Bengali movies explore more literary detective characters

Detectives making the journey from pages to screen


January 26, 2020

/ By / Kolkata

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bengali detective characters

The popular genre of detective stories or thriller is quite popular and when it is on the big-screen it becomes even more interesting to watch and solve the case with the detectives. And Bengali literature has a bag full of such beloved characters which the film industry has started exploring too.

While Sherlock Holmes may be the most well-known detective character out there in the world literature, the home-grown detectives of Bengali literature are nothing less than legends in the regional level. And while Feluda and Byomkesh Bakshi, two of the most famous goyendas (detective in Bengali) had made the journey from page to screen quite early, the recent years have seen other detective characters coming alive on the silver screen.

And this genre seem to have kept its hold in the Bengali film industry as audience still come to watch these movies with the same enthusiasm as they had while reading them. Many come in to relive their childhood through the movies.

“As a reader I have always been drawn to the thriller and detective genre. The compact and precise story-telling, the action and a promised coherent plot together with its suspense and the engaging grasp while unfolding the mystery, makes this genre an all-time favourite,” says Deboleena Chakraborty, a literature enthusiast and teacher at a school in north Kolkata.

While talking about screen adaptations, she further added, “As a reader I feel curious about how they portray the nuances of each characters on-screen. We have our own visualisation of Feluda or Kakababu or Mitin Mashi, as we read them. Watching them turn out into motion pictures gives us a scope to see alternative visualisations and even sometimes a retelling of the story. I always feel curious about adaptation of books on screens and though they can disappoint sometimes, usually offer alternative retellings that I quite enjoy.”

The old players

The journey of the Bengali sleuths on silver screen began with the adaptation of Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay’s detective novels featuring the character Byomkesh Bakshi in Chiriyakhana directed by Satyajit Ray with actor Uttam Kumar in the lead role. Since then the stories have been adapted into 20 Bakshi movies with Bengali actor Abir Chatterjee portraying the character seven times. It even had a Hindi adaptation with Sushant Singh Rajput reprising the role while a television-series with Rajit Kapur as Bakshi was most critically acclaimed.

The other well-loved detective character is private investigator Prodosh Chandra Mitter or Feluda, created by Satyajit Ray and even the first movie Sonar Kella in 1974 produced by the government of West Bengal was directed by him. Starring Soumitra Chatterjee as the PI in this movie and Joi Baba Felunath (1979), it created a new cult in Bengali cinema. Since then the stories have been adapted into tele-films, feature films, web-series, animated film and even radio series.

Even though adapted in so many mediums and played by so many different actors at different times, the characters have still held their charm for the audience who flock to the cinema halls to watch their favourite detectives on a trail to solve the mystery.

The new entrants

Sunil Gangopadhyay’s fictional sleuth, Raja Roy Chowdhury, known by his nickname Kakababu was made into movies earlier with the first being in 1979, but it was with Srijit Mukherjee’s Mishawr Rawhoshyo  in 2013, the first in the trilogy-series that the character again got recognition onscreen.

The positive review of the movie led to the directors exploring other detective characters. In 2015, director Arindam Sil brought to life Sirshendu Mukhopadhyay’s fictional detective Shobor Dasgupta popularly known as goyenda Shobor with actor Saswata Chatterjee playing the lead role. The year 2016 saw the arrival of another fictional detective on silver screen, novelist Nihar Ranjan Gupta’s Kiriti Roy followed by Suchitra Bhattacharya’s female detective character Mitin Mashi in 2019.

These new generation detective movies have created a wave of excitement among the thriller movie lovers along with bringing to life their childhood heroes. The role of women in detective movies or literature are very peripheral. With Mitin Mashi, a young housewife who goes on to solve a case with her niece as her sidekick, it seems the silver screen is also ready to accept female sleuths as the Bengali television has done with its prime time shows portraying women as detectives and crime-solvers with shows like Goyenda Ginni and Jai Kali Kalkattawali.

While directors may be busy deciding which character to adapt next and if to modernise them or make it a period movie, the audience is all set to solve their next case with the goyendas.

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