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When a Bengali thinks of a detective, the name that first pops in one’s mind is Satyajit Ray’s Feluda, shortly followed by Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay’s Byomkesh Bakshi, or the other way around, depending on your preference. In 2015, though, a new spook entered the arena, at least on celluloid — police detective Shabor Dasgupta, and it seems as though he’s here to stay.
Shabor Dasgupta is a no-nonsense guy, who power-walks his way through Arindam Sil’s Ebar Shabor (Now It’s Autumn). The name of the movie seems prophetic as the time is just ripe for “Bangali” cinema’s New Age sleuth. Played by ace actor Saswat Chatterjee (remember Bob Biswas from Kahaani?), the movie is a murder mystery that revolves around who killed Mitali Ghosh, played by Swastika Mukherjee (of Bhooter Bhabishyat fame).
A high-society heiress, Mitali, is killed on the night of a house party. Shabor is assigned the case. The investigation unravels the murky and labyrinthine lives, and loves of Mitali, her ex-husband, cousin sister, father, lover, their lovers… it goes on.
The suspects range from Mitali’s ex-husband (Abir Chatterjee), a bank employee whom she was forced to marry by her father, and who later falls in love with Mitali’s cousin, Joyeeta (Payal Sarkar); her seemingly psychotic ex-lover (excellently portrayed by Ritwik Chakraborty), who was frustrated and betrayed by her; her friend (Rahul Banerjee) who had a childhood crush on her and needs her money, too. There are skeletons in the closet and dirty linen, but then the best of thrillers have them, and this adaptation from Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay’s detective story, Rwin, does not disappoint.
Chatterjee is a good fit as Shabor, who is three parts detective, half part maverick and half part humane. And why wouldn’t he be? A stellar career graph aside, Chatterjee has trained under the best of on-screen sleuths, Feluda, in the role of Topshe on the small screen. And he has just finally taken off on his own. He shares great chemistry with his own sidekick (played by Subhrajit Dutta), and the quips on the latter’s lack of command over English, are quite funny.
The film’s background score by Tabla maestro Bickram Ghosh deserves a special mention. Fast-paced and hauntingly slow at times, the music is well-suited to a Bengali James Bond-ish movie, and carries the twists and turns of Shabor’s investigation well.
What sets Ebar Shabor apart from other recent Bengali detective films is its exploration of the human psyche through all the characters. The entire cast delivers superbly, frame after frame.
There is nothing suave about Shabor Dasgupta, but the direct gaze, power-walk, undercurrent of humour between goenda (detective) and assistant, and the intricate investigations hold great promise for a long series.