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Private Aye?

The Bollywood slate is suddenly chock full of detective films. The big question is – will this genre have takers on the big screen

Indian audiences are always up for a whodunnit. And the sudden interest from several talented filmmakers in detective films might just breathe life into this long-forgotten genre.

While director Dibakar Banerjee is busy with the groundwork for his forthcoming detective saga Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!, filmmaker Anurag Basu, post his last release Barfi!, is all set to further cement his professional relationship with actor Ranbir Kapoor in their next film Jagga Jasoos.

And here’s the one the trade is keenly watching – Bobby Jasoos, which will feature Vidya Balan in the lead as a female detective. The film, to be produced by Born Free Entertainment, is yet to go on the floors and will release next year.

For crime lovers, there’s a whole lot more in store. Lesser-known directors like Kaushik Ghatak and Sameer Tiwari are helming films Samrat & Co with Rajeev Khandelwal and Mr Joe B Karwa Lo featuring Arshad Warsi as private eyes, respectively.

None of these films may be an Arthur Conon Doyle masterpiece but since Hollywood franchises like Sherlock Holmes are finding a loyal fan base among the youth in India, Bollywood has placed the detective genre firmly in its sights. In fact, according to some distributors, the first and the second parts of the Sherlock Holmes franchise did better business in India than in other South Asian markets.

The Hindi film audience has been exposed to this genre in the past, with films like Baadshah featuring Shah Rukh Khan and Mr Bond with Akshay Kumar, in the lead. Also a small kiddie film Detective Naani. Back in the early ’80s too, Raj Kapoor and Zeenat Aman teamed up for a detective movie titled Gopichand Jasoos.

Over the years, the genre has proved its mettle on the small screen with several TV shows including Feluda on DD Bangla, Karamchand on Doordarshan and Byomkesh Bakshi on DD Metro breaking TRP records. Besides these, a host of Hindi TV shows like Tehkikaat, Raja Aur Rancho, Suraag-The Clue, Detective Vijay, Karan The Detective and Aakhir Kaun have wooed the audience.

But, is this the right time to revive the genre and will it find takers on the big screen. Here’s what the industry feels about it.

Vidya Balan, Actor

It’s really exciting that I have found the role to play a lady detective in the film Bobby Jasoos. It will be really very interesting to play this character because in the Indian film industry till date no actress has ever played a detective. In Hindi films, its always a male detective, which has been in the highlight. However, I don’t know about other detective films but if you want to see Lady James Bond on Indian screens then here I am.

Manish Hariprasad, Creative Director, Studios, Disney UTV

Detective genre is not one of the staples of Indian movie industry; some stray attempts have been made in the past, with varying degrees of success.

However, it is a genre that is extremely popular amongst the masses, thanks to the pulp novelists like Surendra Mohan Pathak and Vedprakash Sharma. I do feel that it is a genre that lends itself to great entertainment, if the detective is a great character, very Indian, and not a copy of a Hollywood detective. Also, a combination of humour with the thriller aspect that’s inherent with the genre, should work pretty well in India.

Sahil Sangha, Producer, Born Free Entertainment

The script of the film Bobby Jasoos came to us around two years ago, where it was just a one line brief. We liked the script and started working on it and at that time we were not aware that there were so many other filmmakers who were planning films in the same genre. It was only this year when Ranbir Kapoor and Anurag Basu announced their detective film Jagga Jasoos and Sushant Singh Rajput and Dibakar Banerjee announced their next film Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! with YRF. I think the reason why so many people are trying their hands at detective films is because experimental themes have started clicking in Bollywood, but we are yet to see an outstanding film in the detective genre. I still feel ours is a different film because for the first time we have a woman playing the lead role of a detective. It will be first Indian lady detective story.

Girish Johar, Head Distribution and Acquisition, Sahara Motion Pictures

Thanks to films like the Sherlock Holmes franchise, which did better business in India than other overseas markets, detective films have a huge recall value. These films have a strong audience base in the country, especially the youth, and they have not been tried out for a while. If we have a well-made detective film made by a competent director, it will go down very well with the audience across the country. Detective films were a popular genre during the ’70s and ’80s but they lost their charm due to overkill. Now, many directors have announced detective films and I am sure they will find many takers.

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