Detective Byomkesh Bakshy helmed by Dibakar Banerjee is an uncompromising, classic whodunit thriller which starts as a murder mystery but catapults with each subsequent scene, cooking up the suspense gradually with the best saved for the last. The best part about the movie is that its screenplay has been layered with different characters being introduced at several junctures which not only keeps the audience engaged but also keeps them guessing till the climax unfolds. What begins as a simple case for Detective Byomkesh Bakshy (Sushant Singh Rajput) to locate the missing father of Ajit Banerjee (Anand Tiwari) soon takes a dangerous recourse with enough twists & turns, inducing obvious horror that it might out turn out to be his last one. Soon, several sub plots are unraveled centered around World War 2 that include drug lords fighting for supremacy in Kolkata, refugees flowing in from Shanghai-Burma route, nationalists fighting for freedom and the city is under threat of a Japanese attack. All these plots are intertwined and it is left for Bakshy to join the dots, unravel the mystery and save the city from impending threat of Japanese attack. The concept behind a jigsaw puzzle is most fascinating. Its three step model involves drawing an intricate picture laden with buried details and fine clues, cutting it into several unrecognizable segments and assembling a jumble that carries a seemingly simple challenge - to fall in place, to make sense. Suspense thrillers are just the same. But very few times films belonging to this genre are able to fit the right piece in the right place. And that's what makes Dibakar Banerjee's accomplishment in Detective Byomkesh Bakshy worth all the applause that comes its way. He builds anticipation and tension without relying too much on the age-old ploy of red herrings or an overwhelming background score. It's as though he wants his viewer to follow the cues, solve the quandary on a personal level and entertain every conceivable theory/ wild suggestion that pops in the head. Gratifying, if you nail it and astounding even when you don't. Either way his refreshing approach is appreciative of his viewer's intellect and enthusiasm. Detective Byomkesh Bakshy is a captivating recount from its commencement to its conclusion. Dibakar has fashioned enough scenes around the plot that keep the viewer on the edge of the seat. Besides, fragments of tongue in cheek humor pop up when you least anticipate to liven up the solemn plot. Yet, the storyteller never deviates from the fundamental somber premise. The movie triumphs in invoking emotions. You experience compassion, resentment, triumph and defenselessness at a variety of stages. A wonderful movie-going experience, you come out feeling a sense of pleasure and fulfillment after watching Detective Byomkesh Bakshy. Not only the suspense in Dibakar's Byomkesh is nail biting but his eye for detailing also succeeds in getting Kolkata of 1940's to perform at its peak and look like it's on a wire between vintage and dilapidated. Every shot which Dibakar has shot has been captured with such intricate detailing that it brings pre independent Kolkata to life. The overall attitude of the city and the city's voice is consistent in the story and the characters too.
STORY & SCREENPLAY :: The story as well as screenplay has been penned down by Dibakar Banerjee along with Urmi Juvekar. It's no mean task, penning a script that holds your attention while its intention is to throw you off the mark. To the credit of writers - Dibakar & Urmi - no strand remains untied. Taut and refreshing, the script of Detective Byomkesh Bakshy keeps you on your toes with its tendency to throw surprises and twists at every turn. As is integral to all good stories, writers sketch out solid characters with most of them wearing a mask of falsehood and pretending to be, what they are not. The movie is set in 1940's when World war 2 was its peak and the threat of oncoming Japanese bomber-jets was looming large over Kolkata. The movie begins with a boat landing on coast of Kolkata in 1942 with few Asian people in it and one of them saying that it takes time to load 500 kg of opium. A hooded figure emerges from darkness who guffaws terrifyingly and warns the Chinese that it wants Kolkata back. A man's eyeballs are popped out and throats of others slit. This dark scene captured brilliantly sets the tempo for the rest of the movie. Cut next, Byomkesh Bakshy (Sushant Singh Rajput) who is sitting in a sports room is approached by Ajit Banerjee (Anand Tiwari) who wants Bakshy to solve the case of his father, Bhuvan, who is missing since last couple of months. Bakshy refuses to accept the case and bluntly tells him that his father might be no more leading an upset Ajit slap Bakshy in front of everyone. Later, Byomkesh takes on Ajit's missing father case maybe because he wants to prove to him that his intuition about his father being no more is true. Bakshy questions Ajit about intimate details of his father and comes to know he was a genius bio-chemist who was living separately in a lodging house. To find clues about the case, Bakshy moves to the same lodge posing as a tenant which is run by Dr. Anukul Guha (Neeraj Kabi) where several other tenants live including Kanai Dao (Meiyang Chang) who is an opium dealer. He starts gathering evidence and soon meets (or is made to meet) Angoori Devi (Swastika Mukherjee) who soon warms upto him. In her purse, Bakshy finds some letters which lead him to a closed factory of a local politician where he finds corpse of Bhuvan. And then starts his journey to find the killers of Bhuvan. Hereafter, the story takes an intriguing turn when his investigation takes a dangerous turn on finding that a local politician, a Japanese dentist and Chinese drug cartel are all a part of some big conspiracy. As the case progresses, several new characters are introduced, who in turn, lead to various twists and turns. Throats are slashed, blood spurts, sirens wail - and in the middle of all this is Byomkesh, trying to piece together a gory jigsaw puzzle. Soon, following the clues Byomkesh Bakshy catches hold of a mysterious map. Does Byomkesh becomes successful in finding the culprits behind Bhuvan's as well as series of other murders, Will he be able to solve the mystery of the map is what forms the rest of the story.
STARCAST :: Sushant Singh Rajput who has already established himself as a romantic hero and made quite a hearts go aflutter with his boy next door image by displaying his charming persona through his past flicks like Kai Po Che, Shudh Desi Romance & P.K. gets to display his acting mettle by playing Detective Byomkesh Bakshi. He has left no stone unturned to delve deep into the skin of the character and live upto the expectations of Dibakar who showed a lot of confidence in him by giving him a chance to play the main lead in this film. Expectedly, Detective Byomkesh Bakshi unspools as a one-man narrative, and Sushant proves that he can carry a film on his own, even with no other recognizable star. He is alternatively firm, fierce, vulnerable, playful and charming that you're sometimes unsettled by these shifting emotions. What he does do is lend undeniable credence to his role and this thriller, making you walk every step with him in this journey. Anand Tiwari (Go Goa Gone) fame gets every sensitive nuance of his role spot-on, as Bakshy's companion who assists him along the way and endears himself completely to the viewer. We can say that if Byomkesh Bakshy is Sherlock Holmes, than Anand Tiwari is Watson. Swastika Mukherjee looks stunning as the femme fatale and has portrayed her character of Angoori Devi with utmost conviction. Swastika amazingly transforms herself into physical & mental aura as a carved marble dice of the Shakuni minded antagonist who kisses the dice when he is winning & breaks it, otherwise. Kudos to Swastika for capturing the finer nuances of her character in her first big budget outing. Divya Menon manages to impress as niece of the politician during her brief stint on-screen. Meiyang Chang has played his character to pitch perfection during his extended cameo in the movie. But, the icing on the cake is the performance of Neeraj Kabi as Byomkesh's landlord, Anukul Guha. His character has several layers attached to it which keep on unraveling with due passage of time and it speaks volumes about his acting finesse, the way he enacts his character. Watch out for him in the scene where he laughs like a maniac but without going overboard.
TECHNICAL FINESSE :: As per the trend these days, the musical soundtrack of the movie that has been composed by a battery of composers that include Sneha Khanwalkar, Dibakar Banerjee, Madboy/Mink, Blek, Mode AKA, Joint Family, IJA & Peter Cat Recording Co. - PCRC. befits the tagline of the movie i.e. expect the unexpected as it is unconventional. The soundtrack is not run of the mill stuff and the genre of most of the tracks is Western Indie music. The cinematographer of the movie is Nikos Andritsakis who has done an outstanding job of capturing visuals. Kolkata's architecture, even in the rundown bits, lends a wonderful edge to Nikos's visual commentary. Dark, lingering, soulful and enigmatic - Kolkata is multiple people in city's body. This varied, pulsating and intriguing temperament is what is documented in well captured frames without distracting itself from the story or its telling. A special mention of Vandana Kataria (Production designer) & Manish Malhotra, Manoshi Nath, Rushi Sharma (Costume designers) who with their brilliant contribution in their respective fields have been able to recreate the Calcutta of 1940's. The movie has been edited by Manas Mittal & Namrata Rao who have packaged the whole action in run-time of 150 minutes. Some people might have a problem with the languid pace of the movie but this is how good thrillers are meant to be ; cooking up the suspense slowly & gradually. As a director, Dibakar Banerjee, with the skills of a master storyteller, amalgamates a missing person story in a thriller format. Without doubt, Dibakar gives it his best shot with gleaming sincerity. Positioned alongside an intimidating environment of Kolkata's tapered side streets and constricted alleyways, the setting is ahead of credence in its realism. Dibakar has ably captured the falling phase of Kolkata which used to be center of power being capital of India till 1912.
CONCLUSION :: Detective Byomkesh Bakshy is a 150 minutes epical noir with its unescapable gritty tone. The suspense remains consistently tight, and the story well-executed. The film delivers on its promise, and keeps you guessing until the end. It's a well made thriller especially for those who like slowly cooked up suspense films moving at a languid pace. I am giving it 4 stars out of 5.
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