There are multiple layers associated with Philip Cox’s impressive documentary ‘The Bengali Detective’. It tells the story of ‘citizen policing’ in Kolkata, a part of the world where the majority of crime remains unsolved.
Most promotion of this film seems to focus on the detective ‘Rajesh Ji’s passion for dancing. But don’t be fooled by the sequin wearing, gun-posing promotional clips – this film is serious, and sad.
It is unfair to categorise Rajesh Ji as a crazy detective hoping to make it in the big time on a dance show. Rather, he is very passionate about his detective agency, demands precise and efficient responses from his fellow sleuths, and will take on any case no matter how big, or how small.
The fact that in his downtime, he bundles together his workmates to form a cringe worthy dance troupe, should not be the focus for anyone who is reviewing this film.
But rather, one should invest time in the three serious criminal cases that form the thread of ‘The Bengali Detective’. From the selling of fake shampoo, to a potential cheating husband, and finally a horrific murder – ‘The Bengali Detective’ offers an up close and personal look at how policing in India has become so poor, that citizens turn to their own for help.
Director Philip Cox has stumbled onto a slice of life that is hidden from most people. Following Rajesh Ji, we are drawn ourselves into the futile and dangerous world of private investigation.
Cox smartly introduces us to three cases under investigation, that appear to be running concurrently throughout the film. And with Rajesh at the helm, we are a part of his undercover trailing, the late night stings, and door to door questioning of potential suspects and family members.
And throughout these stories, Rajesh Ji has his own battle he must deal with – a family illness that slowly becomes a fourth thread in this interesting documentary – and which for me brought the most emotion to the surface.
‘The Bengali Detective is serious going. Rajesh Ji is engaging, thoughtful and occasionally funny, but as he does in the film, your focus must remain on the more serious aspects of the documentary- only once you have put the hard yards in, can you then take a moment to relax and enjoy his quirky passion for dancing.
Director: Philip Cox
Running Time: 110 minutes
Score: 3 stars.