Detective Byomkesh Bakshy, the protagonist after whom the movie has been named, was originally the creation of the Bengali fictional writer, Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay. Bandyopadhyay, although also a novelist and a poet, is best known for his short stories.
The movie, set in the Calcutta of 1942 – in accordance with the time period in which Bandyopadhyay was at his literary peak – follows the-then underground of India, which was ruled by the opium-smuggling Chinese. One day, there is a scuffle between two Chinese gangsters, Yun Gong and his rival, which is suspected to have resulted in the former’s death. Meanwhile, Bakshy – who prefers to call himself a “satyanweshi”, that is, a seeker of truth, instead of a detective – played by Shudh Desi Romance’s lead-man, Sushant Singh Rajput, is shown as a bright student, who is also evidently an aspiring detective. Ajit Banerjee, played by Slumdog Millionaire’s Anand Tiwari, brings a case to Byomkesh Bakshy: he must find Banerjee’s missing father. After initially refusing, Bakshy later decides to take the case – a decision that ultimately leads him to the drugs-laced underworld of Calcutta. While working on the case of the missing father, Bakshy manages to befriend a doctor, Anuku Goha, played by Neeraj Kabi who starred in Ship of Theseus, and Kanai Dao, an opium dealer. Busy joining the missing links of his initial case, Bakshy soon finds himself intertwined in another mystery – one which could have global implications.
Befitting a movie inspired by a literary creation the movie does not fail to provide its fair share of quips
Befitting a movie inspired by a literary creation – and that, too, of Byomkesh Bakshy’s proportions – the movie does not fail to provide its fair share of quips. Ranging between naked and honest observations – “eik aurat ka purse uske bathroom se ziada private hota hai” (“a woman’s purse is more private than her bathroom”) – to philosophical remarks – “is dunia mein aise hi kuch bhi nahi hota” (“nothing in this world happens without a reason”) to humourous exchanges – “hum middle class log desh ke liye kuch karte hain kya?” (“do we middle class folk do anything for our country?”), “kartay hain na, film dekhtay hain” (“of course – we watch movies”) – the movie is a much welcome release for those who go to the cinema to listen to engaging dialogue.
Bollywood may have had its fair share of thrillers, with the Kicks and the Dhooms littering cinemas across the world, but few of these thrillers are as unique as Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!. Unlike most modern mystery thrillers put forward by our able neighbours, Byomkesh Bakshy is set in the India of the 1940s, a period much neglected by movie makers of all shapes and sizes. The movie’s cinematographers have also done a commendable job in making the Calcutta of 1940s come alive right before your eyes, making the experience not only artistically appealing, but also believable. For the success of this project, Aditya Chopra, the producer, should thank his cinematography team as much as he would thank its writer and cast.
Some of Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay’s early Bakshy-starrers are believed to be entirely inspired by Conan Doyle’s short stories
There is something about Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! that is remarkably reminiscent of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “adventures”, starring his master creation, Sherlock Holmes. Perhaps it is the early-1900s setting, the appealing dialogue, the vast yet closely linked plot… or perhaps the fact that Sherlock Holmes, himself, was the most significant inspiration behind the creation of Byomkesh Bakshy, so much so that some of Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay’s early Bakshy-starrers are believed to be entirely inspired by Conan Doyle’s short stories. It is then not a wonder that the movie manages to capture the mysterious aura of a classic British mystery masterpiece – a page out of Agatha Christie’s book. Albeit with the names of a Russian classic. And as is the case with most Russian classics – once you get a hang of the surnames, you are in for a treat.
For viewers grown accustomed to modern Hindi cinema’s short and crispy thrillers, Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! might linger on for too long, owing partly to its more orthodox length – the movie stretches over 2 hours and 28 minutes – and partly to its slow, deliberate dialogue delivery. However, for those who are looking for something a little different from modern flicks, something more out of the ‘80s Hindi cinema drawer, the lengthened movie would only be akin to a slowly-sipped glass of wine – each draught delivering its full flavour before sliding down the throat. But of course, if you are thirty-minutes short on time, you can always opt for the movie next door, which is sure to be short and crisp, but would it be something out of the ordinary? Certainly not more so than Detective Byomkesh Bakshy.