Friday, April 03, 2015


Dibakar Banerjee Ki Aankh

3 stars

Mini Review:

Very, very stylish whodunit, but in the tradition of Raj Khosla/Guru Dutt's CID. It's like a stew, cooked over fire for nine hours. Tad long but the details will delight you. 

Main Review:

It's a whodunit. So there are red herrings (should I say 'Ilish' since the movie is set in Kolkata?) and blind alleys and you want to be the one who has figured out who did it. But it doesn't matter because Dibakar Banerjee takes you on one heck of a tram ride through the Kolkata of the 40s. 

But before you book your Kolkata trip, here's some preparation. Make a list of people you would want to go to the movies with. Then delete the ones who claim to be sharper than the TV show with Cumberbatch and co. Ruthlessly delete from your list the liars who claim to have seen all 'noir' movies and read all detective books (even Surendra Mohan Pathak ones) and have seen the Rajit Kapoor TV show. Also delete the ones who want 'edge of the seat' excitement (send them to watch Fast and Furious running in screen 3). Keep those who want to enjoy the unraveling of a story without saying,'Mujhe pehle se maloom tha yahi khooni hoga!'

If your friends are like mine - too well read, too smart - then please don't feel sorry for yourself. Book that single ticket. You won't regret it.

I have given it three stars simply because I absolutely, positively hated the end and I do wish our filmmakers would stop being members of a fan club of a certain Hollywood director. It was teeth-grittingly over-done. The rest, aah the rest...

No other director can make you watch a slow moving tram from one side of the vehicle, show you (without getting inside the tram) what is inside the tram, and then also make you watch fascinatedly at the road behind the trams and the alleys even further. And this is just the beginning of the film. You are hooked by the time you meet Byomkesh Bakshy (I actually wondered why no one did to Sherlock Holmes what Ajit Bannerji does to Byomkesh when they first meet.) 

So there is a murder to be solved (oh come on! whodunit hai, murder scores over diamond heists any day), and you get pulled into watching people eat, live, sleep, wear dhoti the bengali way, pull the slatted windows shut without getting off the bed, wear shawls, watch cars and people navigate through Kolkata, watch Bakshy babu hold his dhoti to step aside and walk around garbage, watch college rec room events, stare at the railway canteen cup of chai and alu-bhaja (you will want to eat that big steaming wedge of masala potato which Byomkesh carefully pierces with his fork instead of the popcorn in your lap). 

When red herrings sidetrack the detective, you feel frustrated. When He's seduced into losing his logic, you want to step into the frame and help him. You also know that if you did, you'd be sidetracked by the things on the make-up table, the paan box, the kitchen, the people...

What a cast! Not one out of place. Sushant Singh Rajput and his unibrow are so believable, you instinctively trust him. Anand Tiwari is perfect, so is Neeraj Kabi. The other lodgers at the boarding house, the cops, the politicians, the femme fatale, the damsel in distress, the minor cast (the job hunter, the chemist, the factory guards, the gardener) are also memorable. But the coolest of the lot is the old cook and general dogsbody. He's a reminder of the family retainers that are fast disappearing -- always ready with a thali full of teacups, or alu-bhaja (french fries) -- those who know so much more than they let on...

There is an undercurrent of quiet humor that is ever present, and even when you are smiling at the factory guards you notice that Byomkesh is wearing the pants that belong to the coat Dr. Guha is wearing. You will also love how the servant steps over something towards the end of the movie. Smiles thus induced offer you relief from the consistent action. No, no! This is Kolkata, it is never fast and furious. But the director keeps you glued to the action on screen. Even if it is the lodger pleasurably sinking into the chair after eating paan.

Some will complain about a couple of far-fetched plot points, but it's a murder mystery being solved by a college dude... give yourself a break. Yes, the end was so annoying you want to take the katana and those cigarettes and slash and burn the fan club.

The end credits are beautifully done. Wait before you head out. Dibakar Banerjee ki aaankh for detail will make you a confirmed fan. And yes, I googled pictures of the femme fatale after coming back home. She's something else...

P.S. Sushant Singh Rajput is a good actor. And despite the unibrow the director has given the lad, he's droolworthy.


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