Goyenda Junior movie review: This investigative drama discounts audience's intelligence, despite credible actors
Goyenda Junior is a hurriedly put together disaster of a film has very little to offer, despite boasting of some solid names on the acting credits.
There is a rich tradition of teenage ‘detectives’ in Bengali literature. From Samaresh Basu’s Gogol to Shashthipada Chattopadhyay’s tribute to Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series, Pandab Goyenda, sharp young minds have always shown us that age does not necessarily mean wisdom, and that there are some advantages that a teenage sleuth has over his or her adult counterparts.
Chief among them being the fact that world over, kids are considered immature, and therefore never seen as a danger unto themselves by the bad guys. Mainak Bhaumik’s new film Goyenda Junior, despite being a nod to the tradition of teenage tiktikis (a Bengali slang for detectives), has a protagonist who is truly immature. In fact, Bhaumik’s script, which he has himself written, is so immature and ridiculously simplistic it becomes difficult to sit and watch his film.
Bikram is a bright young school-going kid, who loses his parents to a tragic accident. Living with his overbearing uncle and aunt, Bikram struggles to come to terms with his parents’ death, while being constantly bullied in school. When a senior police detective, named Sanjay, takes him under his wings after recognising his talent for sleuthing and analytical reasoning, Bikram finds his true calling. But he is forced to hit the ground before running. Thrust upon him is the mysterious death of the city’s confectionery magnate. Apparently, the man had suddenly dropped dead in the middle of a surprise birthday party. There are several suspects both within, and outside the victim’s family. Bikram continues to assist Sanjay in the investigation, finally revealing (if one could call it that) the perpetrator.
Be it Harry Potter or Feluda, one of the most salient features of all good literature and cinema for children and young adults is they appeal equally to adults as well. Satyajit Ray himself used to say that just because they are children, that does not mean that they do not possess the intelligence or the emotional quotient we adults can boast of. In fact, the very premise of Bhaumik’s film is this simple yet powerful fact.
Strangely enough, Bhaumik’s script does not seem to subscribe to this belief, nor does his treatment, That in itself is a contradiction that cannot be ignored. The writing is so banal, so unintelligent, and – on several occasions – so downright absurd, it becomes a pain to remain invested in the film for two long hours.
Clues are an integral and important part of any detective story. In this film, the clues almost feel like breadcrumbs that some benevolent murderer had most graciously strewn behind him on his trail for the investigator to find. Password hacking scenes – Bhaumik’s clearly got a thing for them – are so absurd I wonder why the actors playing the scenes did not protest. And then, there are the scenes in which the detectives are ‘thinking aloud’. These scenes are incompetently handled, and come way too frequently – leading to very poor cinema. All of this, mind you, in accompanied by the constant background score which tries to remind us, at every given opportunity, this is a mystery film. Very soon, therefore, we simply forget that the score even exists. Nothing could be more tragic for a composer.
Another major problem I have with the film is the way it tries to depict Bikram as the ‘hero’ of the story. It does this by constantly trying to hammer in the point, rather than choosing the more elegant, graceful, and effective solution of integrating his sparks of brilliance with the storyline. As a result, there soon comes a time in the film when the lad, for no fault of his, comes across as an arrogant little oaf rather than what the director intended him to be.
In terms of acting, there are mainly two individuals to talk about – Rwitobroto Mukherjee as the junior detective Bikram, and his real life father Shantilal Mukherjee, as his reel life mentor Sanjay. Both are talented actors. In Bhaumik’s earlier film Generation Ami, they had wowed me with brilliant, nuanced performances. But while Mukherjee Senior does his best in Goyenda Junior, sadly enough, Rwitobroto’s performance just does not pass muster. I understand as a father, it must be difficult to hear a critic say this – in fact, any father would have gladly wanted to hear the reverse. But this is my honest opinion of the duo’s performances in the film. Having said this, I cannot quite blame Rwitobroto for his performance, because Bhaumik’s script left him with so little space to spread his wings. What else do you expect from a bright young man if you load him with scene after scene in which he is simply supposed to tell the audience what he is thinking? This is a gross misutilisation of an actor’s talent. In fact, the only decent scenes of the film are the ones in which Mukherjee and Mukherjee connect with each other at an emotional level – as fatherly tutor and apt pupil.
Goyenda Junior is a film whose script must have gone through scores of redraft. In the end, this hurriedly put together disaster of a film has very little to offer, despite boasting of some solid names on the acting credits. Very good puppets, very lazy puppeteer.
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