Satyajit Ray’s iconic creation, Feluda, recently turned 50. That might be a shade difficult to digest, for the charismatic Bengali sleuth remains forever young to his fans. The six-feet-two Feluda, who with his intelligent humour has charmed children and adults alike, can never really age. With his cousin Topshe - the narrator of the stories - and thriller writer Lalmohan Ganguly aka Jatayu in tow, Feluda has cracked innumerable mysteries.
On Feluda’s 50th anniversary, Sandip Ray recalls his first brush with the private detective in 1965, when he read Feludar Goendagiri in Bengali children’s magazine Sandesh. The Ray scion also plans to hold an exhibition comprising photographs, illustrations and manuscripts in Kolkata to celebrate Feluda’s 50th anniversary. The biggest gift, however, will be in the form of a double Feluda film this year. HT caught up with Sandip Ray, who has already brought Feluda six times on celluloid, on this charismatic investigator and his eternal appeal at the director’s residence in Bishop Lefroy Road in Kolkata.
You are planning a double Feluda this year. When is the film going on floor?
The first story, Feludar Goendagiri, was published in 1965. I will be adapting two Feluda stories, which do not feature Jatayu. I will be happy if double Feluda releases this Durga Puja. I plan to go on floor in March or April.
You also have plans of holding an exhibition to mark the golden jubilee of Feluda.
Yes, the plan is to have an exhibition on Feluda that will have photographs, illustrations and manuscripts.
Your search for Jatayu is still on.
Of all the characters Jatayu was one of my father’s favourite. Santosh Dutta immortalised the character in Sonar Kella (1974) and then in Joy Baba Felunath (1979). It’s very difficult to find someone who can match his standards. So, I get a little apprehensive whenever I think of casting someone as Jatayu. I keep receiving hundreds of photographs of actors, wanting to be cast as Jatayu. Few do match the looks of Jatayu but I am unsure if they will be able to deliver a power-packed performance like Santosh Dutta.
You were the still photographer on the sets of Sonar Kella, (1974), the first Feluda film.
Honestly, baba made Sonar Kella to introduce Jatayu. The character was very close to his heart. He also wanted to capture Jaisalmer in colour. In fact, he fell in love with Jaisalmer when he went for the location scouting for Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne. He wrote Sonar Kella for his sheer love for Jaisalmer. There are endless and priceless memories associated with Sonar Kella. We thoroughly enjoyed the shooting of the film. I guess, not too many films have been shot with so much madness like Sonar Kella. Joy Baba Felunath was shot only in Banaras whereas Sonar Kella was shot at multiple locations. We began filming in Red Fort in Delhi, and then went to Jaipur, Jodhpur and Bikaner. In fact, the famous ‘vanish’ scene in Sonar Kella was shot at Nahargarh Fort in Jaipur. Imagine shooting a film at multiple locations in 1973! There were no mobile phones and we communicated mostly through telegrams. But the shooting was a very organised affair and was both exciting and thrilling just like the story of Sonar Kella.
Feluda has made his appearance on every medium - television, films, graphic novels, theatre and radio - and has been a hit with all age groups.
Firstly, the narrative of Feluda is very strong. Secondly, his Bangaliana adds to the flavour. Feluda is a travelogue adventure and as a detective he travels to various places. The stories offer a lot of information in a light-hearted manner. One can learn about a lot of things while reading Feluda. The character also commands respect and hasn’t dated. Renowned author Sunil Gangopadhyay had once said that Feluda might be a favourite with the children, but whenever Feluda appeared in the magazine Desh, he was the first one to read it. Even films made by baba are multi-layered. Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne can be interpreted in several ways. As a kid, you will enjoy watching it. But as you grow up, you will start discovering that the film has many layers. It’s the same with Feluda.
You had earlier directed Feluda on television. Do you have plans of going back to that medium with Feluda again?
I am not thinking of television right now. Feluda doesn’t need to return to television at this point. When I started doing Feluda films, nobody was really interested in investing in the project. I had always wanted to make Feluda for the big screen but no one showed interest and we decided to try it on television. Ultimately the producer (D Rama Naidu), who agreed to produce Bombaiyer Bombete (2003, Sandip Ray’s first Feluda film) was a non-Bengali.
How about a Feluda film in Hindi?
I won’t make one in Hindi. But I think it would be nice to watch Feluda in a Hindi film. However, the makers should be well aware of Feluda, his sensibility and his surroundings. I did Feluda in Hindi for television and while doing so, I felt I as if I was making an adventure thriller and not a Feluda film. Actually, Feluda rides high on his Bangaliana and that can’t be tampered with when one adapts the character on any medium.
Feluda on celluloid over the years
1. Satyajit Ray’s Sonar Kella (1974) with Soumitra Chatterjee as Feluda
2. Satyajit Ray’s Joy Baba Felunath (1979) with Soumitra Chatterjee as Feluda
3. Sandip Ray’s Bombaiyer Bombete (2003) with Sabyasachi Chakraborty as Feluda
4. Sandip Ray’s Kailashey Kelenkari (2007) with Sabyasachi Chakraborty as Feluda
5. Sandip Ray’s Tintorettor Jishu (2008) with Sabyasachi Chakraborty as Feluda
6. Sandip Ray’s Gorosthaney Sabdhan (2010) with Sabyasachi Chakraborty as Feluda
7. Sandip Ray’s Royal Bengal Rahashya (2011) with Sabyasachi Chakraborty as Feluda
8. Sandip Ray’s Badshahi Angti (2014) with Abir Chatterjee as Feluda