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The Bengali Detective

Phil Cox's vivid docu "The Bengali Detective" follows a pudgy private dick who leads a ragtag sleuthing team as they investigate murder, adultery and counterfeiting in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta).

Cast:
With: Rajesh jI, Ramesh, Deepti, Minnie, Gaurav, Dibindu. (Hindi, English, Bengali dialogue)

Stranger than fiction, but lensed as if it were, Phil Cox’s vivid docu “The Bengali Detective” follows a pudgy private dick who leads a ragtag sleuthing team as they investigate murder, adultery and counterfeiting in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) — and train to compete as dancers on a TV talent show. That all these endeavors appear to be of roughly equal importance to detective Rajesh jI — if not to Cox — is the pic’s running gag and, one surmises, a key reason for Fox Searchlight’s purchase of remake rights. Ironically, a Stateside distributor of the docu may prefer the U.S. version to appear first.

Bollywood-style musicvid interludes punctuate the pic, which opens with the Kolkata crew (known only by first names) orchestrating “Operation Tiger,” their code moniker for a raid on an allegedly fake shampoo biz. Cox’s habit of alternating between the absurd and the gravely serious grows formulaic over feature length, although the details of Rajesh’s inquiry into a savage triple homicide — along with his struggle to cope with his wife’s potentially fatal disease — keep the film compelling. Standout tech contributions include camerawork that captures the hustle of city and dancing detective alike.

The Bengali Detective

U.K.-India-U.S.

Production: A Native Voice Films presentation of a Frequent Flyer Films, Break Thru Films production, in association with Almega Projects, Channel 4 Britdoc Foundation, Sabotage Films, Thought Engine, Reliance Media Works. Produced by Giovanna Stopponi, Annie Sundberg, Himesh Kar. Executive producers, Angus Aynsley, Karol Martesko-Fenster, Gernot Schaffler, Thomas Brunner, Jon Thompson. Directed by Phil Cox.

Crew: Camera (color, HD), Lisa Cazzato-Vieyra; editors, Taimur Khan, Tom Hemmings; music, Dennis Wheatley; assistant director, Sounak Chakravorty. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (competing), Jan. 27, 2011. Running time: 96 MIN.

With: With: Rajesh jI, Ramesh, Deepti, Minnie, Gaurav, Dibindu. (Hindi, English, Bengali dialogue)

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