5 must-watch films by Dibakar Banerjee: An underappreciated genius of Bollywood
Watching the world as it is without any judgments, while adding a dash a Bollywood masala yet being experimental at the same time is not something many directors can attain. Current Bollywood which is supposedly coming of age (problematic statement to say the least), where even glimpses of good acting and direction is lauded, it is almost criminal how underrated Dibakar Banerjee is even today. Banerjee’s vision and films can provide me enough content to go on for days, his unique style of adapting Bollywood styles, experimentation with visuals and camera techniques, hard-hitting reality and a sense of dark humor makes him an absolute treat to watch. So instead of waxing eloquent on him, let’s allow his five best works to do the talking.
Khosla Ka Ghosla! (2006)
Banerjee broke into the scene with this gem of a movie where reality and fiction blur away to give way to the ultimate dream of middle class of owning a home of their own. It also explores the pitfalls of achieving such a dream, the cost of it where the fiction has to be created, which is essentially fraud. With a stellar cast comprising of Anupam Kher, Boman Irani, Tara Sharma and Ranvir Shorey, it announced the coming of a filmmaker whose level understanding is a league apart from his peers.
Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! (2008)
The auteur followed it up with another gem featuring the acting caliber of Abhay Deol as a loveable thief whose acts are treated jovially by even the law enforcement authorities. Following the same class people, who are often ignored in Bollywood, Banerjee weaves a tale of a con that we will root for despite the nature of his job. He once again uses the urban landscape as a ground for understanding the nature of the people inhabiting the space. The success of the film lies in the poignant telling of a human story that is relatable, humorous and real. The film suffered due to the mood of the nation as it released just after the 26/11 attacks but has since been gaining a cult following. By the way Banerjee won his second national award for the movie.
LSD: Love Sex Aur Dhokha (2010)
Undoubtedly the most raw and disturbing film of his repertoire, this uses the concept of “found footage” films using modern technologies like CCTV to tell three different stories interlinked by the their common pathos and loss. The tales dealing with honor killing, a MMS scandal and casting couch is unflinching, bold and brutal in its approach. Banerjee is absolutely unabashed in his treatment and delivers a movie which is shameless in holding a mirror to the modern society. With its odd tributes to Bollywood classics, it is an absolute class act showing the decadence and decay of our society. It also featured one Rajkummar Rao in one of the acts.
Yet another bold attempt where Banerjee takes on Vassilis Vassilikos’ Z and adapts it to an Indian context where a bureaucrat and group of commoners unearth the unpleasant truth about an activist’s death. He portrays the poignant political thriller with subtleties of bureaucratic red tape, governmental apathy and quashing of dissent. Apart from Abhay Deol and Kalki Koechlin, it had Emraan Hashmi who stood out with his stellar act as a scruffy potbellied videographer. The movie’s careful examination of power structure and its activities make it more pertinent now than ever. It has certainly aged well with time.
Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! (2015)
Probably the most ambitious movie in scope by Banerjee, he adapts Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay’s iconic sleuth Byomkesh Bakshi. The noir-like recreation of Kolkata of 1950s, opium trade, the panache of druglords, sirens and the cultural hotbed of the city draws and captures the imagination of the audience. Not for once the feeling of alienation creeps in as this stylistic detective film flows at a pace which is reflective of a master at work. Sushant Singh Rajput as the titular hero shines and it is a shame that such a movie received an underwhelming response at the box office. It is a loss of the audience and not Banerjee. It is high time we start appreciating his genius.
The author Tuhin Roy
Anything and everything at 24 fps interests me. Trying to learn new things about it everyday.