Tuesday 7 May 2019

Shajarur Kanta, and the mystery of the PORCUPINE anagram

Crossword sightings in Indian films are rare. And so I watched with great interest as Byomkesh Bakshi in Shajarur Kanta (2015) lingered on the puzzles section of the newspaper while holding forth on the art of murder.

Byomkesh Bakshi with Crossword

A close-up shot of the crossword on the page revealed this:

Shajarur Kanta - Crossword

What do we see? A blocked grid crossword, partly solved. A few cells are filled in here and there. Strangely, many of the filled cells are unchecked and the words they belong to are unsolved. How exactly is Byomkesh solving this crossword? Has he cracked the Nina before the individual clues? Is he filling in letters at random? Has he confused the crossword with the Sudoku?

We don’t learn the answers to these questions. But we do move on to bigger oddities in the adjacent Jumble section.

The PORCUPINE strikes

Check out the last jumbled word of the set: UCRONIPREP.

Shajarur Kanta - Porcupine Jumble UNCRONIPREP

While our detective is talking about the efficacy of porcupine quills as lethal weapons, the Jumble has served him a Baader-Meinhonf moment: an anagram of PORCUPINE.

Except that UCRONIPREP is not an anagram of PORCUPINE.

Take a closer look at the image, and you see the font of UCRONIPREP does not match the other jumbled words, the empty squares run into the explanatory text. Makes one smell a porcupine rat: this word was not part of the original puzzle - the film makers have been up to mischief and tacked it on later.

Someone from the film team must have noticed the gaffe too. By the time the puzzle shows up on screen next, the superfluous R has miraculously vanished.

Shajarur Kanta - Porcupine Jumble UNCRONIPEP

Byomkesh struggles with cracking that last anagram even after the correction.

He then sets the newspaper aside to meet a distraught client. While talking to this client, he has a PDM, exclaims "PORCUPINE!" and grabs the paper to fill in the pending word.

That's Byomkesh triumphantly writing in PORCUPINE:

Shajarur Kanta - PORCUPINE Filled

Here comes another twist.

Between the two scenes above, the illustrated puzzle that accompanies the jumbled words has been brutally scratched out with a black pen by hands unknown.

Image Puzzle Scratched Out: Before and After

What was the motive of this seemingly purposeless act of violence?

I set out to do some detective work of my own.

The Final Piece

That crossed-out image, as Jumble solvers would know, is the final piece of the puzzle: the circled letters from the four words are anagrammed once again to answer the clue in the image.

The clue in the image (as you can see in the "Before" screenshots) is:
When it came to protecting their castle they were "????-??????"

Its solution expects 4+6 = 10 letters. The quote marks around the blanks suggest a pun.

The contributing letters from the first three words in the puzzle:


AM+DT+OTA totals 7 letters, which means 3 more letters are to be had from the fourth word to make ????-??????, *not* 4 as the encircled letters in PORCUPINE suggest.

Rearranging the contributing letters AMDTOTA??? to correspond to ????-?????? in the image clue gives us a fair idea of what the overall answer could be.

That answer would fall into place only if the circled letters in the last word were IVE. PRPE of PORCUPINE does not fit the bill.

Detective work conclusion: The film makers couldn't make the fake PORCUPINE fit the final puzzle - so they crossed out the final puzzle to bury the evidence!


What WAS the real word hiding behind the fake PORCUPINE? I invite you to find the answer.

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      Kishore said...

      Managed to get to the bottom of the whole blog. Finally realised the answer lay in the conclusion.

      Chaturvasi said...

      Gold trophy hidden in the vacated palace (9)

      Kishore said...


      Thickening of lines suggest shoddy copy paste of blocks to make it long enough to fit porcupine. Which also resulted in the extra circled block.

      The cut and paste also resulted in patching over the instructions. Thickening of upper line of 5th and 6th blocks (and extension by 3 blocks) suggests that out of the initial 6 blocks , all except the first were chosen and when pasting the first two of these (2nd and 3rd in initial 6 letter word) were pasted over 5th and 6th. The remaining (4th, 5th and 6th of original word) served to extend the original by 3 blocks.

      I explained in detail to avoid any chance of the word being 7 letters long, in which case it could have been invited or invites.

      Though you didn't ask, the final answer as you have no doubt deduced is Moat-ivated.

      Mention of "Invite" in the last sentence of the post was sheer genius. The answer was right in front of the reader.

      Reminded me of superb portrayal of BB by Rajit Kapoor in DD.

      Kishore said...

      Like Hamlet's

      Like quills upon the fretful porpentine.

      Shuchi said...

      CV Sir: "gold trophy" - nicely juxtaposed. I am reminded of a clever clue for PORCUPINE that used "... that's spiked".

      Kishore: That was some solid deduction!

      I wondered at first why the film makers went through the trouble of putting that anagram scene in the film. It turned out later that the final resolution of the whodunit hinged on an anagram. A glaringly obvious one - but Byomkesh took even longer to solve it than he did with the PORCUPINE.

      This film is a revamping of the original BB Shajarur Kanta story, apparently to meet modern sensibilities :-|

      Kishore said...

      Thanks, Shuchi. Reminded me of the time I last used a porcupine quill. To part my wife's hair during the Simantonnayana ceremony nearly 3 decades back! 😀