Anjan Dutta’s Abar Byomkesh (2012)-Bengali Film Review

Apr 12, 2012 (Calcutta Tube): Read Anjan Dutta’s Bengali movie ‘Abar Byomkesh’ by ace critic Pachu Ray at Calcutta Tube.

From The Bong Connection to Abar Byomkesh

Anjan-Dutta-at-the-Byomkesh-Bakshi-Bengali-Movie-premiere
Anjan-Dutta-at-the-Byomkesh-Bakshi-Bengali-Movie-premiere

If you have any passion for good Indian films you are ought to cherish this brilliant journey of versatile Anjan Dutta in the celluloid world.  Anjan Dutta is versatile in true to the sense. He was raised in the mountains where his marvelous Abar Byomkesh has been cinematographed. He was student of St. Paul’s School in Darjeeling. He was less acquainted with traditional Bengali language, culture and song, but he was well acquainted with western folk which later helped him to emancipate as a famous Bengali  Pop Singer. His songs are influenced by classical, country and blues. Initially his songs had imprints of Cecilia, Me and Julio Down by Schoolyard, the Beatles’ track Nowhere Man etc. But later he was  inspired by the ballads of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen and soon created a fantastic style of his own which is  Bengali in its core and universal in appeal having feather touch of  jazz, blues and rock and roll. He is an MA in English from the Calcutta University. During his university days, he started working in theater with Badal Sarkar, the great exponent of the  Third Theatre. And here started his journey which culminated as an excellent film maker of his time – the film maker who knows how to blend intellect and excellence with expectations of the common audience. Once upon a time he had a group of his own named Open Theatre which first performed Ekti Rajnaitik Hatya (A Political Murder) written by legend Ajitesh Bandopadhyay who adapted the same from 1963 Peter Weiss play The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade (German: Die Verfolgung und Ermordung Jean Paul Marats dargestellt durch die Schauspielgruppe des Hospizes zu Charenton unter Anleitung des Herrn de Sade), usually shortened to Marat/Sade. This is the most potent political and intellectual play written by Peter Weiss. Selection of a play of this kind as starter proves his level of courage and commitment as a cultural worker. This courage is once again reflected in selecting Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay’s Byomkesh as a protagonist of his film carrier. I hope his success in couple of Byomkesh will inspire him to score a trilogy, since he has super excellent Abir Chatterjee in his custody. Abar Byomkesh, inspired from the story Chitrachor, is an excellent projection of a smart and intelligent classical Bengali in one hand and a tight suspense built on an apparent trifling matter on the other.

The Play

Byomkesh Bakshi had fallen ill and as per medical advice he is taken to Dooars and is being nursed back to health by his wife Satyabati and compatriot Ajit. Just when the audience would start to think that the sleuth is in for all out comfort, mystery appears. At hills, Byomkesh makes his acquaintance with Bengali community. Among them are Dr. Ashwini Ghatak, Prof. Adinath Shome, Mahidhar Chaudhury, photographer Nakuleshwar, police officer Purander Pandey, Deputy Magistrate Umanath Ghosh and Bank Manager Amaresh Raha . There happens to be a get-together at the residence of the well off Mahidhar. Here in this party everybody (along with us) is charmed by the singing of Mahidhar’s young daughter Rajani (singer is the superb Shrabani Sen). Falguni Pal is a poor artist, who has the talent to portrait any one after seeing his subject for  a flash. This talent ultimately costs his life. Falguni appears dramatically and hands over the portrait of Mahidhar in lieu of one hundred bucks. At that time Mahidhar reports that a robbery had taken place at his house and to his utter surprise the burglar had stolen only a group photograph of Mahidhar with all the other local Bengali people. It is learnt instantaneously that all the others who had a copy of that photograph seem to have been lost. The issue, though trivial intrigues  Byomkesh and it becomes serious with another robbery at the house of the Deputy Magistrate where from also the print of that particular photo gets lost. As a chain, Falguni Pal is also murdered. To add few more pinch of salt in the  proceedings, Byomkesh discovers that both Adinath Shome and Ashwini Ghatak are  inclined to flamboyant Rajani. The conspicuous stealing of a particular group photo leads Byomkesh to believe that someone is trying to obliterate all imprints of his presence in this neighborhood . But who committed the murder of Falguni? Does the inclination of Ashwini and Adinath to Rajani is behind the thefts and the killing as well or someone else having a quite different motive?

The acting

Ushashie Chakraborty as Satyabati is the best of all her performances so far. In consecutive three films I watched in this week with Saswata Chatterjee in three different characters. As per my experience I’m bound to say that, in Bengali films he is becoming indispensible day by day. As we can no more tolerate anyone as Byomkesh excepting Abir, so we can no more accept anyone as Ajit except Swasata. Kaushik Sen as Bank manager is superb. In Charulata 2011 and in Abar Byomkesh Kaushik has introduced new dimensions in the on screen characterization of a villain. Rajani is Swastika Mukherjee . And this cameo is glamorous. In a small role of Falguni, Deb Ranjan Nag has done extremely well.  Most of the other actors in Abar Byomkesh has done their job nicely.  Sujan Mukherjee as Dr. Ashwini Ghatak, Chandan Sen, as Umanath Ghosh, Kunal Padhy, as Purandar Pandey, Biswanath Chakraborty as Mahidhar, Arindol Bagchi as photographer have done competent job. But Pijush Ganguli, as Prof. Adinath Shome could not keep pace with his fame and to some extent the same is true for Kunal Padhy also.

And to talk about Abir Chatterjii no word is enough. As Byomkesh simply without any hanky panky he has quite mesmerized the audience. He shows a fine and accurate sense of comic break with his continuous hankering for a cigarette from the unyielding Satyabati and Ajit as well. In the concluding frames the dual between Byomkesh (almost looking like the legendary resident of 211B Baker Street) and the bank manager with the trembling Ajit in the frame is unforgettable.

The Crew

Anjan Dutta has just been announced as the best Bengali film maker of the year. I will not be surprised if he bags the prize for the coming year also for his second Byomkesh. His film career as director did not start as a story teller. But now he is one of the best story tellers of his time with the capability of making tight crisp screenplay which can hook the audience frame after frame. Thanks to Arghyakamal Mitra for smart editing. Cinematographer Indranil Mukherjee has done his job extremely well. Panoramic view of the hills in the beginning and at the end offer another esthetic dimension to the film. Anjan- Indranil combination has executed the climax smartly gallantly and  surprisingly. And Abir in these frames looks smashing in his suit and hat. Music by Neel Dutta is beyond all questions. The film has one song (the Rabindrasngeet-  Shokhi Bhabona Kahare Bole), sung by  Srabani Sen to marvel  the viewers.

In this film there is an antique flavor of old social system in one hand  and some advanced feeling on human relationship propagated time and again by the protagonist Byomkesh on the other.

Pachu Ray

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