December 28, 2010, Kolkata/Tollywood (Calcutta Tube): Meet Abir Chatterjee. He is the new Byomkesh Bakshi of Bengali cinema. He had tough competition with a predecessor no less than Uttam Kumar who played Byomkesh in Satyajit Ray’s Chiriakhana in 1967. Abir’s take-off in films from theatre and then television has been slow and steady but Byomkesh has firmly established him in cinema. The handsome 6’2” footer is already a craze among female couch potatoes in West Bengal. This is Abir’s second feature film after his debut in Cross Connection and his first as single hero.

Byomkesh Bakshi will be coming to North America as Databazaar Media Ventures distributes the films over Amazon, Netflix, and other retail stores as well as stream online at a low cost from Dingora.Com and DMV ROKU Channel.

Bokesh Bakshi Abir Chatterrjee
Bokesh Bakshi Abir Chatterrjee

How did you land the role of Byomkesh Bakshi in an Anjan Dutt film?

I have been an avid fan of Anjan-da – his music, his lyrics, songs and films. When he called me up while we were wrapping up Cross Connection, I was thrilled. I immediately readied myself for the look test he had planned for me. The story he had picked to film among Byomkesh’s many adventures was Adim Ripu. This was quite some time ago and the day following the looks test, I could see my face, bespectacled and sophisticated like Byomkesh, looking back at me from the newspaper.

Were you familiar with the Byomkesh Bakshi stories by Sarandindu Bandopadhyay before you signed the film?

Of course! By the time I reached the last year of high school, I had finished off reading the entire Byomkesh Bakshi series. The first Byomkesh Bakshi work, Pather Kanta appeared in 1932. Though Bandopadhyay stopped writing Byomkesh stories after having written ten by 1936, the popularity of Byomkesh forced him to resurrect the detective and write 22 more detective stories after a gap of 15 years. Byomkesh Bakshi has stood the test of time. His popularity spans three generations of Bengalis across the world.

What is your personal take on the way Anjan Dutt has handled the character?

The Byomkesh stories are so detailed in description, characterization and incidents that the filmmaker does not have to work too hard on the screenplay. Anjan-da more or less stuck to the original with a few changes. He has taken a time-leap by bringing forward the time-setting from 1947 to 1963. Unlike most literary private eyes, Byomkesh is not eccentric. He is deeply rooted within the Bengali middle-class milieu, is arrogant but carries his arrogance subtly. In this film, Byomkesh has a stock of rhymes and poems he quotes at random to suit the situation, exasperating his Watson Ajit. Anjan-da had me dressed in spotless white kurta-pyjamas or dhoti-kurta He gave me a pair of black-framed spectacles which added to the dignity of the character.

[ReviewAZON asin=”B004G7GV38″ display=”inlinepost”]What kind of homework did you put in?

We did not have workshops or rehearsals as such but Anjan-da and I had many sittings over time more in the shape of gossip and adda where we discussed the story, the characters and their growth and zeroed in on Byomkesh. The character sort of sunk in over time and I began to understand the man behind the legendary name. The best thing is that Anjan-da has fleshed out the bonding between Ajit, Bomkesh’s friend, philosopher and guide who also writes his stories and becomes the narrator in all films, on an equal platform without the hierarchy that exists between Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.

Are you happy with the success of the film?

Of course. I am really thrilled. The fact that the film has now been acquired by Databazaar Media Ventures for releases in different cities in North America compounds the thrill several times over.

By: Shoma A. Chatterji

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