Movie Review: Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! (Hindi)

Watching Dibakar Banerjee's Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! is a veritable feast for the eyes, a tantalising blend of fact and fiction that lets the director's unbridled imagination conjure a poetic, painting-like version of 1942 Calcutta during the World War II. DBB!, based on the exploits of the iconic fictional detective character created by Bengali writer Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay, is one gorgeously staged film and one that's wonderfully atmospheric.

Detective Byomkesh
The remarkable attention to period detailing aside, it also benefits immensely from a solid technical backing, be it Nikos Andritsakis's stunning camerawork, or Sneha Khanwalkar's anachronistic-if-energetic music score that verves up the proceedings even when the film's momentum slows down to a lumbering trot. And that's precisely where DBB!'s problem lies. It's way too sluggish and tedious.

Mysteries in general are meant to be deliberately confounding and misleading, requiring a certain amount of dexterity and sleight of hand when it comes to narrating them, all the while keeping the tension relentless and giving an insight into the characters before ramping things up as the smart and well-concealed twists hit us like a bolt out of the blue, producing genuine moments of surprise. DBB! unfortunately is not one of these. Its conveniently plotted high-stakes mystery laced with elements of crime and noir lacks tension for the most part and moves at so languid a pace that's unforgivable for a thriller. Criminal even!

P.S.: I loved this film despite all its flaws with regards to its plot (the lengthy explicatory portions, the out-of-place comic elements, the lack of a compelling whodunit, etc.) and characters (Neeraj Kabi and Anand Tiwari were the only bright spots in terms of acting and I couldn't buy Sushant's smugness), and the mere hint of a sequel is an exciting thought. I for one definitely would like to see more of this franchise, it has the potential to turn out into something truly epic.