E1 and Native Voice Films hit feature documentary that premiered at SUNDANCE, BERLIN & TORONTO: The secrets of Kolkata’s citizens are revealed by charismatic, dance obsessed, intrepid detective Rajesh Ji. Mixing the suspense and intrigue of his investigations with dances and songs, this originally styled documentary provides an entertaining and poignant look into the realities of modern India.
“The Bengali Detective is the story of a private detective who chases criminals… and when he has the time, he pursues stardom. This portrait of a working cop with dreams is an absolute delight and a vivid look at crime-fighting in a big city.” Screen International
“It’s no small thing that The Bengali Detective has more to say about true love than most romantic films ever will achieve.” Hollywood Reporter
When the citizen’s of Kolkata, one of the world’s most populated cities, lose trust in the authorities, the way is paved for a new phenomenon; a boom in the use of the private detective.
Set within the colourful world of one of India’s busiest cities, the film follows intrepid detective and Kolkata’s self proclaimed public hero Rajesh Ji, along with his motley band of helpers, as he tries to solve cases of counterfeiting, adultery and a brutal triple murder. His clients, both rich and poor, hail from Kolkata’s chaotic slums to the wealthy suburbs. Each client walks through the door carrying a secret fear or suspicion, and all need Rajesh’s help.
One night Rajesh receives a call at his home. A man’s cousin, along with two of his friends, have been murdered and their bodies left on train tracks. Investigating one of the most brutal crimes ever to take place in Kolkata leads the detectives into a bizarre series of twists and turns that lays suspicion on the boy’s families themselves.
Meanwhile, counterfeiting is booming across India and Asia – everything from CDs to baby milk to shampoo is being counterfeited. Rajesh receives a call from one of India’s biggest shampoo companies complaining they are losing millions to the ‘duplicity’ business, they demand examples be made of the minion shopkeepers selling such products. Rajesh and his boys begin the hunt for fake shampoo bottles to find a shopkeeper to lock up. They eventually succeed and in a sleepy village he and his boys pounce on the unsuspecting shopkeeper Ramesh. We follow Ramesh’s journey into Kolkata’s most notorious prison…
Punctuating the harsh reality of their work, Rajesh indulges his inner dance fanatic and harbors a dream of one day entering a TV Talent Dance Show. Putting his dream into reality, he hires a glamorous choreographer to teach him and his boys to dance. The dance training becomes Rajesh and his team’s escape from their unforgiving jobs, and they are soon buying glitter and gold outfits to prepare for the TV audition. When the big day comes – the team dress up, only to find they have been entered into the children’s category.
Upon calling the Detective, a middle class lady takes a tram through the rain. On arrival she reveals she has long endured abuse by her husband after an arranged marriage, she doesn’t trust him and wants to find out what he is really up to. Her story reveals a deeper predicament of financial security versus a loveless and abusive partnership. The ensuing detectives surveillance, however, reveals more than she could have ever imagined.
Rajesh now sees himself and his boys as ‘hero detectives’, cleaning up India’s ‘mess’. His small son and sick wife Minnie, however, dominate his home life. Shortly after their love marriage, Minnie developed diabetes and she’s now rapidly going blind. Her illness is worsening and the imminent possibility of her death haunts Rajesh who realizes despite his detective prowess, he is helpless to stop a looming family tragedy.
There’s never been a film quite like Bengali Detective. It has the jack-of-all-eclecticism of a big budget Bollywood musical—part detective story, part underdog yarn, part ensemble city tale—except for one unlikely detail: it’s all real.’ Sundance Film Festival
This film, shot over a period of two years, mixes India’s love of song and dance with classic British observational documentary realism – to produce a highly original, detective feature. It will draw the audience into the hidden layers of Kolkata in a thrilling and original way through a strong central character and real life vignettes. The investigations unfold in classic detective style, a narrative ‘who done it’ thread that will compel cinema audiences and reveal shocking truths in the process.
Directed & Written by Phil Cox
Produced by Giovanna Stopponi, Himesh Kar & Annie Sundberg
Associate Director: Sounak Chakravorty
Cinematographer: Lisa Cazzato Vierya
Editors: Taimur Khan & Tom Hemmings
Executive Producers: Thomas Brunner, Angus Ainsley, Gernot Schaffler, Jon Thompson, Karol Martesko