The adventures of a bespectacled Bong in a dhoti and his “close” friend and assistant are part of my childhood. Even before I met the great minds of Holmes and Watson, I was introduced to Byomkesh Bakshi and Ajit. The detectives I loved watching as a kid. I re-watched the episodes when I grew up and still loved them (even with the glaring production flaws and boom mikes peeking into the frames more than once).
My expectations with the movie based on these two characters were, obviously, high. The first disappointment came with the trailer. I was unimpressed. But I had to watch the movie.
I liked the pre-independence Calcutta setting, complete with old cars, trams, and smoke-filled coffee houses. I even liked the shadows that set the tone of the movie set in the WWII era. I tried to like the uni-browed Byomkesh, I really did. But no matter how many chances I gave him, he let me down.
I had a similar problem with the Sherlock movie. The one where the chemist is seen street fighting way too many times. A great detective can fight, no doubt. But why use muscle power when you can use your brain.
Coming back to Byomkesh babu, the first thing that struck me was how naive he is. But then, maybe the writers wanted to introduce the detective with this movie. So we let him take every bait that a Moriarty-like nemesis throws his way. We see him stumble and then stand back on his feet and then stumble again.
But this doesn’t explain what brings Ajit to Byomkesh in the first place. In the early scenes, we see a skeptical Ajit looking for Byomkesh’s help to find his missing father. While introducing himself, he says he knows who Byomkesh is, that everyone knows who Byomkesh is.
One cannot help but wonder what makes Byomkesh popular enough to be approached by strangers. Has he solved cases before? Is this his first “major” case? Is he a first-time detective or not?
Another drawback is the length of the movie. It takes almost the entire first half to set the premise and the second is stretched to solve the case. By the end, you are glad that it is finally over. The end, by the way, leaves many possibilities for a potential sequel. Maybe they will crack that one!