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‘Byomkesh’ Review: Our Fave Sleuth Is Ready to Rock the Web

Is the first Byomkesh Bakshi web series worth a watch?

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(From left) <i>Byomkesh </i>stars Subrat Dutta, Anirban Bhattacharya and Ridhima Ghosh.
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Much like Satyajit Ray’s evergreen sleuth Feluda, Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay’s Byomkesh Bakshi defies age. The popularity of the detective has only escalated over the years - Byomkesh, in fact, seems to have scored over Feluda. There are two Byomkesh franchises in the Bengali film industry right now, not to mention the 2015 Sushant Singh Rajput-starrer.

And now the satyanweshi, as Byomkesh prefers to call himself, enters the world wide web with Bengali OTT platform Hoichoi. An original by SVF Media, Byomkesh stars Anirban Bhattacharya, Subrat Dutta and Ridhima Ghosh in the lead roles. The hour-long first episode, comprising two stories, Satyanweshi and Pother Knata, has just been released.

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The episode revolves around the first adventurous meeting between Byomkesh Bakshi and his soon-to-be-friend-for-life Ajit Bandyopadhyay. It weaves together a second case in which Byomkesh solves what’s referred to as the “gramophone pin murders”.

I can’t vouch for the millennials, but Byomkesh Bakshi stories are widely read. Most of the audience knows who the culprit is and exactly how the sleuth solves the mystery. The pull therefore lies not so much in the story itself but the performance and production. And Hoichoi’s Byomkesh scores on these points.

It’s a relief to see the makers’ understanding of the OTT medium - they did not just present the story as they would on the big screen. Crisply written and edited, it has no prolonged dramatic or action sequences, unnecessary fiery dialogues, outlandish costumes or songs. Nor are their directorial comments amounting to gyaan on the socio-political situation of the times like in some of the recent Byomkesh films.

Directed by Sayantan Ghoshal, Byomkesh also recreates the ’30s Calcutta with care (missed the art director credits) and sticks to the original stories. Crisp camerawork (Sudipta Majumdar) and editing makes the experience visually enticing as well - some excellent production values here.

Byomkesh Bakshi’s shoes are not easy to fill. Not only is he being portrayed by two hugely successful stars, Abir Chatterjee and Jisshu Sengupta, on the big screen currently, the sleuth has been portrayed by none other than Bengal’s reel legend Uttam Kumar under Satyajit Ray’s direction.

A still from the series.
A still from the series.
(Photo courtesy: SVF)
But Anirban Bhattacharya, a talented and established theatre actor himself, has not allowed these factors colour his performance. He steers clear of falling prey to theatrical tropes and brings to the character equal measures of intelligence and daredevilry.

Subrat Dutt provides fitting support.

One does hope however, that Byomkesh Bakshi’s humour and obvious affection for Ajit comes across more as the series develops.

All said and done, Byomkesh is a series I would surely be keeping an eye out for.

PS: The series is subtitled in English. So if you don’t know Bengali, don’t let that stop you.

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