Director: Dibakar Banerjee
Cast: Sushant Singh Rajput, Anand Tiwari, Swastika Mukherjee, Divya Menon, Meiyang Chang, Neeraj Kabi
Rating: Liked it but*
If cinema is the opium of the masses, with his new film, director Dibakar Banerjee shows us that he’s not the best drug dealer. Because he tends to smoke it all.
Detective Byomkesh Bakshi is an opium dream.
One moment naturalistic, and then over the top. One moment smart, and then a tad too expositional. One moment quiet, one moment heavy-metal loud. One moment for style, another for substance. One moment a thriller, and suddenly a rare moment of slapstick. Taken individually, these moments work but Banerjee’s erratic storytelling that opts for substance-influenced style over substance makes Detective Byomkesh Bakshi the curious case of lost identity with Banerjee trying to find out what kind of a filmmaker is he, when given all the money mainstream filmmakers are given and a Yash Raj Films backing.
Unless the intention itself was: “Let’s take the Bengali babu and make Bakshi as a Japanese film – but in Hindi, with anachronistic heavy metal music and English lyrics.”
You get the vibe of watching scenes from a really cool ultra-violent Japanese film in the middle of a lot of talking and until the villain shows up with his evil Amrish Puri avatar and then on, it’s a eighties Bollywood film.
The actors are all fantastic. Sushanth Singh Rajput nails it and gives us a character we look forward to if this franchise takes off and the likeable Anand Tiwari plays a great foil. The rest of the cast is fantastic too (not naming specifics to not give away the plot, twists or ending) except that the makers leave so many characters and threads hanging for long stretches of time that the inconsistencies in tone and pace gives us enough time to appreciate the detailing of painstakingly done production design, time-travel cinematography and the cool music.
It says a lot about the film when things that should ought to be invisible are unanimously praised. But this is a film let down by the guy at the helm – in writing and directing departments.
What this film needed to work was the economy of writing from the forties (and the fifties). Fewer scenes; tighter storytelling.
Average filmmakers are written about when they make good films. Great filmmakers are written about when they make average films.
Yet, Bakshi is not an average film. It’s way above average by Bollywood standards and if we were to give points for the visual and aural appeal alone, this is the film of the year. At least till Bombay Velvet comes along.
It’s the first time Banerjee has fumbled but a misstep that needs equal amount of criticism and appreciation because we want to see more of this franchise. This could be the beginning of something truly epic. It has promise, potential and the right team backing it in every department. All it needs is the captain to pull up his socks.
*My rating scale goes from: Loved it. Liked it. Liked it but. Didn’t like it. Hated it.