Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Byomkesh Pawrbo [dir. Arindam Sil]

 Admittedly I am a sucker for period detective stories, and in Indian fiction, I have been entertained by the adventures of Satyajit Ray's Feluda and Saradindu Banerjee's Byomkesh Bakshi. Recent times have seen a huge revival of the big screen detective movie (I believe there are at least 2 competing Byomkesh film series in Bengali, yes?), and that's not even including the Dibakar Banerjee misfire.
I had earlier seen Arindam Sil's Har Har Byomkesh (and his other detective film Ebar Shabor). I had problems with
HHB's narrative (with its very predictable mystery - my review) but it was quite attractively shot. Byomkesh Pawrbo (BP) continues the tradition. The film is set in post-independence India in the Dooars, a gorgeous North Eastern jungle-scape (which definitely calls for a visit, assuming that's where they actually shot). Byomkesh, accompanied by wife Satyaboti and buddy-chronicler Ajit, is assigned to track a large cache of hidden arms that may be used for nefarious purposes. There is also a mysterious black garbed 'ghost' rider galloping on a black horse in the forest (sadly, there's nothing very ghostly about him, I confess I was hoping for something like Sleepy Hollow's Headless Horseman). In the archetype narrative, there are a bunch of red herring suspects, and it's fairly easy to guess who the bad guy is (although showing him to be personally involved in the dirty work stretches credibility). To be sure, it's writing-wise a very mediocre film, but that way most detective films are. I believe excellence is rare in this genre, and even Satyajit Ray wrestled with the conventions of the genre in his Feluda films.
In a nod to today's trends, Bymokesh (Abir Chatterji, again) is given the action intro normally accorded to Telugu masala heroes, as he single-handedly dispatches a half dozen goons with high-kicks and slow-motion in Kolkata's Chinatown. Thankfully the macho-giri is restricted to the intro and the climax, and for most part he remains bhadralok. I like his interaction with Satyaboti (Sohini Sarkar, she looks like Maushmi Chatterji but much cuter) in these Arindam Sil films more than in the previous movies. But both Satya and Ajit remain mostly spectators here, it would have been nice to see them have more to do.

For me the best aspects of the film were Soumik Haldar's postcard-pretty cinematography (the lush locales certainly help) and Bickram Ghosh's creative background score - my fav example of the score is when Byomkesh visits a red-light area in disguise - you have a naughty saucy musical theme tracking him, which eventually erupts into a song that uses the same instrumentation.

Apart from the obnoxious logo and the omnipresent 'Smoking kills' disclaimer, Sangeet India Network's DVD gives a strong presentation of the film with bold colors and excellent contrasts. The level of detail is limited only by the SD resolution (the forest scenery screams for an HD transfer). Be assured this stands among the best of the format. Sound is excellent as well, with (surprise, surprise) a DTS track that does justice to the action moments and to Ghosh's music. No extras, but the presentation is stellar enough to justify the buy.

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