Sandip Ray's Feluda Films and the Recent Years

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Bengali Films and Satyajit Ray

Feluda, also known as Pradosh Chandra Mitter, is a fictional detective character created by Satyajit Ray, the Oscar winning film-director from Kolkata (Calcutta), India. Although the world knew Ray as a great film-maker, Kolkata revers him as an exceptional writer too. His other creations were Professor Shanku and Tarini Khuro (Uncle Tarini). While Prof. Shanku was the central character of a series of sci-fi stories, Tarini Khuro stories were ful of adventures and dealt with a wide range of themes, often bordering to the supernatural. Ray wrote numerous short-stories of other genres too. Feluda stories1 are written and filmed in Bengali.

Feluda first appeared in "Sandesh", a children's periodical edited by Ray himself - and founded by his grand-father, Upendrakishore Raychoudhury, a great writer - in the story "Feludar Goendagiri" (Feluda's Investigation), in December 1965, set at the backdrop of Darjeeling, a hill-station in India. The super-sleuth, Feluda, is assisted by his cousin Tapesh Ranjan Mitter (Topshe), a teenager, who is the narrator of the stories, and later, the thriller writer, Lalmohan Ganguly, more popular as Jatayu, his pen-name, joins to form the trio. A short and simple man, Jatayu provides comic relief to the readers, and gradually became Ray's favourite and an indispensable character in the Feluda series.

Satyajit Ray
Sandip Ray never wanted himself to be tagged as a maker of only Feluda films. In 2005, he made "Nishijapon", a social drama, based on a novel of the same name by the eminent Bengali literateur, Narayan Gangopadhyay. In 2009, he made "Hitlist", a psychological thriller.

Time came for a new Feluda film, and also for a new Topshe. The novella chosen this time was "Gorosthane Sabdhan" also known as "Beware of the Graveyard". Parambrata was no longer suitable for the role, and Badsha Bhattacharya, a much younger actor was chosen for the same. He was incidentally the son of the famous retired Indian footballer Subrata Bhattacharya. The story was written in 1977, and the film was released on 10 Dcember, 2010. Sabyasachi Chakrabarty and Bibhu Bhattacharya continued their feats as Feluda and Jatayu, and so it was for Haradhan Bannerjee as Sidhu-jaatha. Yes, this was the first time an actor played this role in more than just one Feluda film. Feluda describes Sidhu-jaatha (Siddheswar Bose) as 'the walking encyclopaedia' and Sidhu-jaatha describes himself thus: 'Sherlock Holmes had an elder brother, Mycroft Holmes. Although he was very lazy, he was really a big brother to Sherlock in intelligence. Even Sherlock often used to pay visits to Mycroft for his help. Similarly, I am the Mycroft to Felu.' The character Sidhu-jatha comes back time and again in many Feluda stories and movies, but strangely enough, played each time by a different actor. In Sonar Kella, he is played by Harindranath Bannerjee. Then in the audio version of Baksa Rahasya, he is played by Sushil Majumder. In Golokdham Rahasya, he's played by Manoj Mitra. We see him again in the video version of Baksa Rahasya, played by Ajit Bannerjee; once again in Golapi Mukta Rahasya by Dibya Bhattacharya; and in Kailase Kelenkari by Haradhan Bannerjee, who was back to reprise the role yeat another time.

The story first published in the magazine Desh in 1976, deals with greed, theft, impersonification and most conspicuously, the history of the city of Kolkata. We see the trio here inquisitively digging away at the colonial history of the city. Time and again references to the city's history come up, dating as back as the Victorian era. The film was released in 2010. The new Topshe was appreciated by the fans and thus a new Feluda trio kick-started.

Time was ripe for Sabyasachi to retire from the role of Feluda as he was outgrowing the character. Ray decided to shoot once last Feluda film with him before changing the actor.

Chakraborty is a passionate wildlife photographer, and Ray thought it will be unwise to draw a curtain on Chakraborty's Feluda series without casting him in "Royal Bengal Rahasya" also known as "The Royal Bengal Mystery", a story set in the forests of North Bengal2 and tiger hunting. The film was released in 2011. It was although applauded as a great Feluda film, viewers criticised the casting of Feluda a lot as Chakraborty was no longerf suiting thr role.
Bibhu Bhattacharya performed his best Jatayu in this film, and Paran Bannerjee did a commendable job in the role of a major character.

The thunder strikes yet another time!

Even before "Royal Bengal Rahasya" was released in December 2011, Jatayu, Bibhu Bhattacharya breathed his last in September 2011. This was a big blow to Ray, and we are yet to get a new Jatayu since then.

Sandip Ray went on to make 2 more films based on short stories by different eminent Bengali writers, including Satyajit Ray, in the next few years. Jekhane Bhooter Bhoy, a film comprising of 3 ghost stories, was released in 2012, and Chaar, a film comprising of 4 stories of diverse genres, was released in 2014.

A new Feluda and the Byomkesh Bakshi strife

Byomkesh Bakshi is a fictional detective created by the renowned Bengali litterateur, Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay. The stories of Byomkesh were written over a pretty long time frame from 1932 till 1970. Many of these stories have been filmed a number of times by various directors and the sleuth have been portrayed by a number of actors over the years. The stories have also been filmed for television channels as well as web portals, most series comprising of all the stories.

Byomkesh and Feluda, the two most favourite fictional sleuths of Bengali readers, have always been tied together with an invisible string of destiny; starting with the first Byomkesh film (Chiriakhana also known as The Zoo) which was directed by none other than the creator of Feluda, Satyajit Ray. The film was released in 1967, and the sleuth was played by the eminent Bengali super-star, Uttam Kumar.

Over the years Byomkesh was played by Satindra Bhattacharya(1974), Ajoy Ganguli (1980 television series), Rajit Kapur (1993 and 1997 television series in Hindi), Saptarshi Roy (2007 television series) and Subhrajit Dutta (2009), till the popular Bengali film director cum singer Anjan Dutt started his big screen film series in 2010 with Abir Chatterjee playing the sleuth. Abir was received with great acclaim as Byomkesh, and Dutt continued with 2 more Byomkesh films in 2012 and 2014.

The Byomkesh and Feluda connection was not just limited to the Feluda creator being the director of the first Byomkesh film. Dutt's Byomkesh series had Saswata Chatterjee playing Ajit Bannerjee, Byomkesh's sidekick, who played Topshe, Byomkesh's sidekick, in Sandip Ray's first ten Feluda tele-films and serials. A television series was also broadcast with Sabyasachi's son, Gaurav Chakraborty playing Byomkesh. Gaurav also played a major role in the 2016 Feluda film, "Double Feluda".

Abir’s looks and his acting in the role of a private investigator, brought him under the radar of Sandip Ray who was looking for a new actor for the role of Feluda. Abir already acted in Jekhane Bhooter Bhoy and Chaar, wherein he donned the looks of Feluda in the first one. Ray offered him the role, and Abir was more than happy to accept it. However, Ray and his producers for the upcoming Feluda film had a condition that Abir will have to stop playing Byomkesh. Abir agreed, and the winters of 2014 witnessed a never before scenario of the same actor playing the role of Byomkesh as well as Feluda. To make things more bizarre, Abir’s last Byomkesh film till then, Byomkesh Phire Elo, and his first Feluda film, which has been incidentally his only one, was released on the same date. Though the Byomkesh film was finished more than a year before even shooting for the Feluda film started, the producers of the Byomkesh film kept it on hold and released it on the same day as the Feluda film.

The Feluda film Badshahi Angti also known as The Emperor’s Ring had a new and younger Topshe as well, played by Sourav Das. This is one of those few stories that were written before Sonar Kella, and hence do not feature Jatayu as one of the characters. Badshahi Angti, Feluda's first novel, was initially published as a series in the magazine Sandesh in 1966-67 and was published as a book in 1969. The story set-up in the back drop of Lucknow, deals with betrayal, murder and the stealing of a historic ring that belonged to the Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb. The film was a reboot to the Feluda series, with a much younger Feluda and Topshe, and Ray decided to continue with the duo in a refreshed Feluda series focussing specially on Feluda's earlier adventures.

Abir received a mixed response to his performance in the role of Feluda. Many said he did a great Byomkesh but as Feluda he is not as good as his predecessors, while others opined that he did a great job portraying a younger Feluda who is still a banker and yet to start his career as a private investigator professionally. What was most commendable was the way he distinguished between the characters of the two detectives, Byomkesh and Feluda.

Anjan Dutt was not at all impressed with Abir moving on from Byomkesh to Feluda. He decided to move on too, and his next set of 3 Byomkesh films saw a new Byomkesh in another popular Bengali actor, Jisshu Sengupta.

Abir, though was very excited to play Feluda initially, was a little dissatisfied that he had to stop playing Byomkesh as he had received huge applauds for his portrayal of the role. Ironically, the production house for Badshahi Angti decided to come up with a series of Byomkesh Bakshi films, and Abir was offered to play the Bengali sleuth. Abir gave his decision of continuing as Feluda a second thought and ultimately accepted to play Byomkesh yet another time. Byomkesh fans were overjoyed to see Abir back as Byomkesh in the 2015 film directed by Arindam Sil.

Ray was never at home with the idea of the same person playing Feluda as well as Byomkesh simultaneously. With Abir signing for Byomkesh once again, he decided to change the actor for Feluda once again.

Return of Sabyasachi

The search for a new Feluda resumed. It was not an easy task as Ray had to keep in mind illustrations and descriptions of the character sketched by Satyajit Ray himself, in his mind. Sandip ray was not satisfied with anyone from the Bengali film industry, and he was reluctant to take anyone whose vernacular isn't Bengali to avoid the accent problem that might occur. Ray explored options outside the film industry as well and even approached Sourav Ganguly, the former cricket captain of India for the role, who of course turned down the offer for obvious reasons.

Sandip Ray now had little choice left than to get back to his former Feluda, Sabyasachi Chakraborty.

The next Feluda film, released in December 2016, was named Double Feluda and comprised of two short-stories of Feluda, Samaddarer Chaabi also called The Key and Golokdham Rahasya also called The Mysterious Tenant or Mystery at the Golak Lodge. With Sabyasachi back as Feluda, Saheb Bhattacharya too was back as Topshe.
Samaddarer Chaabi, set in the village of Bamangachhi, located a few miles from Kolkata, deals with puzzles, treasure hunt and deceit. Golokdham Rahasya was already filmed once for the television by Bibhas Chakraborty in 1991 with Soumitra Chatterjee as Feluda. This time it was for the big screen. The story is set in Kolkata itself, and deals with professional jealousy, greed and long nurtured vengeance.
Double Feluda was not much of a success. Firstly, it had Sabysachi playing Feluda who had grown too old for the role. Secondly the stories were not the right choices for a big screen film. However, the shows were stil quite popular manly because the film was released to commemorate the completion of 50 years since the first Feluda story, Feludar Goendagiri was published. Secondly, it was a nostalgic feel for fans who grew up watching Sabysachi playing Feluda.

Feluda on the Web

Parambrata Chatterjee, who played Topshe in the first three big screen Feluda films by Sandip Ray, joined hands with a Bangladeshi production for a web-series comprisiong of three Feluda stories. Parambrata himself played Feluda.

1Click the link to read the english renditions of the novels: Feluda stories in English2North Bengal is usually referred to the northern parts of the state of West Bengal in Eastern India. The region is renowned for its immense natural beauty, the Himalaya mountains, streams and the Dooars Forests.

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