Sunday, April 5, 2015

Calcutta Remixed, with some overcooking - Detective Byomkesh Bakshi (mini review)

Trams and hand rickshaws. Japanese agents and Chinese gangs. British power and Bihari workers. Murders, betrayals and shaky notions of love, loyalty and idealism. Dibakar Banerjee uses Detective Byomkesh Bakshi's thriller-sleuthing as a wonderful excuse to capture the dynamic 1940s in Calcutta, when Imperial lines and impoverished Indians crossed path in an ugly global game that involved opium peddlers, street politics and conspiracies of many hues. The movie is a magnificent high for a Bollywood Renaissance, but its end is overcooked, giving us a David Lean like period feel with a questionable aroma of the blood-and-psycho realism of a Tarantino.  And the use of disco and rock occasionally in the soundtrack is a jarring throwforward in a nostalgic high.
Costume design (inlcuding some by Manoshi Nath) give an authentic feel in a strange aesthetic that involves worn out cottons, long dhotis, Raj-era uniforms and loincloths amid mildewed walls and industrial machinery. And K Venugopal Menon's daughter plays female lead in a role that reminds you somehow of Smita Patil. Classic wine in multiplex bottle.

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