I never read the Bengali stories of Detective Byomkesh Bakshy (or “Bakshi”), so my opinion of this much awaited film is based on my knowledge of the Western Sherlock Holmes.
Detective Byomkesh Bakshy made by Dibakar Banerjee has the essential components of a Sherlockian detective story. We have the detective himself, played by Sushant Singh Rajput, his friend and companion Ajit, played by Anand Tiwari, an alluring lady played by Swastika Mukherjee and of course the villain played by Neeraj Kabi, a remorseless Professor Moriarty. We also have an intriguing mystery, the kind that Sherlock would love to focus his mental energies on.
The main character, however, falls short of a major quality which makes Sherlock Holmes unique, that is, his supreme ability at observation and deductive reasoning. It is obvious that the thought occurred to the filmmaker because throughout the film, we are told by various characters that Byomkesh has the ability to see and understand things that others cannot. But actually, we don’t see him use this skill much in the film. If only Dibakar Banerjee had placed a few deductive exercises which are so mentally stimulating and impressive for the audience. Now I could be wrong in that perhaps the Bengali character wasn’t so much into showing off his deductive reasoning skills and the filmmaker wanted to stay true to the original Bengali Byomkesh. I honestly don’t know. But nevertheless, Byomkesh came off as any typical detective in this story whereas Sherlock Holmes is a character of atypical intelligence and mental acuity.
Byomkesh’s mind may not be very superior in this film but the sets, costumes, cinematography and post-production certainly are. If you have any curiosity as to what Calcutta may have been like during World War II, see this film and you will believe that you have seen something very close to the original. I found the sets of this film absolutely amazing. It was imagined and made so perfectly, considering even the smallest detail. A big hats off to the teams that made it all possible. These guys are seriously good at what they do.
Performances were also very good. The acting in this film is very underrated, very real, which just adds to the unique feel of the film. I already mentioned that I would like to see a more intelligent Byomkesh on screen, but at the same time, there was something endearing about this Byomkesh who is actually a very human character. Some Western adaptations of Sherlock Holmes make the character out to be a completely cold, emotionless creature. Although that certainly happened from time to time in the original stories, he was also a compassionate man who could feel empathy for others and get affected by various people and events. There is absolutely nothing cold or distant about Dibakar’s Byomkesh. He vomits when he sees a corpse and gulps when witnessing a murder. This is a very human, emotional character and it was actually interesting and good to see him that way. Byomkesh is definitely more easy to relate to than Sherlock.
The film overall has a dark mysterious feel to it and I really felt that a dark Calcutta was the right setting for a dark London of the original Western stories. The background music could have been a little better. I also didn’t like Byomkesh’s unibrow which really made it difficult at times to take the character seriously. On the whole, I do feel that any shortcomings or weaknesses of this film are easy to ignore considering the fantastic sets and production. I hope Dibakar makes a sequel where we get to see Byomkesh in his later years when he is even better at what he does. And hopefully he will have tamed his eyebrows by then too.