Byomkesh Gowtro movie review: Arindam Sil’s film suffers from poor writing, terrible execution
Director: Arindam Sil
Bengal’s favourite hero Abir Chatterjee has now had the envious distinction of playing Bengal’s two most popular and much-loved detectives on screen – Satyajit Ray’s Feluda and Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay’s Byomkesh Bakshi. While Chatterjee has enough charm and flair to come across as both convincing and charismatic as a sleuth, it is always – quite tragically – the shoddy writing that renders his performances as poor caricatures of these two legends of crime fiction. Director Arindam Sil’s recent movie Byomkesh Gowtro is no exception.
Adapted from a story titled Rokter Daag, the film recounts the adventure of the fictional truth-seeker or Satyanweshi as he is approached by a young man named Satyakam Dawes who introduces himself as the son and sole heir of a renowned businessman from Mussorie. Satyakam is an unabashed, incorrigible and self-admitted womaniser. He tells Byomkesh Bakshi that his life is in danger, as someone is about to murder him, and hires the sleuth to investigate his death, but not before hitting on Byomkesh’s wife Satyabati. Byomkesh accepts the case and travels to the misty hills of Mussorie, accompanied by Satyabati and his dear friend Ajit Banerjee. He soon learns that the entire town of Mussorie is fed up with the wayward behaviour of Satyakam and his adventures with the town’s women – including, but not limited to, a charming club singer, the daughter of the town’s chief of police and a distant cousin living in shelter in the Dawes household itself. Almost everyone in the picturesque hill station is after Satyakam’s life, but the man seems to pass right through their fingers quicker than a slippery eel. But not for long. When his brashness and philandering attitude catches up with him, and he is brutally shot down at his own doorstep, it is up to Byomkesh Bakshi to keep the promise that he had made to the man.
As with almost all Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay’s stories, this one too is dark and unsettling. It deals with the vile manners and ulterior motives of men and women, none of whom can be trusted. Everyone wears not one but multiple shades of grey, irrespective of whether he or she has committed the central crime of the story or not. And in that sense, it sets up just the right mood for a noir-esque thriller. But just about then, Sil tries to do too much – of everything – to spoil the broth. Too much poetry, too much coquettish dialogue, too much overwriting – it just goes downhill from what is essentially an excellent opening sequence, one that holds both intrigue and promise. Twenty minutes into the film, and you are already feeling fidgety, because everyone on screen and behind it is trying to act too smart. Forty, and you are bored to death, because nothing new is happening, and by the time the interval comes, you are wondering whether you should even return to the auditorium after your bio break.
If you do though, you soon realise that things become worse in the second half. Literally, all technical departments collapse after the interval – with the editing deserving a special mention. It almost seems as if like the audience, even the technical staff has given up on the film by the interval. Sil begins to pile up one needless scene after another, purely to build suspense, but in the larger scheme of things, these scenes simply don’t do anything to move the story forward. Yes, the story literally stalls.
One of the trickiest bits to write and execute in a whodunit is when the detective is working out the solution, when he is literally ‘thinking’. How does one show it on screen? It requires a deft writer and a skilled director to pull this feat off. Unfortunately, Sil comes across as neither. The scenes where Byomkesh, Ajit and Satyabati are discussing the possibilities of the suspects and their motives are some of the most poorly written, terribly executed and – this is the most important part – lazily enacted scenes of the film. They just broke my heart, because while such scenes can offer great challenges to filmmakers, they are also the most satisfying, if done well.
As I said at the beginning of this review, Abir Chatterjee does his best under the circumstances, but the filmmaker gives him so little brain and so much brawn that he comes across as a very poor adaptation of Byomkesh Bakshi. His lines are unnatural, his behaviour is unnatural, and what is perhaps the singularly most painful thing to watch in this film – his absolute lack of response when his wife is being abused by his client (both mentally and physically) – is unworthy of the hero we have loved and admired so much over the years. If a woman, be it your own wife or someone else, is being tormented in your presence, and you are doing nothing about it, I am sorry, but you are no hero – not in my book, at least.
Sohini Sarkar is decidedly miscast as Satyabati. She does very little but whimper and howl throughout the film, when she is not pulling herself together after being abused, that is. There is not a single moment in the film when I rooted for her, although I did feel bad for her plight. Rahul Banerjee plays Bakshi’s friend, sidekick and chronicler Ajit, and while Banerjee is an extremely talented actor, you can see that he is struggling to hold fort in this poorly written farrago. Anjan Dutt does his bit reasonably well, although he fails to master the gait of a man who needs a walking stick – something that veteran actor Chhabi Biswas had done so brilliantly in a number of films during the golden age of Bengali cinema. Priyanka Sarkar, who is an excellent actress otherwise, is the second frightful case of miscasting in this film. She has a bit role, and she does her best, but just does not seem convincing enough. The two people who do shine in their roles are Harsh Chhaya as an orthodox police officer, and Arjun Chakraborty as the Casanova of Mussorie.
Byomkesh Gowtro is the sort of film that ought to have been more carefully made because it tells the story of one of the most loved characters of Bengali literature. Unfortunately, it makes its protagonist look like a bumbling, self-centred, insensitive everyman. In other words, it does the unthinkable – it commits the grave crime of murdering the very notion of Byomkesh Bakshi.
Updated Date: Oct 22, 2018 14:00 PM