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.