Detective stories are fun. We all have our favorites. The best part about these stories, these whodunnits, these mysteries is when our hero solves the crime. Using nothing but his skills in deductive reasoning, clues, and sometimes ridiculous luck; the brave detective cracks the case. Personally, I have always enjoyed the chase. When our intrepid sleuth has to make for lost time and chase down the evil criminal/perpetrator/mastermind/crook/bad-guy/rascal. Ever noticed how we have so many names for the baddies. Maybe we just like thinking about doing something criminal and figuring out how we can get away with it. Never mind that. One of the staples of the cinema is the murder-mystery genre. And for inspiration, we don’t have to look far. Over the years, we got ourselves a whole laundry list of exceptionally-brilliant detectives. From the smart, suave sophisticated to the gum-shoe to the prod-nose to the consulting to the completely accidentally lucky to the super sleuth.
The funny thing is this, we need these stories. These mysteries and murders entertain us and keep us thinking about the darker side of life. Everyone has their heroes and here are a few.
Also known as Chief Inspector Jacques Clouseau, you might know him as the Pink Panther detective. This is one amazing policeman. Genuine ineptness and sheer bad luck do not faze him. He strives to seek justice and the truth. In doing so, he will burn down a restaurant, destroy a castle, assassinate multiple assassins, capture rogue agents, drive his superiors insane and romance some of the most-beautiful women around. Inspector Clouseau was played by Peter Sellers who made this brilliant character come alive. Affecting an outrageous French accent and a tendency to create accidental mayhem wherever he went, Clouseau made millions laugh and also nabbed the bad guy. Though not before, maiming various henchmen, destroying property and not before getting the ladies to fall for him. It is the trench-coat and mustache, boys. Remember his words of wisdom: "For me, the greater the odds, the greater the shal-ahnje (challenge). And as always, I accept the shal-ahnje."
Ah… Holmes. What a character! What a brain! The very epitome of suave. A gentleman whose intellect leads him to solve crimes because puzzles are fun. Holmes has fascinated us from the start. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created this genius whose character flaws are human yet endearing. Part of our interest in this character is due to the fact that he is always accompanied by his Dr. Watson. John Hamish Watson played the everyman. The kind of man that saw things the way we do. It takes Sherlock’s immense intellect to decipher and solve. As the years went by, the stories of Sherlock Holmes were just lifted and re-created for the big screen. There was no innovation, no creativity, no spark. And finally we get Guy Ritchie. He decided to make a re-imagined Holmes story. Set in the industrial revolution, his Holmes was rough, tough, charismatic, witty and intelligent. Robert Downey Jr. takes this character and runs with it. In the end, we are watching a very rock-n-rolla Holmes, complete with hat, pipe, scarf and shades.
On the other hand, we also got one of the most-amazing re-boots of the Holmes universe. Yes, ladies and gents, I am talking about the “Sherlock”. Played by Benedict Cumberbatch, this flawed and human genius lives to get the baddie. Like he says, “Oh, I may be on the side of the angels, but don’t think for one second that I am one of them.” In that mellifluous voice, we are treated to a marvellous performance of a high-functioning sociopath.
What can I tell you about Frank Drebin? He is a sergeant in the Police Squad. Actually he is Sergeant Frank Drebin, Detective Lieutenant Police Squad. That should help a little. What he does is solve crimes. Quite badly. Never in the whole history of murder-mystery parodies, do we get to see crime-solving this outrageous, this inane, this funny! Frank Drebin has made his mark. With the Naked Gun series, the world of completely hilarious and odd jokes opened up to us. Leslie Nielsen does his best as a straight-man whose skills are questionable and completely underestimated by everyone. But he never gives up and always gets his man. Sometimes he even gets his woman, but those times, the woman turns out to be a man. A stead-fast and honest cop, he plods along. While he does that, he wallops the Queen of England, tries to solve the world energy crises and also saves the Academy Awards from a terrorist plot. All you need to do is take some time off, get your seats and watch this silver-haired fox foil every plot and also dodge bullets, grenades. So remember his words “It’s true what they say: Cops and women don’t mix. It’s like eating a spoonful of Drano; sure, it’ll clean you out, but it’ll leave you hollow inside.”
Straight outta Belgium, we got chocolates, waffles and Hercule Poirot. The neat, little detective who maintains his moustache with fastidious care, Hercule Poirot makes the criminal elite quake in their boots. A creation of Agatha Christie, Monsieur Poirot (pronounced Poy-row) has been taking names and catching the evil scum for so long. His skills set include a very calm demeanor, a relaxed attitude to the chase and his “little grey cells”. Not imposing physically, he retraces the steps of the criminal, and in the end, he has his fantastic showdown. During which he gives us the whole low-down about the “How?”, “Why?”, “Where?”, “Whom?” and “Who me?” is laid out for all of us to see. From the “Murder on the Orient Express” to “Death on the Nile”, we are taken from our sedate lives and shown a different style of crime-solving. A gentleman’s path, where there is always time for tea and biscuits.
If you are scratching your head and wondering about Jerry Lee, then let me clear the air. Jerry Lee is one of the finest narcotics officers ever seen on film. He has cracked cases and always gotten his man. Don’t let his gentle face deceive you, he is ruthless. He is also a German Shepherd. Part of the K-9 unit, Jerry Lee really knows how to sink his teeth into police work. James Belushi plays his partner and friend. When they get together for the first time, both of them rub each other the wrong way. But as things go, man and dog suddenly see eye-to-eye, nose-to-muzzle. Sniffing out the evil scum and putting them away, these two tough guys make mincemeat of crime.
So these are just a few of the guys who make detective work cool. Crime better watch out.
The best part is you can catch our own Bollywood version soon. Coming to a theatre near you is Bobby Jasoos. There you have it.