In the end, the story emerges as the clear winner. Watch it unfold on the big screen, or go back to what you may not have done in a long time — reading.
Plagued by a series of untoward incidents, mine owner Manish Chakraborty hires Byomkesh Bakshi to hunt down the troublemaker. What follows is a gruesome murder and trouble in many forms. Will Byomkesh manage to cut through the web of lies woven around the crime?
The show must go on. This, in a nutshell, is the starting point of Byomkesh Bakshi, in which Anjan Dutt — with his fourth film in the franchise that he built brick by brick — goes back to where he began, and beyond. The big change in lead — from Abir Chatterjee to Jisshu U Sengupta as the detective — is followed by a change in setting and Byomkesh leaves Kolkata to unveil a series of crimes that unfolds in a coal mine town. Never mind if his first film with his first hero also bore the same title.
There's no immediate tragedy where Saradindu Bandopadhyay's Kohen Kobi Kalidas kicks off. But crime follows Byomkesh like the pug in a mobile network ad. After Manish Chakraborty hires Byomkesh to find the troublemaker who has caused widespread disruptions, the detective and his friend-cum-chronicler Ajit get sucked into a whirlpool of wrongdoing. With the murder of Pranhari Poddar, a club-going gambler, the detective is challenged to fathom the motive — is it deep-rooted hatred or crime incited by lust? Byomkesh snoops around the crime scene for clues, interrogates the prime suspects — the rich and famous Phanish Chakraborty, Mrigen Moulik, Arobindo Haldar and Madhumoy Sur — speaks to everyone and gets brutally injured in the process. But finding the killer is just a cog in the larger wheel of crime and there are many questions. Does Phanish's wife Indira analyse her husband's behavior correctly? Is the beautiful Mohini who worked for the victim involved in the murder? Who is creating trouble in Manish's mine?
In the lead role, Jisshu U Sengupta looks less Byomkesh and more, well, Jisshu. He is smiling, boisterous and lovable, but lacks the poise and icy sharpness of the Satyanweshi. There's no piercing gaze, steely resolve or self-restraint that Byomkesh purists have come to associate with the detective. Jisshu might have breathed fresh life into the character, but there's an unmistakable touch of fatigue to the film. Neither is the scope of the crime over-arching nor is there a grand denouement. Saradindu's delineation of the busy township is much more arresting in the original story than in the film. Budget cuts, anyone?
But like every good thriller, the criminal carries the least baggage of suspicion. And the end brings with it a moral choice — should the suspect be handed over to the cops or be absolved of his/her crime? Byomkesh seals the winding mystery with his own sense of justice. Though the film's scale is far from splendid, Anjan manages to hold the audience till the end with his technique. The corroboration of the various versions of the night of crime is interesting and the mystery intensifies with the background score by Neel Dutt, by now a pro with four films and running. Anjan has used a host of television actors to his benefit but his trump card remains the oldest member of his team — Saswata Chatterjee aka Ajit. The banter between Byomkesh and Ajit, the friendship they share, the bonding, the bonhomie — a high point of the franchise — remain as is. It does give the story an extra rush of adrenaline. But in the end, predictably, the story emerges as the clear winner. Watch it unfold on the big screen, or go back to what you may not have done in a long time — reading.