By Shoma A. Chatterji
Byomkesh Bakshi, the detective created by Sarandindu Bandopadhyay many decades ago, has become the favourite of film-makers not only in Bengal but also in Bollywood. Dibakar Banerjee is currently shooting the first Hindi Byomkesh Bakshi film with Sushant Singh Rajput as Byomkesh. But Shajarur Kanta (The Porcupine’s Quill) being directed by Saibal Mitra is perhaps a rare instance of a Byomkesh Bakshi story. It blends murder and mystery with a triangular love story. “Besides, Byomkesh in Shajarur Kanta is sixty-plus and is drawn almost from voluntary retirement to solve a series of murders the police cannot solve. It is said to be Sarandindu’s weakest Byomkesh mystery but I really wanted to make it into a film,” says the very quiet Saibal Mitra whose first film Shongshoy was panned by critics.
Dhritiman Chatterjee, who is portraying the aged Byomkesh says, “You will find a completely different Byomkesh from what you have seen till now. Saibal is an imaginative director and I rely on his interpretation of this classic. Besides, the story is not focussed exclusively on solving the serial killings. There are other dramatic aspects and I am looking forward to doing this role.”
The story is about a series of mysterious murders where the quill of a porcupine pierces the heart of the victim, killing him or her instantly. One victim does not die and Byomkesh is summoned. Konkona Sen Sharma plays Deepa, who belongs to a theatre group and is in love with its director Probal (Koushik Sen). She gets married to Debashish (Indraneil Sengupta) but makes it clear that she will not share normal conjugal relationships.
The cast of Shajarur Kanta features an ensemble of actors ranging from veterans Pradip Mukherjee who plays Ajit, Byomkesh’s friend and writer, Dwijen Banerjee and Biswajit Chakrabarty, through Debdut Ghosh, Kanchana Maitra among others with Tejendra Narayan Majumdar’s musical score playing a significant role in the film. “I have brought it to the present time because I discovered that changes were needed to make it credible for a contemporary audience though there are few Bengalis who have not read Shajarur Kanta. The basic storyline is the same but changes have been incorporated to fit into the language of cinema,” says Saibal.
The film is being produced by Macneill Media Pvt Ltd and is being presented by Pradip Churiwal and Saikat Mitra. Veteran art director has designed a beautiful set while Sohag Sen has conducted an acting workshop especially with Konkona to internalise the character she is playing. “For me, Deepa is a different cup of tea,” sums up Konkona dressed up as a Bengali bride for the first shoot of the film. National Award-winning singer Jayasree Dasgupta has designed Konkona’s costumes for the film and Saibal’s friend Sumit Gupta is the cinematographer.