WBRi Movie Review: ABAR BOMKESH (2012) Goes a Step Further and Delivers and How !

Abar Byomkesh (Bengali, 2012) Poster in Calcutta

Kolkata, March 24, 2012 (Washington Bangla Radio / Penning Creations) Saradindu Bandopadhyay's Byomkesh Bakshi is, arguably, the most complete fictional character in the world of Bengali detective literature. While most other celebrated detectives right from Sherlock Holmes to our very own Feluda have been content with solving intricate crimes, Byomkesh is the only master sleuth to have a proper family life too.

Trailer: Abar Bomkesh (Bengali, 2012)

Indeed, the multiple dimensions that Byomkesh Bakshi's character possesses have, over the years, made it rather tricky for filmmakers to bring his stories to life on the silver screen. Even Satyajit Ray tried his hand only once to make a cinematic adaptation of a Byomkesh Bakshi story with the moderately successful Chiriakhana. With the original books being immensely popular among readers of all ages, it indeed came as a welcome relief for all movie buffs and countless Byomkesh fans in particular when acclaimed director Anjan Dutta announced his first Byomkesh movie in 2010 based on the story Adim Ripu. The flick went on to become a huge hit, thanks to Dutta's fantastic directorial vision and the sheer acting prowess of a young star on the horizon, Abir Chatterjee. Anjan Dutta now returns with the second movie of the franchise – Abar Byomkesh, inspired from the story Chitrachor.

Abir Chatterjee and Ushasie Chakraborty
Abir Chatterjee (Byomkesh Bakshi) and Ushasie Chakraborty (Satyabati) at the premiere

With Abir getting increasingly better with each of his movies and Dutta himself winning a National Award for Ranjana Ami Aar Ashbo Na recently, one expected nothing but pure excellence from the new movie. The film delivers on all counts too, and how!

Abar Byomkesh picks up proceedings from a few months after the point where the first film had ended. Byomkesh Bakshi (Abir Chatterjee) had fallen critically ill sometime back and is being nursed back to health by his wife Satyabati (Ushashie Chakraborty) and dear friend Ajit (Saswata Chatterjee). On medical advice, Byomkesh goes to Dooars to recuperate with his two caring companions.

Thankfully, the health condition of Byomkesh takes a decided turn for the better with the change in climate, much to the relief of Satyabati and Ajit!. Just when the audience (those who are not familiar with the story that is!) would start to think that the sleuth is in for a much-deserved rest, mystery arrives, as it invariably does to detectives on vacation, on a plate to Byomkesh!

At Dooars, Byomkesh makes his acquaintance with several Bengali inhabitants from the local community. Among them are Dr. Ashwini Ghatak (Sujan Mukherjee), Prof. Adinath Shome (Pijush Ganguly), Mahidhar Chaudhury (Biswajit Chakrabarty), photographer Nakuleshwar (Arindol Bagchi), police officer Purander Pandey (Kunal Padhy), deputy magistrate Umanath Ghosh (Chandan Sen) and banker Amaresh Raha (Kaushik Sen). The motley group of Bengalis meet at a get-together at the residence of the wealthy Mahidhar, where everybody is regaled by the singing of Mahidhar's young daughter Rajani (Swastika Mukherjee).

The flow of the party is somewhat interrupted by the sudden arrival of Falguni Pal, a poor artist, who has the rare talent of painting anyones portrait after seeing his subject for only a few minutes. In passing, Mahidhar also reports that a robbery had taken place at his house a couple of days back. The thief, however, had rather strangely ignored all of Mahidhars riches and stolen only a group photograph of Mahidhar with all the other local Bengali neighbours. Adding to the odd nature of the situation is the fact that, all the others who had a copy of that photograph seem to have misplaced or lost the same. The issue is apparently trivial, but, nonetheless, intrigues the ever-alert Byomkesh.

Matters, however, take a more serious turn when there is yet another attempted robbery, this time, at the house of the deputy magistrate. Falguni Pal is also murdered in cold blood by an unknown killer.

In yet another twist of proceedings, Byomkesh finds out that both Adinath Shome and Ashwini Ghatak are romantically inclined towards the beautiful Rajani.

The strange disappearance of that one particular photograph leads our protagonist to believe that someone is trying to remove all evidence of his presence in the locality. But who committed the murder of Falguni? Does the romantic involvement of Ashwini and Rajani, with the jealous Adinath in the background, have anything to do with the thefts and the killing? You will simply love to see the mystery unravelled on the big screen!

Abar Byomkesh is boosted by charmed performances that it's cast members by and large come up with. Ushashie Chakraborty, as Satyabati, looks delightful as the caring wife of Byomkesh Bakshi. The actress brings to life Satyabati's general eagerness to know about the case that her husband is handling and the playful fights that she and Byomkesh have in the film are fantastically portrayed onscreen. Satyabati is never shy of expressing her own opinion regarding the ongoing proceedings, even if that, at times, evokes the displeasure of her husband, and Ushashie looks every bit the feisty yet loving wife of the master detective.

Saswata Chatterjee, who has been coming up with stellar performances in practically all of his recent releases, stands out yet again in Abar Byomkesh. The actor showcases the slight irritation (or is it jealousy?!) of Ajit at Byomkesh devoting more of his time to Satyabati rather than with him in a nuanced, humorous and entirely believable manner. His expertly portrayed helpless expressions when caught in the squabbles of Byomkesh and Satyabati bring the house down too. In a tense suspense flick, Saswatas performance truly comes as a breath of fresh air.

Most of the other actors in Abar Byomkesh deliver decent performances too. Sujan Mukherjee, as Dr. Ashwini Ghatak, is more than adequate in his role. While his act leaves no scope for complaint for viewers, Mukherjee would do well to get rid of his rather evident under eye-bags. Kaushik Sen, as Amaresh Raha, is excellent. There is a certain spontaneity about Sen's acting that makes his character all the more interesting to watch. Pijush Ganguli, as Prof. Adinath Shome also does a competent job in the movie. The actor essays the character of a henpecked husband who has a distinct defensive trait in his nature in a nice manner indeed. Chandan Sen, as Umanath Ghosh, is, however, rather disappointing and over-the-top in Abar Byomkesh. Kunal Padhy, as Purandar Pandey looks good in his tough cop act and has a fantastic voice to back up his performance. Swastika Mukherjee looks glamorous in an extended cameo. Everyone else do a fine job in relatively small roles.

Abar Byomkesh, at the end of the day, however, totally belongs to Abir Chatterjee. Reprising his role as the celebrated crime-solver - or Satyanweshi, as he likes to call himself - Abir delivers a commendable performance, easily the finest of his rather short film career so far, in this movie. Sporting a leaner, fitter frame than in the first film of the series, the actor simply oozes intelligence through his expressions and his sharp, unflinching eyes. Abir looks smart in his bespectacled dhoti-kurta get-up and his evident relish at having a shot at playing the role of one of the most famous fictional characters in Bengali literature comes across quite mesmerizingly in the film. He also shows a fine sense of comic timing, with his relentless hankering for a cigarette from the unyielding Satyabati and Ajit. Abir Chatterjee proves yet again that he is one of the best young actors in contemporary Bengali cinema, and easily the ideal man to play Byomkesh Bakshi. We look forward to many more additions to this film franchise, with the fantastic Abir at the helm!

Anjan Dutta enhances his reputation as an expert storyteller with the beautifully detailed Abar Byomkesh. Generally speaking, the director remains loyal to Saradindu Bandopadhyay's story and ensures that the movie never seems too one-paced at any point. In fact, the judicious intermixing of suspense and fun moments make Abar Byomkesh all the more enjoyable to watch. The screenplay, by Dutta himself, is tight and crisp, keeping the viewers hooked to every reel of the movie. Arghyakamal Mitra's editing is smart and stylish too, lending the movie a nice, edgy feel. Cinematographer Indranil Mukherjee also deserves a special mention for his top-notch camerawork in Abar Byomkesh. Mukherjee adeptly captures the look and feel of an earlier era in the film. In particular, during one scene, the poster of Marutirtha Hinglaj (1959) is shown in the background, lending a greater air of credibility to the sets. Kudos to both Anjan Dutt and Indranil Mukherjee for this little, yet beautifully conceived, sequence.

The well-detailed costumes of the characters of Abar Byomkesh' make them look all the more believable in the movie (Swastika Mukherjee's dresses, however, appear just a tad garish!). The climax of the movie is well-planned and expertly executed too - and yes, Abir looks smashing in his suit and hat avatar too. In a nice touch, Dutt makes Ajit the onscreen narrator in Abar Byomkesh, so that the continuity in story progression remains uniform at all times.

Abar Byomkesh also witnesses the birth of a theme tune for the Byomkesh Bakshi film franchise. Music director Neel Dutt does well to come up with a catchy and deliberately retro musical score for the movie. While it would be unfair to start comparing Satyajit Ray's Feluda theme music with that of Byomkesh so soon, it can easily be said that Neel Dutta's music for this movie franchise is here to stay for a long time. The film has just the one song (the rabindrasngeet Shokhi Bhabona Kahare Bole), which is magically rendered by singer Srabani Sen. There is a certain old-world feel in the entire movie and that works in favour of the film too.

Abar Byomkesh is one of the best works of director Anjan Dutta till date. The film is uniformly racy and taut, and is presented in a thoroughly enjoyable manner by the celebrated filmmaker. The basic storyline is sound and Abar Byomkesh is further buoyed by the fantastic performances from the members of its cast, smartly paced narrative, imaginative cinematography and fine editing. This film indeed has all the makings of becoming a modern classic!

Anjan Dutta's first Byomkesh Bakshi movie made everyone sit up and take notice, with its slick plot-treatment and powerhouse performances. Abar Byomkesh goes one step further and adds that extra dash of grandeur and panache to one of the best-known fictional detective characters. This ones a definite winner all the way!