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Satyanweshi Byomkesh review: Sayantan Ghosal, Anjan Dutt's collective vision is the true driving force

Release Date: 02 Oct 2019 / Rated: U / 01hr 48min

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Roushni Sarkar

The film is filled with all the required elements of lust, revenge and heartbreak for an adult crime plot.

Earlier in an interview, Sayantan Ghosal stated that Satyanweshi Byomkesh is a Netflix-era adaptation of Anjan Dutt’s classical screenplay based on Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay’s original story Mognomainak. To make the film much more dramatic, Dutt has taken a lot of liberties from the original story. The audience must be prepared for these changes, which, at the end of the day, serve the best purpose of entertaining them. These certain departures make sure to retain the intrigue of the audience who have already read Mognomainak.

Ghosal’s direction and Dutt’s ideas as a creative producer, turn this film a treat for the eyes. It is not easy to capture the essence of a different period while keeping the cinematic format as contemporary as possible. The duo achieve that goal with perfect choice of colour tone, convincing and nuanced set design, added by apt camerawork by Ramyadip Saha and editor Subhajit Singha’s perfect sense of timing and limitations.

Honestly, the director, Dutt, as both the screenplay writer and the creative producer, and the entire crew members are the true heroes of the film that help the cast sink into their avatars and maintain an ambience of political unrest that keeps troubling the personal lives of the characters at every moment. The film’s success lies in keeping all the characters tuned into restlessness, which is one of the primary aspects of a detective film or a story.

Neel Dutt’s background score is rather unusual and far from the obvious ideas, mostly found in Bengali thrillers and detective films.

The film, set in the early 1970s, when an impending election in Bengal, the liberation war of Bangladesh and the Naxal movement were turning Calcutta into a crucial junction of political turmoil, revolving around a family headed by an influential political leader Santosh Samaddar (Sumanta Mukherjee), who once actively participated in the freedom movement in India.

In the film, Byomkesh (Parambrata Chatterjee) is actively involved investigating the crime that takes place in Samaddar’s house, from the very beginning. Ghosal mindfully sets the upbeat pace of the film from the first sequence, as Dutt twists it in the screenplay.

However, in Samaddar’s family, characters with pasts involving the political history of India are present. They are filled with grey shades in the original story and Dutt’s original ideas turn them even more complex and dramatic.

It is also interesting the way every character is introduced in the plot, lending more layers to the crime. While Bandyopadhyay kept some characters rather one-dimensional, Dutt endows almost each and every character with multiple narratives, which works for the cinematic adaptation.

While Byomkesh remains puzzled and, at the same time, hides a lot of his gradual progress in unfolding every character from his confidante Ajit (Rudranil Ghosh) and the audience, the anticipation for learning the truth also grows.

Byomkesh is much more instrumental in the film in solving the case, than the original text but at the same time, Byomkesh doesn’t come across as a detective with unrealistic abilities, which many other Bengali directors attempted to portray. His progress in the film is organic with the development of the crime scenario. He suddenly doesn’t bring inferences rather possesses the extraordinary ability of drawing connections to testimonies, which the others fail to take into consideration.

The way Dutt has sketched the characters of Uday (Suprovat Das), Rabi Barma (Dutt again) and Sukumari Devi (Gargee Roy Chowdhury) with mysterious traits and interesting backgrounds in the past, has taken the rather simplistic story to a different level of complexity. The political aspect of the film, which was given primary prominence while promoting the film, comes in the form of an ideological conflict that drives the criminal as well as the motive of the crime.

The film is filled with all the required elements of lust, revenge and heartbreak for an adult crime plot. The only drawback is the characterisation of Ajit, which is unnecessarily dramatic and sometimes appears unfit for the edgy production and convincing portrayal of the other cast members. There are a few moments which could have been built a bit more sensibly, for example, Byomkesh’s instant reaction at the death of the victim could have been done more thoughtfully. The equation between Byomkesh and Satyabati (Madhurima Basak) is not that endearing too.

Parambrata Chatterjee doesn’t go out of his usual mannerism but does a decent job as Byomkesh Bakshi, the observant detective with wit, subtle humour and inherent wisdom. Quite naturally, he has the most number of dialogues in the film and he manages to keep the audience engaged with his interesting delivery.

No matter how Dutt might twist the storyline for its own good, the characters sketched by Bandyopadhyay remains ingrained in mind. From that perspective, Rudranil Ghosh rather seems unfit for the naïve yet faithful Ajit Bandyopadhyay. Without Suprovat Das’s dramatic act, the character of Uday, perhaps, would not have reached the level of prominence as it has in the film. He is equally effortless in his angry and vulnerable self.

Gargee Roy Chowdhury and newcomer Ayoshi Talukdar’s acts are commanding. Dutt could have chosen some any other actor to portray the layers in Sumanta Mukherjee’s character. Mukherjee doesn’t seem to capture Samaddar’s layers with his one-dimensional act. Dutt, doing double duty as the sheepish Ravi Barma, who conceals all his intentions throughout the film, is convincing.

Satyanweshi Byomkesh is a commendable attempt in the history of adapting Byomkesh Bakshi into films. While most of the other directors have failed to retain the charm of the iconic sleuth, Ghosal and Dutt’s collective vision have turned it into a success. The audience will not only be entertained by its continuous surprises and engaging dialogues, but they would also love to get lost in mystery hidden in the play of light and shadow in every frame.

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