In films and serials of Byomkesh, many remarkable historical and heritage locations have been shown. Many people have asked me about these places. It has been always my interest to identify these locations and write about them. This blog post “Byomkesh was Here” is mainly about those places and their history. It covers Five of such locations
There has been a sudden interest in the Indian film industry for Byomkesh Bakshi, the fictional sleuth created by Saradindu Bandopadhyay. Byomkesh Bakshi hated to be referred as Detective. Instead, he preferred to be known as “Satyanweshi” (The seeker of the truth). Byomkesh is a very humble man, leads a simple life with his wife Satyabati and his friend / sidekick – writer Ajit Bandopadhyay.
It was not that earlier directors and producers have not shown interest in making films about Byomkesh Bakshi. From 1967 to 2010, four Bengali films, three Bengali serials, and one Hindi serial have been made on Byomkesh. Out of them, Uttam Kumar as the first Byomkesh and Rajit Kapoor as the first “National” Byomkesh had their presence felt.
However from 2012, the speed of appearance of Byomkesh in celluloid is astounding. From 2012 to 2015 as many have as four Bengali feature films have been made on Byomkesh. We have seen eminent actors play the role of this Bengali sleuth. In television, ETV Bangla is at present airing a TV Series on Byomkesh starring Gaurav Chakrabarty as the youngest Byomkesh which is quite popular too. This month a Hindi film on Byomkesh by Dibakar Banerjee is due to release starring Sushant Singh Rajput as Byomkesh Bakshi.
Out of the many actors who have adorned the role of Byomkesh, I have chosen to shoot locations of the five most renowned Byomkesh: Uttamkumar, Rajit Kapoor, Abir Chatterjee, Sujoy Ghosh and Gaurav Chakrabarty. I would have loved to include the latest Byomkesh – Dhritiman Chatterjee performing as the aged sleuth. However, his story is based on present century Kolkata and it does not showcase any such historical locations.
Some of my friends have asked me to publish this blog after Dibakar Banerjee’s “Detective Byomkesh Bakshy” is released on 3rd April and add its locations too. But I decided to publish it before the release of the film as I want my readers themselves to discover the shooting locations of the latest film by taking a cue from my blog.
Come let me take you on this journey.
Location 1. DHURJATI DHAM
Film on Byomkesh: Chiriyakhana (1967) Directed by Satyajit Roy
T.V. Serial on Byomkesh: ETV Byomkesh: Episode “Banhi Patango” (2015)
Creative Director: Mainak Bhowmik
Location: On Belgachia Road, Opposite Belgachia Metro Station
This is from where the journey of Byomkesh in celluloid started. This is also perhaps the only location where two different actors performed as Byomkesh Bakshi under different directors.
Many Byomkesh fans opine that Uttam Kumar was a miscast as Byomkesh Bakshi. Even Saradindu Bandopadhyay did not like it himself and spoke his distaste about the casting in an interview to Anandabazar Patrika in October 1968. However, this was a pioneering effort to show Byomkesh in celluloid. The film was a success and it even won a National Award.
Remember Ramen Mallick of the film Chiriyakhana? The so-called “Encylopedia of Bengali Film”, lived in a house with a grand staircase. In the beginning of the film, we see Uttamkumar (as Byomkesh) and Shailen Mukherjee (as Ajit) climbing up the staircase, when they approach Ramen Mallick ( Role played by Jahar Ganguli) to know the where about of actress Sunyana.
Also in the latest depiction of Byomkesh in the 2015 ETV serial on the sleuth, this house has been again featured in the episode Banhi Patango, where we can see Byomkesh (Gaurav Chakrabarty) and Ajit Bandopadhyay (Saugata Bandyopadhyay) climbing up the stairs and walking in the corridor beside it.
Besides these two, memorable films like Purnendu Patri’s “Streer Patra“, Satyajit Ray’s “Jalsaghar” has been filmed in this house. In recent times, Sanjoy Nag shot his film “Parapar” in this house.
This house is often referred to as Belgachia Palace but its actual name is Dhurjati Dham. The Victorian mansion was built by Martin Burn Company under the ownership of Narayan Kisson Sen in the beginning of 20th century. It is been claimed by family members that Narayan Kisson Sen was a direct descendant of the legendary Gouri Sen, who was known for his generosity. The common proverb “Laage Taka Debe Gouri Sen” (If you need money, Gouri Sen will provide it) is still a popular proverb in West Bengal.
Narayan Kisson Sen had fixed his Grandson Sisir Sen’s marriage with a lady from the Pathuriaghata Mallick’s family. Narayan Kisson’s son Jugal Kishore was against this marriage. Jugal Kishore was so adamant with his opinion that ultimately Narayan Kisson disinherited him from all his property and refused to consider him as his own son. Jugal Kishore shifted with his family to a house at Raja Nabakrishna Street, and thus ended the chain of direct descendent of Narayan Kisson.
The present owners of the house are the Mallick Family, who are descendants of Narayan Kisson Sen but from his daughter’s side. Till some years ago the person in charge of the place was the 70 plus Shailendranath Mallick – grandson of Narayan Kisson Sen. He took pride to show around the place to a curious visitor. There is flat roofed Shiva temple in the backyard of the house. Shailen Mallick had inherited the trusteeship of this property from his widowed grandmother Bhagabati Dassi.
Shailen Mallick had died some years ago. He was unmarried and some his siblings are the present owner of the place who often rent the house for shooting.
The immense house looks run down at present. There is beautiful Porte Cochere at the entrance of the house. Just above it, there is a balcony. When the Metro Railway did not build up their structures in front of the house, it could be seen from the main road. Once grand vehicles of Narayan Kisson used to gain entry through the gates of this palace and stop below the Porte Cochere.
At the entrance of the house just after the flight of stairs, there are two marble lions and elephants on each side of the door. Earlier there used to be huge life-sized wooden bear here. Climbing the flight of stairs, a visitor encounters a long corridor before one gets entry into the house.
This corridor has been featured in “Banhi Patanga” too. Remember the scene when Dipnarayan and Shakuntala converse with Ratikanta for sending an invitation to the guests.
The star attraction of the house is its grand staircase adorned with wrought iron banister and glass atrium above it. The glass atrium is usually covered with dirt now. It is only during a film shooting they are cleaned and sunlight coming through it lights the corridor and the stairs.
Just at the end of the staircase, there is a long corridor, which leads to the balcony. The room just beside the long corridor has been featured in both Chiriakhana and Banhi Patango. In Chiriakhana, it was Ramen Mallick’s drawing room and in the Etv Serial, it was featured as Shakuntala’s bedroom. The drawing room walls are painted with flowers. The glass door has intricate carvings on them.
It is in this decorated room Uttamkumar as Byomkesh had a tete a tete with Ramen Mallick in pursuit of the elusive actress Sunayana. Also, in this room Gaurav Chakraborty as Byomkesh questioned Shakuntala.
Unlike the room beside the long corridor, the other rooms do not have decorations on their walls. When Soumitra Das visited this house in 2007 to write an article for The Telegraph, Shailen Mallick gave him the reason for this disparity.
Soumitra Das mentions this as: “The walls of this hall were painted with flowers and Mallik said at his rice-eating ceremony (annaprasan), artists could not be found to cover the whole building with flowers. So all the walls save the ones in this room were whitewashed.”
The other side of the house has long corridors and a courtyard adorned with ionic columns on the first floor and doric columns on the ground floor. Unfortunately, one enthusiastic film-maker has painted these pillars distastefully with blue color. You can see Gaurav as Byomkesh with other in one of these corridors in the episode of Banhi Patango.
Even in 2007, there was quite a few antique furniture left in this house.These were an old Grandfather clock near the staircase, ornamental lamps in the main hall, Belgium looking glasses and statues of maidens holding lamps on the banister of the staircase. Purnendu Patri was luckier. He describes viewing Persian carpets, French bronze statues, Greek vases when he visited this house in his book “Kolkata, Kolkata”.
Alas, nothing is left of those antiques except a huge wall painting of the Narayan Kisson Sen over the staircase. The only time you can see statues on the banister and paintings hanging in the corridor are the theatrical props used during a film shooting. Otherwise, the interiors remain closed with the grand house plunged in darkness.
Location 2: MADH FORT
T.V. Serial on Byomkesh: Kile Ka Rahasya (1993) Directed by Basu Chatterjee
Location Details: Madh Island, Northern Mumbai
Any blog on Byomkesh in celluloid is incomplete without mention of Rajit Kapoor. Rajit Kapoor showcased Byomkesh Bakshi to a national audience and not only the Bengali viewers. The storyline was more or less maintained. Rajit Kapoor with his charming smile along with K.K. Raina as Ajit conquered the heart of audience to a large extent. His performance is still considered to be the yardstick whenever a new actor adorns the role of the Bengali Sleuth.
Basu Chatterjee filmed the serial of Byomkesh Bakshi at a very low budget and mostly inside film sets. He could not show many exotic locations in the serial. Besides he wanted to keep the props to a minimum and focus more on acting.
However apparently he had shot at a historic fort which is not exactly a tourist spot, but easily accessible. It took me some time to get the identity of the fort but finally I got the correct answer after hitting up the wrong tree several times. Also, a popular serial named Kile Ka Rahaysa was telecasted in that period which added to the confusion.
Remember the Fort shown in the episode Kile Ka Rahasya of Byomkesh? It was shown as a fort at Bihar, but in reality, it was the Madh Fort alias Versova Fort on Madh Island at Northern Mumbai.
The Madh Fort can be easily recognized with its distinguishable bastions and a number of Palm trees located at a considerable distance from each other. The pathway to the fort passes just beside the bastions. The stairs to the main entrance to the fort is a very distinguishing feature.
Basu Chatterjee framed the fort in an intelligent manner. He shot it from the backside so that the prominent entrance of the fort is not visible. But the bastions are so distinguishable that anyone with a sense of photography would understand it. The Palm trees and the pathway beside the fort are a giveaway too.
At the beginning of the episode we see Rajit Kapoor as Byomkesh accompanied by K.K. Raina as Ajit reach the fort along with their police friend Purandar Pandey. The car stops beside a bastion. The shot is from ground level which hides the distinguishable entrance and other familiar features of the fort. There is a palm Tree just beyond that bastion which is also seen in the serial.
Although the fort remains closed to public as it is under Indian Air Force, permission for shooting a film are often granted. This is obtained from Naval Base at Marve. Usually, it does not see many tourists who travel at the most to the nearby Aksa Beach.
There is very little authentic information of Madh Fort alias Versova Fort. As I have gathered from “Gazetteer of the Bombay Presidency: Tha’na: places of interest” (1882), the fort was built by Portuguese somewhere around 1720. In 1728, there were only 50 men armed with 10 pieces of artillery of which two were fit for serious warfare.
The Portuguese lost the Madh Fort to the Marathas in the year 1739, who repaired and strengthened the structure. The Fort is strategically placed and being guarded by rocks it was almost impossible to capture it from the sea front.
However, In 1774 a detachment of British Troops under the command of Lieutenant- Colonel Keating attacked the Fort. Although the fort was invincible from the seaside, it was quite vulnerable from a land attack. Keating seized this opportunity and attacked the fort from land, The Marathas fought bravely and it was not before four days of battle did they surrendered to the British Force.
Several other films and serials have been shot at Madh Fort. One thing I would like to mention here, though it may be bit irrelevant. There is wrong information about a film being shot at Madh Fort in Wikipedia. Let me categorically mention that “Love ke Saala Kuch bhi karega” was filmed at Bassein Fort and not at Madh Fort. The name of the Bassein Fort is even mentioned in credits at the end of the film. So people writing about Madh Fort, stop copy pasting this information from Wikipedia!
Location 3. RAJA HRISHIKESH LAHA’S HOUSE
Film on Byomkesh: Byomkesh Bakshi (2010) Directed by Anjan Datta
Location: 96, Raja Rammohan Sarani (Amherst Street) opposite to Hrishikesh Park
After the Magical era of Rajit Kapoor as Byomkesh, there was a bit of anticlimax. Two more TV serials were telecasted in 2004 and 2007 in Doordarshan and Tara Muzic, both directed by Swapan Ghosal. However, both failed to make a considerable impression on the viewers. Swapan Ghosal even made a film on Byomkesh in 2009 casting a popular TV actor which slumped in the box office despite getting media hyped lines like “He has beaten both Rituparno Ghosh and Anjan Dutt in the race to make one (Byomkesh Bakshi film)”. This featured in The Telegraph, June 18, 2009.
Enters Abir Chatterjee as Byomkesh Bakshi directed by Anjan Datta. The film was based on the story “Aadim Ripu”. With Saswata Chatterjee (Nationally famous as “Bob Biswas” of “Kahani”) as Ajit, Abir made a favorable impression on the viewers, despite there being some serious flaws in the script. Abir’s screen presence along with the cinematography made him the most happening Byomkesh after Rajit Kapoor and the name of other actors who adorned the role after 1993 and before 2010 were instantly lost in the oblivion. In today’s date, you have to search Wikipedia to remember their name.
In the film “Byomkesh Bakshi”, Anjan Datta did some shooting at his favorite house where he has shot numerous of his films from “The Bong Connection” to “Ganesh Talkies“. This is the house of Raja Hrishikesh Laha’s House at 96, Raja Rammohan Sarani.
If you are shooting in the same location multiple films, each time the look needs to be different. Perhaps that is why in the film “Byomkesh Bakshi”, Anjan Dutta shot the interiors in bits and pieces so that a complete picture of the interiors is not distinguishable.
Out of the very few areas of the mansion which can be clearly related to the film, one of them is the flight of stairs on the side of the house which leads to an entrance. When Byomkesh and Ajit first time visit Anadi Haldar’s house in disguise they use these stairs. We see them again on these stairs after the murder of Anadi Haldar in their usual dress talking to a police officer. Anjan Datta framed his shot from a corner. Here is a straight shot of those stairs.
The house still has a small division of the popular Newspaper “Aajkaal” in one of its portions. The mansion was constructed somewhere around in the 19th century. Like his illustrious father Durgacharan Laha, Hrishikesh Laha(1852-1935), was a renowned name in traders community of Subarnabanik. Apart from being an eminent businessman who dealt with export and import business, he was a philanthropist too.
Apart from being a successful businessman, Hrishikesh Laha was an honorary magistrate, Sheriff of Kolkata, Member of Imperial League and Bengal Legislative Council and Vice President of Imperial Bank. As a Philanthropist, he had donated Rs 1,00,000 to the Chinsurah waterworks and Rs 75,000 to Hindu Vishwa Vidyalaya.
The portion of the house visible from the entrance of the premises is in a bad shape. Some repair work is undergoing there at present. Several residential flats have mushroomed around the premises and lot of footpath dwellers have settled down in front the house. All these makes the house somewhat invisible from Amherst Street.
Location 4. GAINE MANSION , DHANYAKURIA
Film on Byomkesh : Satyanweshi (2013) directed by Rituparno Ghosh
Location :On Dhanyakuria Benepara Road. Dhanykuria is near Basirhat, North 24 Parganas.
A year after the second Film on Byomkesh (Abar Byomkesh) directed by Anjan Dutta was released, versatile director Rituporno Ghosh came out with his own version of Byomkesh which was adapted loosely on the basis of the story “Chorabali”. Rituporno only kept the skeleton of the story and changed the nature and deeds of the characters significantly. It was Rituporno’s last movie and the film released only after his death.
The movie “Satyanweshi” was quite a bit setback and Sujoy Ghosh (Director of the film “Kahani“) with his somewhat ghostly look was no match in popularity with Abir Chatterjee as Byomkesh. There was Rituporno’s touch everywhere especially in depicting interpersonal relationship and other details, but it could never become a thriller which one expects a Byomkesh Bakshi film to be.
However, the film went down in history and in viewer’s mind as Rituporno’s last film and Kahani’s Director Sujoy Ghosh’s debut as an actor (and perhaps his last appearance as an actor).
Rituporno shot the films mainly indoors in theatrical sets and some inside Baruipur Rajbari. It was difficult to distinguish between the original Rajbari interiors and the theatrical sets.
The only time he has to show prominently a Rajbari, he shot it at Gaine house at Dhanyakuria. The Palace is well known. The mansion is adorned with two huge domes on its roof. Rituporno had to take a straight shot at a bit low angle so that the domes are not visible and the palace is not obviously recognized. We see Byomkesh and Ajit entering the gates on their car and the pillars of the palace in the foreground. The palace is never shown in full length from outside for obvious reasons.
Dhanyakuria has several palatial mansion and is often referred to as “Village of Palaces”. However, painted in light pink, the L-shaped Gaine Mansion steals the show. The mansion is an excellent example of fusion architecture.
The two storied mansion is studded with several Ionian pillars beside the long open corridors on both floors. These open corridors connect the rooms. Those on the back side of the buildings are covered with window shades. On each end of the mansion, there is a roof dome which is a significant add-on to the grandeur of the building. The dome near to the entrance of the mansion is more decorated with colored glass ventilators. Earlier there used to be a small spire on the top of this dome which does not exist at present.
Inside the mansion premises, there is a three-storied tower adorned with a dome named “Nazar Minar”. It is well decorated with four Corinthian pillars on each of its corner. Although the first two floors have rounded archways, top floor has Islamic archways. Access to the interiors of the Gaine Mansion is restricted as they house residential quarters.
The Founder of Gaine Family was Gopinath Gaine. The Gaine family had a joint venture business with the Ballavs and the Saus. They dealt with the trading of Jaggery, Jute, and other Commodities. From the profit of that business, they invested in real estate and set up colleges and donated to charity.
Mahendranath Gaine, the worthy son of Gopichand Gaine, built this mansion about 175 years ago. He had direct business dealings with the British. Benefiting from business dealings in Jute, he started a Rice Mill at Dhanyakuria. He started Durga Puja in this house.
The descendants of Gaines are still well off. Except Kanchan Gaine who is in his 70s, the rest of the family members have settled down in Kolkata and other cities. There is a family get together at the Gaine residence during Durga Puja which is held every year with pomp and show. The idol is placed on the Thakurdalan inside the mansion. Durga Puja is celebrated maintaining old rituals. On the last day of the festival, the involvement of people from Kahar community is still prevalent. These people carry the idol on their shoulders for immersion to the water body.
Location 5. HOUSE OF KHETRA MOHAN DEY
T.V. Serial on Byomkesh: ETV Byomkesh, Creative Director: Mainak Bhowmick
Episodes: Satywaneshi (2014), Arthamanartham (2014), Upasanhar (2015)
Location: 18A, Haritaki Bagan Lane, Kolkata – 700006 (Originating from Beadon Street)
In 2014, Abir Chatterjee decided to quit the role of Byomkesh after doing his third film on the character under the direction of Anjan Datta (Byomkesh Phire Elo). The viewers were unhappy as Abir was slowly getting into the groove of Byomkesh. He looked most matured in this third film as Byomkesh.
Enters Gaurav Chakrabarty: The youngest Byomkesh in celluloid. Under the creative direction of Mainak Bhowmick, this talented actor adorned to the role of Byomkesh Bakshi in ETV Bangla TV Channel, which started the telecast of the serial from November 2014. Gaurav’s father Sabyasachi had already done justice to the role of another popular Bengali sleuth – Feluda until recently Abir Chatterjee took over.
Gaurav has been popular as Byomkesh and some viewers have been already finding that magic of Rajit Kapoor in TV to some extent.
In the first story of this series (Satyanweshi) Ajit’s mess quarters has been filmed in the house of a wealthy businessman of yesteryear. Tucked inside a small lane off Beadon Street, this house has already become very popular among ETV crew and already three full episodes has been shot here along with small portions of some more.
In Upasanhar, you get a clear view of the entrance to the house and get an idea of the wooden balcony towards roadside.
If you have been following Gaurav Chakrabarty’s Byomkesh in Etv Bangla, have you noticed that Ajit’s mess and Satyabati’s parental residence have been filmed in the same house? Like many traditional houses, this mansion also has a courtyard in the middle surrounded by covered long corridors on two floors and the terrace. A Thakurdalan exists on one side. There is a grand staircase to go upstairs and a wooden verandah opening towards the road.
Check out of the entrance door from outside. You may recollect Gaurav as Bymokesh meeting Saugata as Ajit for the first time in front of the door. The road in front of the house is the one where Byomkesh and other members of the mess discovered the body of a Bhatia in his first adventure.
The Room which Byomkesh and Ajit shared when they stayed in this house can be easily identified with the stained glass pattern in the backdrop. The room is hardly shown lighted during Satyaneshi but in Upsanhar, we get a clear view of the room when Byomkesh makes a comeback to his old mess. Also, the Thakur Dalan is prominently visible in Upasanhar as well as Arthamanartham.
The covered long corridors have been highlighted well both in Satyanweshi and in Arthamanartham. It may be relevant to mention that in Arthamanartham, interiors of a different house located at Masjidbari road was mixed in with this house’s shot.
The grand staircase has been showed in light and shadow in Satyanweshi but to identify it properly a scene from Arthamanartahm is sufficient where two brothers of Satyabati confer in front of this staircase.
Coming to the history of this house located at Haritaki Bagan Lane, the oldest known ancestor of this family was Nimai Chandra Dey who resided in Begumpur of Hooghly near Janai. His son Khetra Mohan Dey was in traditional weaving business (known in Bengali as Tantubai). The family even had a tailoring shop named Khetra Mohan Dey and Sons Tailoring at 45 Radhabazar Street. The business flourished under him and he acquired many properties in and around Calcutta. The house at Haritaki Bagan Lane was built around 1840 -1841.
Khetra Mohan Dey died in the year 1884. He had five sons, who unfortunately could not run the business as efficiently as their father and the organization of Khetra Mohan Dey went into liquidation in 1915. Most of their property went out of their hands.
However, the hands of fate did not take the time to change.
Almost as it happens in the movies, the two son of Sridam Chandra Dey (2nd son of Khetra Mohan Dey) – Sudhir Chandra Dey and Sushil Chandra Dey bought back the house when it was being sold at auction.
Sushil Chandra Dey had three sons. I was informed of the family history of Dey family by one of his grandson Anindya Dey. His father Amalendu Dey was the youngest son of Sushil Chandra Dey.
Anindya also informed me that at present 33 members of the Dey family still stay in this house and they participate together in various festivals and rituals of the family. One wing of the house is given for hire to film units for shooting. The money earned from hiring charges is being used for renovation and maintenance of the house.
My journey of going through locations where Byomkesh Bakshi was present in celluloid ends here. I have located more such places, but unfortunately, most of those places have a caretaker who is too ignorant, or the present descendants proudly declare “Our family has no history”.
Other than searching for the history, it feels exciting when you visit such a place where you know your favorite sleuth was present solving a crime. Except Madh Fort, all the other four locations have been personally visited by me. I hope to visit Madh Fort some day in the future.
“Detective Byomkesh Bakshy” is scheduled to release two days later. I am not sure Dibakar Banerjee’s Byomkesh will be like Saradindu Bandopadhyay’s sleuth or it will be Dibakar’s own prototype. But I am sure it will be great fun to identify the shooting locations in this movie too.
1. Abhijit Das who made it possible for me to shoot inside Dhurjati Dham and Dey Family Residence
2. Arka Dutta for accompanying me to Dhanyakuria
3. Anindya Dey for narrating me the history of Dey Family
4. Agniva Chakraborty for correctly identifying Laha Bari as one of the locations.
5. Satyaprakash Jha for correctly identifying Madh Fort as one of the locations.
1. Bonedi Kolkatar Gharbari by Debashish Bandopdhyay. Photographs by Alok Mitra
( Written in 1981-82) . Published in April 2011 by Ananda Publishers
2. Romancing the Stone by Soumitra Das, The Telegraph, October 5 2007
3. Historic home in highrise shade by a Staff Reporter, The Telegraph, May 29, 2006
4. Gazetteer of the Bombay Presidency: Tha’na: places of interest, Government Central
Press, Bombay (1882)
5. Chakrabarti, Ranjan (Editor): Dictionary of Historical Places: Bengal, 1757-1947; Primus Books, Aug 2013