Lounge preview: ‘Feluda—50 Years Of Ray’s Detective’
A new documentary, still in the making, celebrates the continuing popularity of the detective
One of the strains running through Feluda—50 Years Of Ray’s Detective, a documentary, is on the way Satyajit Ray’s creation lives on in popular culture and imagination.
Prodosh Chandra Mitter, aka Feluda, first made his appearance in the Bengali children’s magazine Sandesh in 1965, subsequently moving on to the pages of the literary magazine Desh. The Bengali sleuth, armed with a hyper IQ and a rarely used .32 Colt, has graced magazines, detective novels, cinema, television series, radio shows, audiobooks, theatre, advertising and music.
Add to the mix a 110-minute documentary by debutant film-maker Sagnik Chatterjee, who has assisted directors like Govind Nihalani and Ray’s son Sandip. The film will be a first on Feluda, and reportedly, also on an Indian fictional character. Being made in English and Bengali, and expected to release soon commercially, it has a rare 4-minute audio clip of Ray discussing Feluda and crime fiction with the Bengali author Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay, something die-hard fans will covet.
Almost 85% of the film dwells on Ray as the writer and illustrator of Feluda, even though his full-length Feluda films, Sonar Kella and Joi Baba Felunath, did as much as the books for the detective’s popularity.
The documentary, now in the post-production stage, follows the trail of Feluda to Varanasi, Mumbai, Kolkata and London.
“(Sociologist) Ashis Nandy found Feluda to have no colonial hangover,” says Chatterjee. “It is true that Feluda is a true modernist, unlike other Bengali detectives likes Byomkesh or Kiriti. He can be contemporized. This could be a reason for his survival for 50 years.”
Much like the private eye, the film will also seek answers to vexing questions. Even though strong women-centric cinema dominates Ray’s film-making oeuvre, there is still a question about why Ray’s Feluda series doesn’t have strong female characters, Chatterjee says. It didn’t seem to trouble Feluda, an inveterate bachelor, much.