Adapted from two Bandyopadhyay stories – Satyanweshi (1932) and Arthamanartham (1933) – Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! introduces him to his coterie, who include his sidekick Ajit (played gamely by Anand Tiwari), househelp Putiram, and love-interest Satyavati. The case Byomkesh is given to investigate starts off as a harmless investigation into the murder of Ajit’s father but soon assumes greater proportions. Set in 1942 Calcutta in the backdrop of World War II, the film’s plot, rendered sexily and stylishly, is tied together by the secrets and betrayals of a politician’s family. It is supplemented by the suspicious motives of Byomkesh’s landlord (Neeraj Kabi, having an inordinate amount of fun), the shadow of Chinese drug dealers, freedom fighters, and the threat of the Japanese infiltrating the colonial city. There’s ample bloodshed, dead ends, double identities, and deceit in store for Byomkesh. The narrative, stacked with red herrings, goes around in circles – a feat, considering it released at a time when Hindi film audiences were far less kind to experiments even if they were backed by Yash Raj Films.
The movement in the film comes instead from its atmospheric quality: Banerjee crafts Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! as a feast for the senses. A masterful opening shot of a tram journey with an out-of-focus Rajput establishes Calcutta as a dangerous hunting ground, an era meticulously recreated by the film’s production design. The infectious soundtrack, crammed with charming jazz, rap, and thrash metal, lends the film a distinct flashiness which goes perfectly with its noir sensibilities. A climatic action set-piece that unfolds through freeze frames and wicked shadowplay turns grime and sweat into cheeky ballet. And the film’s dialogue, spare and to-the-point, doesn’t shy from occasionally winking at itself. Take for instance, the scene where Satyavati tries to convince the detective to continue working on the case. The timing couldn’t be terrible: Byomkesh has just found out that he was on the wrong path the whole time and is lying in bed, his eyes covered with a piece of cloth. “Why me?” he asks. “Because you can see everything” she answers.
Like Rajput in the film, it’s hard not to let out a chuckle.
Arré Recommends: If you’ve liked Sushant Singh Rajput in Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!, here’s a watch-list.
Sonchiriya: Rajput has possibly the least colourful role in the film, otherwise populated by the haunted Manoj Bajpayee, a violent Ashutosh Rana, and a manic Ranvir Shorey. But as Lakhna, the moral centre of a gang of baghis pondering over whether they should search for their souls, the actor imbued his role with a tragic righteousness without which the search would have been futile in the first place.
Shuddh Desi Romance: In this pleasant rom-com, Rajput stood up against Indian morality and millennial flakiness with a flamboyance that didn't just make a solid case for his easy screen presence but also sought to question the inherent masculinity of a romantic lead.
MS Dhoni: The film might be remembered as a successful experiment but it’s often easy to forget that the success and the experiment would have both been impossible without Sushant Singh Rajput’s career-defining turn. The actor’s performance, an achievement in transformation, single-handedly made the film.