Set in the era of Bengal famine, an agitated Byomkesh Bakshi feels the heat of his blood boiling when he comes across British soldiers who are unfazed by the famine caused by the then Prime Minister Winston Churchill of Great Britain in India. Churchill may have been a hero internationally (thanks to Hollywood) but the foreign film industry has always spared from displaying his villainous where he drained a prosperous country such as India from all its wealth and nutrients.
When Byomkesh walks out of his house, he is a tough Indian man ready to take a bullet, but when he reaches home and finds himself in the company of wife Satyabati and best friend cum assistant Ajit, we get a glimpse of his vulnerable side; a tired patriot, a devoted husband who desperately seeks for a moment to rest his head on his wife’s lap.
Over the years with various films such as Uma, Gumnaami, Vinci Da, Shah Jahan Regency, actor Anirban Bhattarcharya has proved that he has what it takes to be an actor and he does not necessarily need an award to earn his validation. Hence when he rubbed his eyes or insisted like a Bengali in Byomkesh, he was 90 per cent convincing. The 10 per cent failure happened due to the lack of details on the part of director Soumik Haldar who bespectacled him in a pair of glasses whose style was not popular back in the days of Bengal famine, or to be precise, that sort of style in spectacles wasn’t invented.
While Anirban Bhattacharya and Suprobhat Dutta as Byomkesh and Ajit give their maximum effort to keep the fifth season of the series alive, some of the characters appear flat. You could almost tell that some of the cast have taken it for granted that the audience would not particularly pay any attention to them, hence they just read the script, rather than enjoy being in the character.
Although Byomkesh has all the elements to bring in the noir effect, it wrongly uses lights and shadows and thereby it fails to reach the standard it’s meant to achieve. Soumik Haldar's camera work has been lazy and he doesn’t seem to go beyond long shots, crane shots close up. He doesn’t create a dept of field, neither does he bother to experiment and create his own style. It becomes evident that he tries to do a job assigned to him by the Hoichoi studio, and does what needs to be done to make Anirban Bhattacharya appear brighter than other actors who played the character of Byomkesh such as Abir Chatterjee and Jisshu Sengupta.
In the first episode, for the first few minutes, the lighting is flat, and it doesn’t contribute much to the expression of the actors, nor does it set a different mood to the circumstances of the web-series. While some of the cast members make a complete effort to give the series a new kind of life, a few of them remain stiff and refuse to even move their shoulder while delivering their dialogue. They do what they are told, and read the script out loud and walk out once the director chants CUT!.
But the entire effort does not go to waste, but you understand what made the delay happen, to this Hoichoi series which had otherwise created a storm on the small screen. Byomkesh was expected to release on December 2019, however, the makers stayed the release for technical purposes.
Last month when LetsOTT in an interaction with co-founder Vishnu Mohta had asked what usually causes the delay in releases, he had said, ‘You see, content is such a thing that needs to be right, the voice over, the dubbing, and we are in the entertainment business and we release two originals every month, so from the base point of view we are far ahead of anyone else. What happens at times is that some part of that eco-system does not work out and technology has its own share of challenges and you work with so many partners. We sometimes try to release the shows earlier that the said date and time, and that becomes a surprise for the audience. The glitch might have happened a couple of times, I won’t deny that, but it’s not that frequent.’
While Hoichoi has been producing quite interesting content, it is in dire need of fixing its eco-system which fails to work organically due to the lackadaisical approach of some of the cast and crew members, who do not seem to be too grateful to their fate or to their seniors to be a major part of such an influential organisation.
The entire pressure falls on Anirban Bhattacharya who keeps the artiste within him alive and that gets well-reflected each time a dhoti-clad Byomkesh glares at a British soldier. He keeps the patriotic ‘Bangali bhodrolok’ spirit alive and he doesn’t even realise it while doing so. It’s because of this spirit he urges you to skip work and watch Gumnaami on Hoichoi and Amazon again.
It’s not that Byomkesh doesn’t have elements, for which we can only credit author Saradindu Bandopadhyay, but it only makes you wonder, that in an era where there is a massive scarcity of non-biased original plots, why aren’t aspiring filmmakers experimenting enough to bring in more life to plots that have enough potential to bring in the Oscars. Satyajit Ray understood the value of Bengal’s literacy and look what happened to him for that, even in an era where there was lack of globalisation in the film arena, he managed to secure an Oscar in his deathbed.
Byomkesh is available on Hoichoi
Ratings: 3.5 stars