Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!

It's been a while since I've seen some Bollywood, in part because Chinese movies seem to have bumped them off the screen at Fenway and being able to use MoviePass made impulse viewings of things I don't know much about a lot more appealing. Plus, as much as Apple Cinemas has done a pretty fair job of upgrading the old Fresh Pond Cinema (I guess it's called "Apple Cinemas Cambridge" now, to distinguish it from their Connecticut locations) with new seats, Coke Freestyle machines, and some improved projection, there's still a bit of "do I really want to go there?" to the place, especially when the ticket prices for Indian movies can hurt. $18 to spend three hours in a room with a wide center aisle looking up at a screen that is too small and too high gets remembered.

This looked cool, though, and the schedule worked (the Red Sox put away a decisive opening day win on the radio as I walked from Alewife Station to the theater), and the price was only $11. It kind of makes me wonder if booking these movies independently leads to some highly variable pricing, and if that's considered the norm in India. That's still about $1.25 more than the usual for most movies there, but less than the big chains charge.

And I liked it a lot more than expected. I kind of want to give the original stories a read, although they probably have to get in line behind the original Mortdecai novels which sounds a whole lot better than the recent Johnny Depp movie one was adapted into. It's also the first time in a while that a song from a Bollywood movie has lodged itself in my head on the way home, so of course I couldn't find the soundtrack on Amazon. I'm guessing that is because the songs and artists weren't from the multimedia company that owns the film studio - normally the soundtrack is a big part of an Indian movie's marketing, with the release sometimes seeming like it half-exists to push an album. The Indian film industry can seem kind of old-Hollywood in some ways - you would often see songs prominently placed in Warner Brothers and Columbia films that had no need for a nightclub scene to go in that direction for that reason - and I kind of wonder if the sort of soundtrack album American audiences are used to (a licensed collection) is just not worth an Indian studio's effort.

Anyway, it was fun, and while getting snacks means I missed some trailers, the one I did see involved Deepika Padukone, which means I'll likely be seeing at least one more Indian movie in the near future.

Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 6 April 2015 in Apple Cinemas Cambridge #8 (first-run, DCP)

This movie has an exclamation point in its title, and putting that together with it being from India yields a certain set of expectations - something flashy that jumps from tone to tone, at least some of them self-aware. So imagine the surprise when this turns out to be something akin to a classic mystery movie, albeit one with a dash of pulp and some interesting soundtrack choices.

As things start, it's 1942 in Bengal - the British still control India, but the Japanese are looking to expand their reach even further across Asia. Byomkesh Bakshy (Sushant Singh Rajput) has already developed a reputation for being able to solve puzzles and find things in his college, although he almost passes up a request from classmate Ajit Banerjee (Anand Tiwari) to locate his missing father Bhuvan, a chemist living in a Calcutta lodge owned by Dr. Anukul Guha (Neeraj Kabi) with a number of other tenants - twitchy accountant Ashwini Babu (Arindol Bagchi), Chinese businessman Kanai Dao (Chang Meiyang), and more. As Byomkesh and Guha follow the clues, they lead to a chemical factory owned by councilman Gajanan Sikdar (Kaushik Ghosh), along with his mistress (Swastika Mukherjee), nephew (Shivam), and niece (Divya Menon). Oh, and there's that Chinese gang, and...

... well, it's kind of involved, with local politics and mysterious arch-criminals whose reappearance sends shock waves all the way back to Shanghai. It's certainly enough to keep even somebody with near-Sherlock Holmes-level skills at observation and deduction searching for a couple hours or so on-screen, and director Dibakar Banerjee and co-writer Umi Juvekar do much better than many at keeping the story moving forward during that time; instead of having Saradindu Bandopaddhyay's creation be wrong and then regroup several times, they tend to deepen the mystery even as the bodies start to drop faster. And while they can't resist Bakshy getting everybody into a room and explaining what is going on, they do a great job of giving that scene higher stakes than usual and giving it a different feel, like Bakshy is the one who feels cornered rather than his nemesis.

Full review on EFC.

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