Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay is synonymous with ghosts. Goshaibaganer Bhoot, Goynar Baksho and Chhayamoy have been our companion on many idle afternoons. The Sahitya Akademi award-winning author, who is currently busy finishing his Pujabarshiki write ups, is much-in demand in Tollywood these days for his stories. The latest Shabor Dasgupta (played by Saswata Chatterjee and directed by Arindam Sil) film, Eagoler Chokh, has just hit the theatres and is running to packed houses. Ironically, when Mukhopadhyay had created the character, the thriller didn’t sell well. “Two years ago, I had thought of putting all Shabor stories into one volume. When I first created the character, I thought the readers didn’t accept it,” says the Ruskin Bond of Bengali literature.
While creating the character, the one thing that the 80-year-old author was sure of was that Shabor won’t be a private detective. “A private detective can’t investigate a criminal case officially. So, I knew Shabor will be a police officer with no human weaknesses. He is bereft of all passions and has no private life.” There have been talks that the author wasn’t entirely too happy with Saswata playing Shabor as he didn’t fit the detective’s appearance. “I had one idea of Shabor while writing it, that changed when it was turned into a film,” says Mukhopadhyay, adding that he has liked the end product.
Watch the trailer of Eagoler Chokkh:
“When my stories are adapted all I ask the filmmaker is that they shouldn’t change the story’s theme and underlying message. They can make changes in the script as required. I give that freedom to filmmakers as novels and films are different mediums. I don’t interfere or dictate terms because I don’t understand the filmmaking making process. I have seen some films which are adaptations of Rabindranath Tagore’s stories. The filmmaker has stuck to the book and the end product hasn’t been that great. Hence, I think I need to give filmmakers that freedom,” adds the Bangladesh-born author.
The author’s other novels like Madam O Mahashoy and Ashchorjo Bhromon are in the process of being adapted into films. From Patalghor to Eagoler Chokh, the list of films based on his books is extensive. But not all films made on his works have impressed Mukhopadhyay. “Most of the times I don’t watch films made on my stories. I think that I don’t understand cinema, so there’s no point in me watching the film. There are some films which have deviated a lot from the story. But there are also films that I have really like. I liked how Haranath Chakraborty made Chayamoy,” says Mukhopadhyay, whose wrote his first book Ghunpoka in the late 1950s.
But there was also a time when no one wanted to buy his novels. “My stories that are now being adapted into films have been written years ago. Long back one work had been adapted, but it didn’t work at the box office. You can say no one wanted to adapt my works earlier. Now, for the last few years filmmakers are showing interest in adapting my books,” says the author nonchalantly. Now that filmmakers are showing interest, does that affect his writing process? “I don’t understand films, hence when I write, it doesn’t affect me at all. I write the way I want to and they then turn it into a movie.”
Mukhopadhyay, who has penned thrillers like Kalo Beral and Shada Beral, says that it’s Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot who is his favourite detective. Why not every Bengali’s cherished Feluda? “I like Miss Marple, Feluda and Sherlock Holmes, too, but Poirot is the best. He is an unromantic character and is old and a bald guy. He is not a handsome man but is highly intelligent and very sharp. Poirot is one of Agatha Christe’s most well-developed characters.”
It doesn’t come as surprise when he says that he likes Harry Potter. The author, whose ghosts are almost always funny in his novels, is known for using magic realism in children’s stories, much like iconic filmmaker and author Satyajit Ray. So it’s obvious that he likes JK Rowling’s creations. “A lot of people look down upon Harry Potter but I have liked Rowling’s writing. I like it because she has been successful in creating a whole new universe. Yes, it is a magical world and far from reality. Not only children but adults too enjoy reading it. People want to be taken away from today’s stark reality. That is where the author has been successful,” says Mukhopadhyay adding that Harry Potter has been able to regenerate the habit of reading among children.