before letting others know. Neither does he have a string of connections splattered across the city, nor does the police have his back. Each character is critical to the story, and not just Byomkesh and his companion Ajit. He is much more complete than any other detective character: he fails and triumphs, he falls in love and marries, and if you’ve read the stories written by Sharadindu Bandyopadhay you’d know that he also has a son and establishes a publishing house. In my first watch of the film, I could only spot two similarities with Sherlock; Byomkesh too is just as obnoxious in dealing with humans and he too meets his archenemy without realizing it.

Byomkesh is a dynamic character; he develops beautifully as the film progresses. There is no other detective who has as much of a back story as Byomkesh. Banerjee indulges into Byomkesh’s past to highlight the insecurities of a bright university Math graduate in 1943 Calcutta who sees no future besides becoming a teacher or a clerk to ensure a regular cash flow and then settling down. In all detective stories, the audience enters knowing that the sleuth is light years ahead of them. In this film, we feel like Byomkesh is one of us. With veiled half-truths and constant deception, each character is a possible suspect in the murder of Ajit’s chemist dad. He is on a huge journey as his first case ever escalates from finding a dead man’s body to saving Calcutta itself.

“Bangali samajhna bhul gaye hai kya?”

Dibakar Banerjee is a director of immense caliber and doesn’t need to rely on linguistic artifice to establish the “Bengali-ness” of a film, as is commonplace in Bollywood. The entire film is shot in proper Hindi which acts as the filter between reality and storytelling. As Dibakar Banerjee himself put it in an interview, “In Gladiator, a Latin Gladiator spoke in English.” Banerjee also doesn’t overly rely on the period of the film to achieve his purpose. Yes, it is set in 1943. And that’s just about it. All the characters are just as human as we are. All the characters are just as relatable as characters from any movie set in contemporary times.

Having grown up in a true blue Bong household, my childhood consisted of a heavy dosage of Rabindranath Tagore’s poetry and Satyajit Ray’s films. Banerjee borrows from their artistic styles to leave the ultimate Bengali fingerprint on this film. The film simmers as the characters and the setting develop in conjunction, feeding off and complementing each other at all crucial plot points. It isn’t fast paced as most thrillers are. Not every dialogue is meant to be a one line scene stealer.

Each scene has been painstakingly put together with every detail polished to perfection, creating the feel of an international thriller. Every shot bears motifs of crime and danger. All the actors play their roles with utmost finesse. Sushant Singh Rajput’s nonchalant grace makes Byomkesh all the more endearing. The eclectic music enhances the film and the background score is sensuously haunting. The air raid sirens, the resurrection of Yang Guang, the trams, the billboards, the College Street Coffee House and the deliciously dark plot will transport you into the pre-Independence world of the Bengali detective.

Dibakar Banerjee has provided India with one of the best fiction films in recent years. As he rightly put, it is time for India to go crazy about an Indian detective who can take on the likes of Holmes and Poirot. Comic Con India in the coming year should be thronged by fans proud to don the dhoti-panjabi Byomkesh Bakshy look. I would compare the movie to vintage red wine but the authentic Indianness of Byomkesh begs a more Indian comparison. This film is like the perfectly slow cooked Hyderabadi chicken biryani. It takes its own time to conjure a rich and lingering taste. Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! will stay with you long after you leave the cinema.

Also read: Dibakar Banerjee’s interview with Youth Ki Awaaz on the making of this film!

You must be to comment.
  1. babita

    Strongly felt dizzy about the plot which danced into an unusual tune than the one reflected in the original book. Sushant tried to save its face, but failed with those wrongful inclusions of the director. No,this movie does not introduce our truth finder Bomkesh Bokshi. He was not a detective, never. Ajit mismatched with Sushant and they never met like the way Mr. Banerjee scripted. Anguridevi landed from another story, she was not in the introductory one. Bengali version was way to better than this, in case of acting, direction, script, plot etc. I would go to the hall again to watch bomkesh in hindi when director will do justice to the original story. Else, never to watch dibakar banerjee will be will the justice.

  2. ishita sengupta

    Dibakar Banerjee’s “Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!” is a gorgeous, gorgeous film. It transports you to the 1940’s without the nasal tone, elaborate wigs and unreal dialogues. The time frame, instead is evident by the huge posters, trams and the ancient naiveté which make Kolkata look like a throbbing live picture from a black and white newspaper. The detailing is that perfect. This is Banerjee ‘s most indulgent film and probably even his most ambitious. His leading man is fantastic. Rajput is innocent, cunning and also vulnerable. He is complacent at one moment and apologetic at the other. Anand Tiwari is remarkable as Ajit. Almost always abreast with the leading man, both while pacing ahead and faltering. Banerjee prepares the script like a searing meaty meal. However it is here that he falters. In this whodunit tale, you don’t particularly look forward to who actually was the perpetrator. 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, when the plot no longer engages you, the characters do and their quirks. Thus just when you are disappointed with the man who had promised you the world with this film and yet does not quite deliver , something a character does or say reinstates your faith in the man. And you are willing to give him another chance. .

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

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Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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