Kolkata, 16 Aug 2020 7:30 IST
Updated: 17 Aug 2020 11:56 IST
Unfortunately, the film fails to explore some of its possibilities and ends up simply being the tale of the protagonist.
Joydeep Mukherjee’s film Detective, based on Rabindranath Tagore’s story of the same name, is a purely entertaining film set in the early 20th century.
Though the backdrop for the story is the partition of Bengal in 1905, Mukherjee’s film mostly aims at making people laugh, besides shedding light on how nationalism sometimes made leaders of the Swadeshi movement bloodthirsty.
The film revolves around Mahimchandra (Anirban Bhattacharya), a detective with the Bengal police. He is obsessed with Western detective novels and crimes and is not satisfied with his job. He is on the lookout for the perfect crime with a complex motive that will make his job tough but worthy. He has high regard for his own intellect and considers the criminals he comes across not worthy of his suspicious mind.
However, at a real crime scene, Mahimchandra ends up making the most hilarious deductions and baffles his confidant Hutashon (Ambarish Bhattacharya) with his apparent stupidity. But the loyal Hutashon, whom Mahim often calls Watson, cannot leave the side of this simple-minded, stubborn man either.
Mahim is so caught up in his own bubble that he hardly pays attention to his new bride Sudhamukhi (Ishaa Saha). Nor does he bother with the growing clamour about the Swadeshi movement.
In his single-minded search for the perfect criminal, Mahim finally chances upon Manmatha (Saheb Bhattacharya), a young man looking at the balcony of his house at a particular time from the street every day.
As he finds Manmatha's actions intriguing, Mahim begins to follow him, hoping that he has found the perfect criminal. But he does not anticipate Manmatha's connection with the growing political turmoil or the tension in his own domestic life, which he is anyway mostly unaware of.
Though director Joydeep Mukherjee has tried his best to recreate the era with attention to detail in the set design of the streets, carriages and the meeting point of the revolutionaries who worship the goddess Kali as a symbol of Shakti, the look does appear recreated rather than authentic. Especially the lighting on the streets in the evening is way too bright and even to be emanating from gas-lit street lamps.
Though there are elements of unrequited love, an extra-marital affair, manipulation in the name of sacrifice and conflict of ideals, the simple and innocent character of Mahimchandra, his weird imagination and his camaraderie with Hutashon are the parts that draw the viewer the most. The seriousness of the Swadeshi movement and the plotting by the revolutionaries to kill British agents only take prominence in the second half.
Though the film's content is strong and has some interesting twists, Detective lacks intense emotional moments and those that can create a sense of anticipation. Despite its other important characters, the film ends up being about Mahimchandra and Mahimchandra alone.
Among the other important characters, Master Arunava, a leader of the Swadeshi movement, is a borderline villain while Manmatha represents the conflict of ideals and duties. Sudhamukhi, who is intelligent and full of dignity, is torn between morality and the desires of her heart. The film also takes a dig at the corruption within the detective corps that helped colonialism flourish.
Anirban Bhattacharya puts up a facial expression and body language that represents his narrow and illusive world. He makes sure to establish that the character's sole comfort zone is one of crime and detection, expressing uneasiness even with his doting wife.
Ishaa Saha’s expressions do not have many variations, while Saheb Bhattacharya offers a strong presence beside the protagonist, delivering apt expressions in moments of intense inner turmoil.
Ambarish Bhattacharya is a natural as the loyal yet quick-witted confidant of Mahim. Kaushik Chatterjee’s act as Master Arunava appears overly dramatic at times.
Tuban has mostly focused on bringing out the ambience of the period with his camerawork while Malay Laha has made sure not to bore the audience even with the fairly long runtime.
Joy Sarkar’s background score mostly focuses on bringing out the essence of a detective story as well as the freedom movement with ample use of the sarod in raga Desh and other Hindustani classical ragas.
The film is strictly a one-time watch because of Mahimchandra’s strong presence, the original story by Tagore and the characters. Had writer Sougata Basu and director Joydeep Mukherjee not focused on turning it into a film about Mahimchandra, and invested also in the other important elements, this could have been a more layered movie with deeper experiences to offer.
Hoichoi is now streaming Detective.
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