Sometimes in life you have to eat your words.
Judging by the size of my tummy, I eat a lot.
I was critical of the trailer of the movie Byomkesh Bakshi when it first came out.
I predicted doom and gloom, but my worries and predictions – just like my life – proved to be worthless.
- I thought the director was making Byomkesh a Bondian character with iconic Bondian utterances.
- I protested the presence of sword wielding Japanese in Kolkata
- I protested the casting of a fair skinned lady to portray a dark skinned lady’s role
- I protested the display of a woman taking off her clothes
Now that I have watched the movie, and enjoyed it tremendously, I can analyse these protests.
1. To my great relief, Byomkesh remains a normal middle-class Bong intellectual – far from the Bonds of this world. He gets easily beaten up by criminals and political goondas, he pukes his guts out upon seeing rotting corpses and he gets diarrhea – the quintessential Bong disease. The Bakshi Byomkesh Bakshi moment comes just once, and that too as a reply to a similar utterance by another character.
As such it seems to be more a homage/nod from the director.
2. The presence of the Japanese is essential to the plot; the sword wielding part is designed in the story to scare Byomkesh and Ajit. Its a bit unnecessary and over the top but nothing earth shattering.
3. I stand by my protest; this is the sort of casual everyday racism that is a blight on India. There are literally millions of beautiful dark skinned women in India, many of the mare actresses. The Satyabati of the movie is not at all a glammed up soul, the portrayal is that of a courageous middle class lady.
So if the portrayal is more or less true to the spirit of the books, then what was the need to change her skin colour?
4. Women taking off their clothes is never a bad thing – NEVER. That being said, in the trailer it seemed titillating. In the complete scene, the lady takes off her clothes to display an ancient swimming costume!
The movie, by today’s standards, as far as “bold scenes” go, has diddly squat.
Now for the good stuff
The movie’s tagline, I think, was ‘expect the unexpected’.
And the movie was unexpectedly good. I had gone into the theatre scared and anxious; I came out with a huge smile.
The set decoration and cinematography are beyond excellent. They have managed to successfully bring the Calcutta of 1940s to screen. Had my grandparents been alive they would have been able to judge the realism of that; but for me it was quite evocative and inline with my expectations/visions.
The dialogues are quite good; the scriptwriter did a very good job.
The story is good (liberally taken from Satyanweshi). Its not perfect though, there are some rough edges and lapses.
But the actors, the actors were by and large excellent.
Mr. Sushant Singh Rajput is fantastic, even more fantastic are Mr Anand Tiwari and Mr. Neeraj Kabi.
What impressed me most was their completely normal deadpan speech deliveries;
The side actors play their part to various degrees of success: Satyavati, Puntiram, the taxi driver, the opium seller cum police agent, the pahalwans, the Japenese guy, the Chinese lot, the Police Commissioner all were more or less good.
Swastika Mukherjee, on the other hand, over acted the fuck out of her role. I don’t know what Dibakar Banerjee was thinking or whether she is only capable of this, but she was easily the worst performer of the lot.
Overall, a really really good job.
I hope its just the beginning and that there are more movies on the line; continuity in terms of the director, screenwriter, cinematographer and lead actors is a must though.
Its definitely one of those movies that everyone can watch (the typical Shahrukh Khan crowd may get bored though) and most will enjoy.
Hell, its one of those rare movies that is watchable multiple times.
I doff my metaphorical hat to Dibakar Banerjee.