Cast: Sushant Singh Rajput, Anand Tiwari, Swastika Mukherjee, Divya Menon, Meiyang Chang, Neeraj Kabi
Direction: Dibakar Banerjee
Production: Aditya Chopra & Dibakar Banerjee
Duration: 2 hours 30 minutes
Story: Byomkesh Bakshy wants to find Bhuvan babu – but what happens when Byomkesh unearths a highly sinister plot?
Review: Straight up, Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! is possibly India’s best-looking sleuth flick till now. Based on Saradendu Bandhopadhyay’s vintage stories, DBB! is set in 1942 Calcutta where clever Byomkesh (Sushant Singh Rajput) is asked by Ajit Banerjee (Anand) to find his father, Bhuvan babu, mysteriously missing for months. At Bhuvan’s lodgings, Byomkesh is befriended by doctor Anukul Guha (Neeraj Kabi) and Kanai Dao (Meiyang Chang) who sells opium – in a Calcutta that’s all about intoxicants, smugglers and smoke. Byomkesh finds a trail to Gajanand Sikdar’s chemical factory where sensuous film star Angoori (Swastika) intrigues him, imperious Satyawati (Divya) annoys him and rebellious Sukumar (Shivam) puzzles him – discovering blackmail, drugs, bodies and bombs, can Byomkesh solve not one but two dangerous plots?
Byomkesh Bakshy is an iconic Bengali character brought to life by Sushant Singh Rajput with great elan – Sushant pulls off a role full of wry liveliness (a Sardarji cabbie nervously noting, ‘Ye babu ka nut dheela hai,’), fitting the character, from flowery dhoti folds to grim forehead frowns, beautifully. He’s matched by dramatic Neeraj Kabi and calm Anand Tiwari who, after a Chinese gang leaves a courtyard strewn with corpses, tells caretaker Puttiram (shakily precise Pradipto Kumar Chakrabarty), ‘Khoon rehne de…bas chai bana de.’
Alongside, the look is remarkable – noir cinematography unfurls a Calcutta of shadows and splendid squalour, trams like filigree running across the city, costume balls, dentists’ halls where murders are committed with violent slash. Dibakar Banerjee adds cheeky global touches too (Byomkesh’s painting resembles Edvard Munch’s Scream), tracing shots evoking Fellini’s moving camera, vicious action punching between Guy Ritchie and Quentin Tarantino.
But the film stretches, scenes between Byomkesh and a slow-talking, slow-pouting, slow-smoking Angoori losing pace. Superfluous characters (a wailing wife et al) make some tension pop away like the bubbles on Angoori’s bath foam. A chilling climax masterfully ties up the tale – but 30 minutes less would’ve given this a much firmer knot.
Still, DBB! is a fun watch presenting another mystery – how Sushant looks good, despite a uni-brow?