Byomkesh Bakshi is the most legendary detective in Bengali literature whose character has been brought across on celluloid by different filmmakers beginning with Uttam Kumar in Satyajit Ray’s Chiriakhana. The film begins with the crashing of a windowpane in the home of an affluent businessman (Biswajit Chakraborty). The thief has left all valuables untouched but for a group photograph.
ABAR BYOMKESH – CHITRACHOR
TOO MANY LAPESES IN LOGIC
Shoma A. Chatterji
- Banner: DAG Creative Media
- Produced by: Rana Sarkar
- Directed by: Anjan Dutt
- Story: Saradindu Bandopadhyay
- Music: Neel Dutta
- Cinematography: Indraneel Mukherjee
- Editing: Arghyakamal Mitra
- Cast: Abir Chatterjee, Saswata Chatterjee, Biswajit Chakraborty, Chandan Sen, Koushik Sen, Swastika Mukherjee, Sudipa Basu, Pijush Ganguly, Ushasie Chakraborty, Debranjan Nag, Arindol Bagchi, Sujon Mukherjee.
- Rating: 6/10
Byomkesh (Abir Chatterjee) who has come with wife Satyabati (Ushashie) and friend-cum-writer Ajit (Saswata Chatterjee) to recuperate from a critical illness in Dooars is determined to find out why that photograph is so important to someone for him/her to steal even the negatives from the occasional photographer and the few copies lying with the others. As Byomkesh begins to unravel the mystery of the missing picture, Sasanka (Debranjan Nag), a very poor and alcoholic man who can sketch precise sketches of people from memory is violently murdered. Other skeletons pop out of the cameo characters’ cupboards. The mystery becomes ‘curiouser and curiouser’ apropos Hercule Poirot. But Bymokesh with his razor-sharp intelligence and powers of observation solves the crime and nabs the criminal – only to lose him to death.
The thriller is perhaps the most popular among movie genres but also the most difficult to make. It challenges the world we live in with a spirit of the exotic, the old-fashioned and the adventurous. Despite Anjan Dutt’s love for thrillers, the ‘exotic’ quality comes across only in and through the location – the thick-forested Dooars inNorth Bengaloften in the middle of the night, or, in the darkly-lit interiors of the rich businessman’s spacious home with its bric-a-brac and artifacts. The only thing ‘old-fashioned’ in the film is in the constant squabbles between Byomkesh and his wife Satyabati, smooth and spontaneous till it begins to drag beyond a point. But smacking of patriarchally defined values. “Adventure” lies in the multi-layered issues and many-hued characters spread across the film – the businessman’s pretty daughter (Swastika) a widow who defies traditional widowhood and is carrying on with the local doctor (Sujan Mukherjee); the professor (Pijush Ganguly) who has a keen eye on the beautiful widow but is reduced to a wretch by his maniacally suspicious wife (Sudeepa Basu); the rough-talking, rude and ill-mannered, one-eyed district magistrate (Chandan Sen); the bank manager who happens to be a die-hard fan of Byomkesh’s mysteries and Ajit’s novels (Kaushik Sen) and the occasional photographer (Arindol Bagchi) who is busy being a sycophant to the rich businessman.
First let us consider the plus points. Abir Chatterjee is perhaps the best Byomkesh Bakshi in recent times to slip into the legendary detective’s character with his no-nonsense insights into human nature, his keeping away from romanticism in solving a crime, and his positive approach to life and relationships. Abir is a very convincing, natural and seamless Bymokesh supported by one of the most outstanding character actors of contemporary Bengali cinema – Saswata Chatterjee as Ajit. The other actors are also-rans but do justice to their parts with special reference to Debranjan Nag, Sudipa Basu and Biswajit Chakraborty. Dutt’s characterizations are good but at times seem to be too sharply and definitely bordered without allowing for ambivalence, overlapping or fusion. Neel Dutt’s theme track adds to the air of the intrigue spreading out to capture the varying moods without losing out on the mystery. Indraneel Mukherjee’s cinematography blends into the ambience and the mystique while Arghya Kamal Mitra’s editing is a bit jarring no thanks to the lapses in the logic, the script and the story.
Now for the logical lapses. (a) In the beginning, Ajit’s voice-over informs that they have come for a change to allow Bymokesh to recuperate and that this is April; but soon after, we hear it is December and Christmas is round the corner; (b) no one knows why the professor is wandering in the woods in the deep of night; (c) Byomkesh forgets all about the date Swastika and the doctor had fixed at eight the following night which Ajit and he had decided to follow up on; (d) the young widow would not have walked down the woods for a rendezvous with the boyfriend wearing a skirt in the early ‘Sixties; (e) though Dooars is known for its chilly winters, none of the ladies are wearing warm clothes and even the recuperating Byomkesh drapes little more than a shawl; (f) in the midnight scene where no one knows who is following whom and why, while the audience feels the professor and Ajit are close enough to see each other, the film says differently; (g) strange but there are no mosquitoes in the forests in Dooars in December! Whew! That makes just for seven logical lapses that are enough to poke holes in the best of detective thrillers. But it is much better than a noted critic who has pointed out a dozen!
Abar Byomkesh began with the best of intentions. But the film in its entirely, notwithstanding the wonderful background score and the well-positioned and picturised Tagore number, the recreation of the period and the place-setting, lacks the visceral, supercharged air that could have heightened the suspense, sustained the speed and increased our sensations to keep us on the edge of our seats. Byomkesh Bakshi, minus its small warts, was better any day.