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The Clumsy Baangaali Babu Comes Of Age
Apr 05, 2015 02:33 AM 5650 Views
(Updated Apr 05, 2015 12:08 PM)





The two things which a Baangali cannot do without are(1)  Goyenda Galpo(Detective Story) and(2)  Phuchka(Paanipuri). Of course! There are million more things which define a Bengali, however, today I would like to concentrate on a Baangaali’s idea of a quintessential snooper, or as they are colloquially termed, tiktikee, which if literally translated means a lizard. Now, why should a detective be nicknamed a lizard? And why not? Because a detective has to have that essentially reptilian sliminess to slither into the depths of any situation to scoop out the truth. Thus, the art of detection is nothing short of the larger act of ultimate discovery which is beyond the ordinary vision or grasp of the common man. So, it naturally follows that a detective is simply not a jaasoos but he can, in the final analysis, be singled out as the seeker of the truth or a satyanweshi. And that is exactly what Byomkesh Bakshi will like to present himself as ….

And so it begins …. the Bengali litterateur, Sharadendu Bandopadhyay’s brain child, the home grown Sherlock Holmes, who one fine morning arrives at a forced bachelor’s den or a'mess'(men’s hostel or boarding house) looking for job and lodging in the big bad Calcutta of 1932. The'mess' is run by the inscrutable Dr. Anukul Guha. Everything seems above board and respectable to the hilt except that one of the inmates is found dead in his room leaving the rest of the boarders  shocked, clueless and supremely nervous. Atul Chandra, the newcomer shares the room with one Ajit Bandopadhyaya, a struggling writer. But is Atul as simple as he seems? Why does he ask so many questions? And why does he after all snoop around in the dark? Ajit, though involuntarily attracted to Atul’s intelligence, yet nurtures doubts. Who is this Atul?

He is none other than the darling of all Bengali whodunnit  lovers – Byomkesh Bakshi – conceptualized by Sharadendu Bandopadhyay in the shadow of  Sir  Arthur Conan Doyles’ cocaine sniffing sleuth – yet who subsequently grew out of his shadow and graduated into a cult fictional figure sufficiently indigenized and contemporized  to reflect the essence of a turbulent time in Bengali culture and history. And more than eight decades later, another Bengali, Dibakar Banerjee, expands on the original theme of the author to build a much more extensive canvas and connect juxtaposing the novice and somewhat naïve, fresh from college, Byomkesh Bakshy against the tumultuous backdrop of war ravaged Calcutta of 1942 to create a period saga which well nigh proves to be a milestone in Indian Cinema – Detective Byomkesh Bakshy(DBB) has been snatched out of the confines of  Baangaalis’ reading rooms and projected before the country as never before!

As it often happens, the script/screenplay writer and the director have to do a lot of  tight rope walking while translating a classic into a convincing cinematic narrative. Here, Dibakar, the Director, has excelled as well as faulted. Going by his self- confession, he is not telling the story written by the author. Instead, he is narrating an original yarn by borrowing the characters created by the author eighty three years ago. Therefore, the cinematic adaptation is replete with Dibakar’s personal interpretation, imagination and add-ons which to a large extent have bestowed extra dimension to the original creation. For example, his portrayal of Byomkesh as a faltering first-timer who stumbles upon his mistakes to arrive at the truth with painstaking efforts; the conjugation of an evolving intelligentsia with the political and historical upheavals of those times; the intertwining of a simple plot with the intricacies of the then world  politics are all brilliant maneuvers to bedazzle the audience with  baffling twists and turns and stunning dramatization.

However, Dibakar, while packaging a gripping and sensational suspense thriller in the wrapper of a period drama has somewhere relied more on visual impacts than the subtlety suffused in the novels intriguing the readers to focus more on the “why” aspect of the crime than the “how” factor. With this deviation, the cinematic presentation, has more than once erred into being overly gory and gruesome which was not the motto of the author.  Detection is cerebral. Dibakar has rendered it macabre.

Notwithstanding, the opulence of an era re-created with such meticulous precision leave the spectators spellbound. Though, the knowledgeable may credit it to VFX, the eye behind the lens has much to contribute to transform a Kolkata of 2015 into a Calcutta of 1942. So are the performances understated and elegant – be it Anguri Bala(Swastika Mukherjee), Ajit Banerjee(Anand Tewari), Kanai Daawo(Meiyang Chang)  and above all Dr. Anukul Guha(Neeraj Kavi). Even the most insignificant sideys have lived up to their characters.  Sushant Singh Rajput as the deglamorized, muffler clad, dhoti touting Baangaali Babu has once again proved that he has more in his kitty than his critics would allow us to believe. While thankfully there is no scope of song and dance sequence in the narrative, the use of background score is fantastical and trend setting. In one sequence, the eerie sounds of sirens and air raids are ominously intermixed with the holy jingling of bells and conches of sandhya aarati  to underscore how precariously poised the survival of an age-old culture is on the fulcrum of mass devastation. Simply superb!

As the narrative draws towards the climax the promise of a sequel seems not far behind. While Dibakar tries an introductory hand at establishing his characters in this maiden venture, a more forceful and power packed assertion of Byomkesh Bakshy, perhaps in a serialized version, is not beyond anticipation.

Overall, DBB is an experimentation which inspires vigorous debate on meaningful and impactful cinema aimed not only at entertaining or visually enamouring the viewers but also stimulating intellectually and engaging them with an attempt novel and unprecedented.

A must watch for thriller addicts!

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