I am such a fan of Dibakar Bannerjee’s cinema that I would even watch a film made by him which features a plastic bag floating around in the wind (oh what, we can indulge Sam Mendes in American Beauty but no-one else then?) so Detective Byomkesh Bakshi (DBB) was right up my street. Right from the get go, I was enthralled by 1940’s Calcutta and the cosmos that Bannerjee deftly creates. Was it all accurate? For me, that was not a concern (I have forgiven far worse offenders in the past) – instead, I was interested in the story and comic book feel to the cinematography.
I also went gaga over the long takes and styling; for the former, just watch the opening credits where Byomkesh takes the bus – as Byomkesh sits in the foreground, life bustles on behind him creating a world that is believable and dynamic. Or take the alternative point of view shots such as inside the factory which show DBB as a maverick film of sorts, attempting and succeeding at an unconventional form of presentation. Similarly, all the dhotis and tank top sweaters all looked covetable not to mention Anguri Devi’s gorgeous wardrobe – that black sequin sari commandeered all of my attention at one point.
Performance wise, the cast are fantastic – Singh Rajput is getting better with each film he does and this is a convincing portrayal of Bakshi – Tiwari makes an amiable sidekick and the two have a good chemistry. Kabi is terrifying as the devilish Dr Guha and plays the role with a deceptive ease and malice that is unafraid to be as dark in tone as possible. Menon is good as Satyawati as is Mukherjee as Anguri Devi. My only criticism of this film is that there was not more prominent female protagonists. Having said that, the heroines are not cookie cutter types either and both have their own dimensions aside from obligatory love interests which is important.
I have not commented much on the story and to be honest, this is not only to avoid spoilers but because I want to watch DBB again and believe there is so much in the film to discover and ponder over that a short review does not really do it justice. Though the first half has a slow pacing to it, it is worth the pay off of the second half and I sincerely hope this does become a franchise or we at least get a follow up because this first installment is the perfect introduction to the character. In any case, I highly recommend Detective Byomkesh Bakshi – one to go in with your brain firmly in place and definitely my favourite film of 2015 so far.