Detective Byomkesh Bakshi: The Indian Sherlock Holmes


Sushant Singh Rajput and Dibakar Banerjee for Detective Byomkesh Bakshi (to be released 13 February, 2015)

Detective Byomkesh Bakshi, a Dibakar Banarjee film produced by Aditya Chopra and starring Sushant Singh Rajput, is set to release on February 13, 2015. The film is based on the works of  Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay who wrote 30 some stories featuring the fictional detective Byomkesh Bakhshi. Byomkesh Bakshi is sometimes called the Indian Sherlock Holmes and not surprisingly as Bandyopadhyay was greatly influenced by the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Sherlock Holmes is one of the most popular fictional characters and it is fascinating because it has maintained its popularity for over 100 years. I am reading “the Canon,” the major works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle featuring the famous detective, and they are wonderful.

Although the popularity of Sherlock Holmes never flattened at any point, there seems to be a re-emergence of its popularity. It has been remade countless of times in a variety of works in many countries. But I attribute this recent popularity to the Sherlock Holmes films and more specifically to BBC’s Sherlock, which I wrote about recently. The BBC series and Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance has been one of the most fascinating and influential things I have come across lately. The last I found myself so excited about something was a few years back when I saw Manichitrathazhu. There is even an American version of the Sherlock series called Elementary.

Robert Downey Jr. in Sherlock Holmes (2009)

BBC’s series Sherlock starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman (2010-present)

CBS’ Elementary starring Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu (2012-present)

24MP_rajeev_2_jpg_1858467g

Rajeev Khandelwal, dressed to look like BBC’s Sherlock, in Samrat & Co (2014).

This worldwide re-emergence of love for our favorite detective has also found enthusiasts in Indian cinema. This year we had the release of Vidya Balan’s Bobby Jasoos, which wasn’t actually a crime thriller at all and Samrat & Co starring Rajeev Khandelwal, a sad attempt to copy BBC’s Sherlock. There is another such film directed by Anurag Basu and expected to release in August 2015, Jagga Jasoos, starring Katrina Kaif and Ranbir Kapoor. I expect little from that film. But next up is perhaps the crime thriller with the most potential and also carrying the most risk, Dibakar Banarjee’s Detective Byomkesh Bakshi. The film will be a period film, taking place in the 1940s, similar to the films starring Robert Downey Jr. It is not a modern version like BBC’s Sherlock.

I have not read the original Byomkesh Bakshi stories. When I first heard of this film, my first response was “Oh no.” I felt it was a bad move. It’s such a risk to take on such a well known fictional character, especially when there are such amazing international productions out there on him already.

Rajit Kapoor in and as Byomkesh Bakshi, a TV series that ran in 1993 and 1997.

But this is not the first time that the Indian audience will see Byomkesh Bakshi on screen. There was a critically acclaimed television series called Byomkesh Bakshi that ran in 1993 and 1997 starring Rajit Kapur. Apparently, the series were quite good– intelligent, thrilling and humorous. There were also numerous films based on the character in the 60s and 70s. And more recently, an Anjan Dutt film in 2010. Surprisingly though, Bollywood has not produced much on the fictional detective. Most of the adaptations have come from Bengali regional cinema.

It would silly to think of this project as a copy of Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. For Doyle himself was heavily influenced by Edgar Allen Poe’s fictional character, Detective Dupin. When it comes to literature, and films, almost everything has been done before, somewhere, somehow. We are never getting something completely original. And that’s fine as long as it is done intelligently, with class and value. My only concern is Sushant and whether he will be able to pull off this role. I believe he’s a good actor, perhaps a bit too young for this role, but then again, that’s what I thought about Benedict in Sherlock and I was completely wrong about that.

I think that Banarjee’s film might turn out very good if he follows the same path as the much successful TV series. I plan on watching Detective Byomkesh Bakshi with an open mind. I try to do that with every film regardless. I think you will too. Hopefully, it won’t disappoint.

Sherlock Holmes fans in Japan. Literature, music and films have no boundaries.

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