Movie Review: DETECTIVE BYOMKESH BAKSHY! (2015)
Often times I complain about Bollywood movies talking down or being extremely condescending to its audiences. This in turn causes me to be condescending towards those movies, which is just a vicious cycle. ‘Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!’ is a rare Bollywood movie that gives credit to its audience and allows them to understand the story and plot on their own, instead of ramming it down their throats.
Read on for my full Spoiler-free Movie Review of ‘Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!’, and let me know your thoughts on this movie.
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Acting as a crime-thriller, the character of Byomkesh Bakshy was originally inspired by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s own British detective, Sherlock Holmes, reimagined in the setting of Calcutta during WWII. This film by director Dibaker Banerjee, works almost like the Guy Ritchie adaptation starring Robert Downey Jr; in the sense that it’s a visually stunning thriller that revels in its own brilliance. While I know nothing about the character written by Saradindu Bandopadhyay, I definitely see the resemblance to the character on which he was based.
Ajit Banerjee’s father is missing. Through word of mouth recommendations, he enlists the help of Byomkesh Bakshy’s (Sushanth Singh Rajput) help to locate his father, that takes the reluctant detective down a rabbit hole leading him through sultry singers, Asian gangs, extortion on this whodunnit murder-mystery story. Ajit, played by Anand Tiwari, works as the Watson of this movie, (even harboring a desire to be a writer) and fulfills the responsibility of being a great rational counterpoint to Bakshy’s whimsical fights of fancy and run away thought trains.
The genre itself isn’t explored much in Bollywood. One of the more recent films one can think of that was hugely successful in this genre was ‘Kahaani‘, (My Review here) but ‘Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!’ gets a lot more experimental with its approach. The film the is set against the backdrop of Calcutta during WWII, which is something even less seen in Bollywood. The storyline introduces many angles and subplots, including one of Asian triad conspiracies on Indian shores; it’s all interesting as hell to watch unfold.
Your own enjoyment of this movie may be based on how familiar you may be with this genre, but the movie itself is intellectually made and very staying true to the essense of a Sherlock Holmes mystery. Most of the pandering films in Bollywood feel that way because they attempt to explain almost everything through exposition, then through revelation to the characters, and then reiterate the whole scenario all over again with a flashback just for emphasis, never allowing the audience to reach the conclusion or resolution of a plot point on their own. ‘Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!’ avoids this as much as possible, allowing a more independent experience, without the filmmakers’ interference.
While the plot is complex, never fully revealing the conflict until half way through, the story is very well written by writer / director Dibakar Banerjee. The cinematography is very well done and all of the unknown (at least to me) actors involved are excellent. Swastika Mukerji as Anguri Devi, the sultry singer with a tragic backstory, is as stunning as she is tortured. Divya Menon makes her debut as someone who gets wrapped up in the story with Bakshy, and she’s very held back, while still standing out. The international cast in the film are surprisingly well, and not reduced to simply foreign set dressing.
‘Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!’ may not be for everyone given it’s unconventional story and approach. It’s not the typical Bollywood movie, and if not produced by Yash Raj Films, I would even go so far as to say that it could easily have been an Indie film. However, the movie is written and executed very well, and performed even better.
It may turn off some audiences who may be more experienced with the genre, expecting more from the story, but the film makes great strides in providing an intellectual story for this industry. I truly hope that Banerjee is able to fulfill his wish of making a sequel; even if he needs to produce it independently and loses the glossy and stylized aesthetic that is so inherent in this film.
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What did you think about this Bollywood Sherlock Holmes movie?
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