Friday, June 23, 2017

Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! (2015) - Foreign Film Friday

Number Rolled: 69
Movie Name/Year: Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! (2015)
Tagline: Expect the unexpected
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Action, Drama, Bollywood
Length: 137 minutes
Rating: NR
Production Companies: Dibakar Banerjee Productions
Producer: Dibakar Banerjee, Vikas Chandra, Aditya Chopra, Smriti Jain, Gaurav Mishra
Director: Dibakar Banerjee
Writer: Urmi Juvekar, Dibakar Banerjee, Saradindu Bandopadhyay
Actors: Sushant Singh Rajput, Anand Tiwari, Neeraj Kabi, Divya Menon, Swastika Mukherjee,  Meiyang Chang, Mark Bennington, Takanori Higuchi, Shivam, Kaushik Ghosh, Anindya Pulak Banerjee, Arindol Bagchi, Pradipto Kumar Chakraborty, Manoshi Nath, Moumita Chakraborty, Tirtha Mallick, Shaktipada Dey
Stunt Doubles: None

Blurb from Netflix: Plunged into the chaos of Calcutta during World War II, a rookie detective finds himself opposing a malevolent genius with world domination plans.

Selina’s Point of View:
Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! was basically the Hindi version of Sherlock Holmes. Not the original version from the books, but what it’s morphed into over the years. I’d compare it more to the Robert Downey Jr. (Chef, Iron Man, The Judge) version than the Benedict Cumberbatch (Zoolander 2, Black Mass, The Imitation Game) version, too.

There was almost equal parts amusement and seriousness that I kind of enjoyed. The main character, played by Sushant Singh Rajput (PK, Raabta, Shuddh Desi Romance), would do something to make me grin or chuckle, but the moment a dead body was involved he reacted appropriately. One of my biggest pet peeves in films involve when characters not used to the site of a dead body just seem to take it in stride when they’re finally exposed to it.

Let me tell you, that’s not how that works.

Rajput successfully represented someone who wasn’t used to being exposed to death a great deal. There was shock and sadness and mortality in his expression. As someone who’s spent some time at the morgue, let me tell you, that is normally the truth of it for newbies.

The plot was a little all over the place and the film was much longer than I would have liked… but it wasn’t difficult to watch. I enjoyed the interaction between the characters.

I was a little thrown off when I saw the name of the actor that played Anguri Devi. Her name was Swastika Mukherjee (The Last Poem, Take One, Incomplete). That’s a hell of name. It threw me off for a few, but it’s always important to remember the cultural differences involved here. In India, the swastika originally represented peace and university – which is likely what her name was meant to represent. Hitler corrupted the word and the symbol, but the original meaning is still a part of Indian culture.

That doesn’t really affect the film at all, but it’s worth noting.

I really kind of enjoyed this film. The plot caught me off guard a lot, though I’m not sure if that’s because the mystery was in depth or because I was too busy paying attention to the subtitles to really be able to suss out what was happening. Still, I’d recommend it to anyone interested in Hindi films.

Cat’s Point of View:
I’ve been looking forward to this Foreign Film Friday all week. I’m a sucker for the occasional period piece and mysteries are usually fun. Combine the two, and I was all set for a noir gumshoe film with Bollywood flair. That wasn’t exactly what I got.

Don’t get me wrong – the movie is interesting for a World War 2 mystery set in Calcutta. I liked it. Here comes the ‘but.’ I would have liked it more if not for one glaring issue – the soundtrack.

What was the production team on when they decided that all those anachronistic tracks – along the veins of growly metal and modern quasi-dance music – were a good idea?! Seriously. Air raid sirens one moment and rapping in Hindi the next. It wasn’t through the whole movie, but it was just often enough to knock me right out of the setting.

I get it that they maybe wanted to be different and not like a typical Bollywood feature; especially in scenes with building tension, danger, or action sequences – but metal or rapping in a movie set in the early 1940s? Bad call. 

With the right premise, movies can sometimes get away with infiltrating ‘modern’ music into tales of yore – case and point being A Knight’s Tale (2001). Each of those modern musical numbers was retooled or carefully selected with lyrics fitting the scenes and worked into the medieval landscape. What was happening in this movie was just tantamount to background noise. Of course, I don’t speak Hindi and the subtitles didn’t offer translation for the rapping. Given the rest of the selections, I highly doubt it was topical.

I do want to leave with a positive note here. Aside from the musical mishaps along the way, the story was interesting. I loved the parallels in homage to Sherlock Holmes. If you stay on top of it, the mystery is fairly predictable in its resolution. There’s enough twisting of the plot, however, to keep you guessing at least a good while if you’re not seeking to puzzle things out for yourself.

I wish I could rate this movie better, but the discord created between the movie and score took a lot of the fun out of it for me.

Speech Available: Hindi
Subtitles Available: English

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 67%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 75%
Metascore - 70/100
Metacritic User Score – 7/10
IMDB Score – 7.7/10

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating3.5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating2.5/5

Trust-the-Dice’s Parental Advisory Rating: R

P.S.  Based on a series of novels referred to as Byomkesh Bakshy Mysteries, written by Sharadindu Bandopadhyay.

Movie Trailer:

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