There used to be times when you see actors uttering their lines in obviously low-key films, you yet again begin to feel, “This is another Mani Ratnam or a Ramgopal wannabe doing this with the typical low-base voices, just to signify there’s something important lying within them.” No, Dibakar Bannerjee is way too established a maker to do that. But, Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! is that calmly sensuous thriller, where probably, bursting the bubble is given as much importance as the setting. Yes, it’s that very film where the external detailing woos you more than the whodunit patterns that get deciphered with time .
In thrillers, there’s never a sense of completion without exploring the place in an equal measure as the characters. Most often, filmmakers stress about the setting being another mysterious layer in the narrative. In Kahaani, we ended up talking equally about Kolkata and the frills. With Bobby Jasoos, there was more Hyderabadi indulgence than the mystery. With Byomkesh, besides a lot of Babus in Calcutta, there’s an additional setting with some nostalgia attached to the 1940’s. The indications of an international conspiracy begin soon enough. The freedom struggle is still on.
The film takes off with an extremely underplayed intensity and a murder to follow it up. The detective-air, as expected is spurred up so early. When Sushant Singh Rajput plays around with his identity as a stranger to the city in conversation with a house owner, the latter doesn’t take much time to trace where his second-hand Bata shoes came from. He is so spot-on about the tram that Byomkesh uses so early in the morning that the former gives up his bid to lie anymore.
There are enough clues thrown around. There are people who either react too much or deliberately don’t react. There are mentions of Japan, China and Burma. There’s regional politics. There’s an air of suspicion surrounding an actress, happening to be more of a seductress in portrayal. The intermission reverses every bit of it. That’s where, you know, the maker is no longer after the little answers or immediate needs. Byomkesh is suddenly pushed to be a probable national hero.
Amidst every twist and turn unfolding in the movie, the film starts losing its bite. The dominance of the flavour becomes more of a pain. There are western influences perking up in the background score. There are too much of the Howrah Bridge-shots, the lakes, the dangerous side to the place in the nights. This gets to a point that you really tend to ask, “Can we move ahead of the typical arthouse layering please ? We’ve seen enough of it in the 90-odd minutes.”
And when you really sense some movement, there’s a lot of it that happens within a blink of an eye. Some social commentary again and the film loses its direction. By the end of it, Detective Byomkesh Bakshy stays in your minds more for the surreal atmosphere that’s a delicious mix of a city, the tensions and its ways. It’s a joke that the film may lead you to a sequel in the times to come. But, it’s like skipping a meal today to consume all of it tomorrow.