Private eyes find an audience in India 0
Arshad Warsi plays a detective in the upcoming Mr Joe B Carvahlo. (REUTERS)
Whodunnit is a tried-and-true Western genre. Was it the butler? Was it Ms. Scarlett in the library wielding the candlestick, or perhaps Colonel Mustard in the billiard room with the wrench? Trying to unravel a good thriller is something of an obsessive pastime for mystery lovers, but in Bollywood, the murder-mystery has never really taken off — until now.
The persona of the dashing private investigator is on the rise in B-town, according to dna, the Mumbai-based English broadsheet. In fact, no less than five upcoming films have the protagonists cast as private investigators. What’s behind the sudden fever? Simply put, it’s virgin territory for filmmakers — and no one wants to be left out of a potential hit.
Indian film has historically relegated PIs into two roles: lovable bumbler or ensemble sidekick — but then few Bollywood plots have actually centered on unravelling a mystery.
For the last four years, Kaushik Ghatak has been working on his detective film, Samrat & Co. “My film is a serious detective thriller, not a caricature of a detective,” the filmmaker said. “Samrat (Rajeev Khandelwal) is a serious private investigator out to solve a crime, and he bears no resemblance with either Sherlock Holmes or Byomkesh.”
Although the herd mentality is something of a stumbling block in Bollywood, Ghatak feels the market is ripe for experimentation. “It’s only a matter of time before Bollywood got a new genre. There is great potential in the detective genre and the nature of the film is such that it can lend itself to sequels and so it is commercially viable.”
Although Ghatak acknowledges that detective capers aren’t a true genre in India yet, he feels a hit is inevitable with so many filmmakers experimenting with the genre.
“Today there is a breed ready to try out new fare, like my producer Kavita Barjatya, and that’s why we as filmmakers are being able to bring on screen what so far has only been on paper,” he explains, referring to literary sleuths Feluda and Byomkesh.
Although sleuth films from the West have performed well in India — Bollywood has yet to create its own. Will we see characters as rich and complex as Castle or Columbo? Or will we be treated to the hard-boiled caricature of the Sam Spade? Bets anyone?
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