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Explained: Why Dibakar Banerjee’s Byomkesh Bakshy Must Be Adapted Into A Series

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SPOILER ALERT

When a colonial era British Deputy Commissioner of 1940s Calcutta asks, “Private detective…eh?” the reply from Dibakar Banerjee’s Byomkesh Bakshy at first is a mumbled “No.”

But in the very next moment the Bengali sleuth, originally created by Saradindu Bandopadhay, shrugs off his inhibitions and tells officer Wilkie that he is indeed one and has been hired by the “corpse’s son!”

Bakshy, played by Sushant Singh Rajput, is fresh out of college and finds himself at his wits’ end as he is trying to solve the first case of his career that sees him pitted against an evil genius. We can understand why he is a little unsure of himself.

Sushant Singh Rajput as Byomkesh Bakshy.

Dibakar the auteur chose to reinvent the iconic character in his 2015 film Detective Byomkesh Bakshy, moulded in the genre of noir with contemporary ethos. The shadowy figures and the looming threat of a Japanese attack on Calcutta even as Sushant Singh Rajput stumbles upon one dead body after another, juxtaposed with high energy indie music lends the plot, which revolves around a missing person – a whole new dimension.

In other words, the world in which Dibakar’s Bakshy lives has all the ingredients for it to be adapted into a series, which can cater to a global audience.

The character first appeared in the year 1932 in a short story titled Satyanweshi. Since then, Saradindu Bandopadhay wrote as many as 32 stories and novels featuring the satyanweshi, or the ‘seeker of the truth’ as the lead. The writer had not shied away from portraying violence and lust in good measure, something which made Byomkesh Bakshi (as it was originally spelled) a popular literary work among the Bengali reading folk.

Over the years it has remained a favourite subject for Bengali filmmakers too. Even the great Satyajit Ray had made one Byomkesh film, Chiriyakhana in 1967.

In 1993, Basu Chatterjee adapted Byomkesh Bakshi for a television serial that was telecast on Doordarshan. It was in all likelihood for the first time that a much larger national audience was introduced to the character. It got widely appreciated and Rajit Kapoor, who played the Bengali bhadralok (gentleman) was loved by one and all for his nuanced portrayal of the lead in the serial.

However, a lot has been written about the humble production design of the serial in those days. Cut to the present age when OTT platforms are beginning to take over the space. A series with the kind of production values incorporated in the film Detective Byomkesh Bakshy backed by a banner no less than Yashraj Films can create a new fan base for Byomkesh, especially among millennials. It could very well be India’s answer to the hugely popular modern day adaption of his English counterpart Sherlock Holmes played by Benedict Cumberbatch for the BBC.

Once the audience get immersed in the smoke filled atmosphere of the film they realise that Dibakar’s portrayal of Calcutta – torn apart by the Second World War – itself has a mystical aura of its own. Every minute detail has been taken care of while recreating the City of Joy set in 1943. The director in a sense has stylised history in every frame, be it China Town, a tram ride which serves as a window into the times gone by, or the boarding house.

Things can only get grander in the context of a series and it will provide a wider scope to play with the characters and plots because of the format of storytelling in a series.

Angoori Devi.

In the film, Dibakar has chosen to exercise his creative freedom to concoct a plot by going back and forth between some of the original stories, only this time the stakes are much higher and Bakshy is still coming to terms with his trade. He throws up at the sight of death and can be easily manipulated by a femme fatale like Angoori Devi, played by Swastika Mukherjee.

But Bakshy must get his act together when he realises that it was the homeopathic doctor Anirban Guha aka Yuang Guang someone whom he trusted blindly, who turns out to be the one who used Bakshy as a pawn in a sinister ploy. Guang’s plan is to take over the opium trade in Calcutta by planning a Japanese attack on his beloved city.

A series will further help in shaping the arc of characters like Ajit, who is a little different than usual in Dibakar’s imagination. Anand Tiwari, who plays the friend of Byomkesh is shown as a muscular guy who gives the sleuth his first case to solve when Ajit’s chemist father mysteriously disappears, in a departure from the original story. In fact it is Ajit who narrates the story in the film.

Byomkesh and Ajit.

The rapport which Byomkesh shares with Deputy Commissioner Wilkie in the film too, can be explored further. His love interest Satyawati, who actually gets married to the detective in the original story could find a voice of her own.

However, the one thing which is missing in the film is that it is a little demystifying for a whodunit. The audience is never really left pulling its hair thinking who is the culprit or for that matter where the story is heading. Perhaps, it can be argued that such a treatment actually helped in establishing the premise and reinventing the principal character.

Yet, Dibakar’s vision and finesse as a master filmmaker promises to take it to greater heights from where he left things in the film; Detective Byomkesh Bakshy finally takes things into his own hands and with a little help from a well-wisher in Mr Wilkie foils the devious plan of Yuang Guang and saves Calcutta from a disaster. But the evil is not finished yet. Stung by Bakshy, Yuang Guang has turned into a one-eyed monster of diabolical proportions that will stop at nothing to seek revenge.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

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.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

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.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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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.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

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.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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