It was in 1965 that a 27 year old, 6’2″ tall Bengali detective by the name of Prodosh Chandra Mitra or Pradosh C. Mitter with the nickname Feluda made his debut in a Bengali short story Feludar Goyendagiri written by Satyajit Ray. 50 years later, Feluda is still 27 and has not lost any of his cult fan following. Every Bengali is a Feluda fan. Be it a young boy or girl who is just starting off on the detective series or a person of 50 who has probably read every book in the series more than ten times, everyone wants to be a Feluda. We like his mannerisms, his wit, his ability to solve difficult cases and bring back precious artifacts from dangerous criminals. We remember every scene from the Feluda movies, every dialog and travel to Jaisalmer only to take a look at Sonar Kella because Feluda was there. What is it about Feluda that keeps him going at 50 and will he make it to 100 ? That was the topic of discussion at the penultimate session of the Tata Steel Kolkata Literary Meet 2016 on Republic Day where Boria Majumdar’s book Feluda@50 was officially released.
The original Feluda, Soumitra Chatterjee could not attend the session due to health issues and that was a huge disappointment but the conversation with the current Feluda, Abir Chatterjee, the author Boria Majumdar, director Sandip Ray and Chandril Bhattacharya was a most enjoyable one. Boria started off talking about his book and his personal connect with Feluda who he describes as the “Bengali Harry Potter“. He spoke of an incident when as a 23 year old man he was travelling to England to study at Oxford and on reaching, heard the news of his father passing away. He shared that on the flight back, he was holding on to a Feluda book the entire time. Not that he was reading it but just holding on to it gave him immense comfort. And I think that is the crux of a Bengali’s relationship with this fictional character. Feluda is nostalgia, Feluda is our childhood, Feluda gives us comfort, Feluda is our happy place.
Sandip Ray shared snippets of how his father came up with the character and that he actually put a lot of himself in Feluda. He gave Feluda his likes and his dislikes and made him travel to places where he himself loved going to. Therefore, Feluda is essentially Satyajit Ray himself. He shared an interesting story about casting of the two movies. The first person who was finalized was actually Santosh Dutta who played Jatayu. Soumitra Chatterjee and Siddhartha Chattopadhyay, who played Topshe came on board much later. In fact, Ray was so happy with Santosh Dutta that he changed the illustrations in his books to make Jatayu look like Santosh Dutta. And when Santosh Dutta passed away, Ray said that he would never make another Feluda movie because he won’t get another Jayatu. And even today, Sandip Ray is still searching for that perfect Jatayu. Abir spoke about his experience of working in Feluda movies and said that to play the character is much harder than playing Byomkesh Bakshi because Feluda is so much ingrained in the Bengali psyche. And of course it is not easy to fill the shoes of Soumitra Chatterjee!
The conversation then steered to a pertinent point raised by Boria. What next for Feluda? Will the next generation accept someone who does not have a smartphone or a laptop, who carries a .32 Colt revolver, who smokes a Charminar and who goes to Sidhu Jyetha for answers and not use Google search? Will Feluda survive and make it to 100? Sandip Ray is averse towards making any change to the characters or the stories but he realizes that even Feluda perhaps needs to adapt to the times. Will his audience accept any change? Going by the reaction of the panelists and the audience present at the session, the answer is a resounding no but who knows what will happen after Sandip Ray? 100 is still far off and I’m not going to be around to see that day but I hope that our beloved Bengali detective will continue to be a constant in the lives of Bengalis even in 2065 and beyond. For now, lets celebrate his 50th and look forward to the release of Sandip Ray’s ‘Double Feluda’ on Dec 16, 2016.
The Kolkata Literary Meet was on from 21-26th January, 2016. For details about the event, check their website or search with hashtags #TataSteelKalam or #KolLitMeet
This post is written in association with Kolkata Literary Meet.