Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Byomkesh Bakshi directed by Anjan Dutt

Byomkesh Bakshi
India (2015), Bengali
110 minutes, detective, mystery
Directed by Anjan Dutt
Starring Jisshu Sengupta and Saswata Chatterjee

An elderly mine owner asks the famous detective Byomkesh Bakshi to solve a case for him: someone attacked and almost killed a labor leader in his mine, and he is afraid that there is a plot to ruin his business. When Byomkesh and his assistant arrive in the mining town incognito as guests of their client, they discover that there has been a murder carried out in an almost identical way to the attack on the labor leader – and one of the prime suspects is their client’s adult son.

This is a solid detective movie, based on one of the most popular Bengali detective characters (of which the most famous is Satyajit Ray’s Feluda). It was my first introduction to Byomkesh, and I quite enjoyed the character. One thing that most appreciated is that he wears a dhoti, the old-fashioned Bengali Hindu garment, rather than pants, which are more common and considered more professional. When other characters look down on him for being old-fashioned, he just smiles and takes advantage of their disdain. It is quite refreshing to see the dhoti's current meaning subverted in this way.

The women in this movie have prominent roles, even though they are mostly depicted protecting their men. The mine owner’s daughter-in-law, for example, is smart and knows who Byomkesh is, even though he has arrived under a pseudonym. She approaches the detective for help determining whether her husband is guilty of murder. She does not do this because she wants Byomkesh to help him get out of trouble; no, she is terrified that her husband is a murderer and she wants Byomkesh to find out the truth so she can decide on her next step.  This is not a passive woman begging for help to clear her husband's name, but a woman who has found herself in a bad situation and who wants more information before deciding what to do about it.

I won’t say any more because of spoilers, but I recommend that you watch this movie if you like detective fiction. The 1960s setting captures the feel of the original stories, resulting in both a solid detective movie and a good introduction to one of Bengal’s famous fictional detectives.

Further Reading: 

"Byomkesh, Feluda and Kakababu" by Avik Kumar, a good introduction to Bengali literature's three major detectives
"Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay" from Wikipedia (the author of the Byomkesh stories)

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  1. I am yet to watch this one. But I did watch last year's Byomkesh movie by Dibakar Banerjee which was quite an unconventional take on the character.
    The IMDb link of that one is http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3447364/and my review of the film is here: http://avikkumar.in/cinema/review-dbb-2015/

    1. I plan to watch that at some point; my Hindi isn't good enough to watch movies in theaters without subtitles. Glad to hear you liked it!