Working Through The Queue: Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! (2015)
You ever just spend more time scrolling through streaming feeds and adding things to your watchlists than actually watching the things you've already added? Yeah.....yeaaaahhhhhh. So I was doing that on Prime and that's an even deeper and messier hole to scroll down through as the UI kinda sucks. Eventually though I came across the poster image you see above and was like, hey now.....that's a pretty cool poster. My exposure to Bollywood films is also woefully negligent, and a quick google search on the character of Byomkesh Bakshi showed that he has a deep and rich past as he first appeared in 1932. So this movie was a fun introduction and exploration into an established fictional character that I've never heard of before, and that alone was worth the time.
Originally released in 2015 and initially a commercial failure, the film has apparently become a bit of a cult favorite and I can see why. Its stylish direction and cinematography combined with its additional allure of being a period piece draw you in pretty quickly, especially as I'm not too familiar with Pre-independence Calcutta and its role during WWII. There's a lot going on in the back ground of the story as we're immediately introduced to a sub-plot revolving around the opium racket involving the Chinese, criminal territory disputes, and the threat of Japanese incursions. And all of this within the first five minutes, with some really great visuals and set pieces that immediately set the tone.
The story then flips over to our hero Bakshi getting involved with a missing person case, one that unfolds into a deep deep deep murder mystery that doesn't even really touch on any of the early subplots until much later. Initially I wasn't entirely sure if I liked how the mystery aspect of the story extended itself into this two hour plus film, but as I really liked their exploration of this time period and the socio-political aspects of the sprawling web of sub-plots then I really started to enjoy the pacing.
There are a ton of characters to track as the mystery deepens and all of the actors were pretty great. Some hammed it up more than others to various degrees of effectiveness, but in a story like this that was more than welcome. In particular I really fell in love with Neeraj Kabi, and I'm going to start hunting down more works of his soon.
One other thing worth mentioning is the music. For the first half of the film the score is fairly sparse and complimentary to the time period, aiding the tone and style of the mystery thriller aspect of the story. Then after the one hour mark it starts to slowly change, until eventually you just get death metal, techno, and other oddly modern choices of music crammed into the back half of this 1942-43 period piece. For some reason? I won't say it's bad, but it's a bit jarring and kind of detracts a bit from the overall mood of the story.
The production had hoped on expanding this into an ongoing franchise, which would have been really interesting to see. Unfortunately its poor commercial success put a kink in those plans, and Sushant Singh Rajput who played Bakshi passed away in 2020 so it seems like the follow up has been completely cancelled. Unless they decide to recast down the line this may already be the end of what could have been a really interesting detective series.
If you're looking for a new and interesting mystery thriller, or if you're a fan of period piece films, or if you're just curious about learning more about this character and his history then I would recommend checking this out and then doing some additional online research. As for me, I guess I've got a bunch of Bollywood films to add to my queue now.