From Baker Street in London to Rajani Sen Road in Kolkata, the nostalgia and relevance are not difficult to figure for someone who knows Holmes and Feluda as the colonial cousins from the east and the west!
The uncanny love for dapper sleuths with raw wit and a charismatic screen presence has driven more cinephiles in Britain and Bengal than in any other part of the world. While literature went hand in hand in India with performing arts such as theatre and then later, cinema, Satyajit Ray, one of the stalwarts of Indian cinema, conceived the character of a distinctive private detective with a quintessential Bengali fervour but someone who can be appointed to solve a case anywhere in the world. Armed with an intense IQ and an unconventional .32 Colt, Prodosh C Mitter, aka Feluda, has reigned over the hearts of Bengalis and Indians to a larger extent since 1965.
Arguably an alter ego of Ray himself, Feluda is perhaps the apt connect between the present generation, films made nowadays and the humongous body of work of Ray that remains a landmark in Indian cinema. With the news of Bollywood adapting Feluda in an upcoming flick this year, the significance of the six-feet-two cosmopolitan Bengali urges us to look back.
Starting his journey from a Bengali children’s magazine, Sandesh (conceived and edited by Ray himself) and then moving on to various mediums, Feluda has appeared in theatres, novels, radio plays, television and of course in films. The charm which still fascinates readers and viewers or to put it the other way, what made Feluda endure time so gracefully would be the relevance and contemporary text by Ray. The first attempt at a film was Sonar Kella (The Golden Fortress) in 1974 and since then, as they say, the rest is history.
Soumitra Chatterjee was by far Ray’s favourite actor and he casted him in many lead roles by the time Feluda was made. However, looking at the illustrations made by Ray in his stories, one would not have doubts that Ray conceived the Bengali sleuth in the appearance of Soumitra. After Sonar Kella and Joy Baba Felunath (The Elephant God) in 1979, Ray never made a Feluda film and passed on the legacy to his son Sandip Ray. The character never aged beyond 35 and perhaps that was one of the most critical decisions that Satyajit Ray took as a writer to keep the charm alive. This was a character for the children and thus, it shouldn’t have endured aging to hold back its charm.
Now, mostly played by Sabyasachi Chakraborty, since the 90s, under the direction of Sandip Ray, Feluda remains a subject of cinema not only for the children but for any avid reader and quintessential cinema lover. The sheer brilliance in the text reflects in the detailing and intricately woven stories spread around the country. Feluda stopped aging after a while and thus, remained the young, spruce and intellectual private eye proffering delight in the regional cinema of India.
Holmes vs. Feluda
The comparisons only lead to misinterpretations on most of the occasions and thus far there were many who would have drawn a parallel between the English sleuth overtly casual with cocaine, women and violin and this unusual bachelor Bengali taking on rogues while never resolving to grey ways in life. However, if there are similarities they would be in the companies they kept. For example, it could be Holmes’ friend Dr Watson who would pen down his chronicles versus Feluda’s cousin (Topesh aka Topshe) who narrates to us the adventures of his brother along with their chance acquaintance, Lalmohan Ganguly aka Jatayu, a timid thriller writer!
The contrast of these two iconic sleuths could be the scale at which they were presented but the similarity still lies in the obscure yet lucid writing. While the films made on Feluda were quite evidently amateurish compared to the British productions (read Game of Shadows), the acceptance in the academic audience have still remained quite noteworthy.
Sarkar’s Feluda will not be a remake
As Feluda is all set to see a national release in Hindi with the Parineeta-famed director, Pradeep Sarkar, the pan-Indian audience who have thus far encountered Mitter only in books can expect more meat. It will be unjust to say that Feluda will be made in Hindi for the first time as Sandip Ray tried to put together television soap in Hindi with Shashi Kapoor in 1986 which didn’t work out so well.
According to the PTI reports, Pradeep Sarkar was quoted stating that his new film is not a remake but is obviously inspired from Satyajit Ray’s first Feluda, Sonar Kella. Arguably the first of its sorts, all eyes will rest on Sarkar, waiting to see how the much loved Bengali detective is presented to the Indian audience. Any guesses, who will play Prodosh C Mitter?