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Feluda in Bengali Popular Culture

Feluda in Bengali Popular Culture

Feluda, Topshe and Jatayu
[video src="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ThMyg2d4kos"]

Feluda, the fictional detective character created by Satyajit Ray and immortalized on screen for the first time by Soumitro Chatterjee, is deeply etched into the psyche of Bengalis

Feluda is a familiar name for most of the Bengalis. There is much emotion attached to this name as he is associated with a pleasurable part of their growing up days.

Feluda… full name Prodosh Chandra Mitter (Mitra), occupation private investigator. His father was a teacher who taught Mathematics and Sanskrit in Dhaka. He died when Feluda was only nine years old. Feluda resides with his uncle in 21, Rajani Sen Road, Kolkata – 700029.

Sounds like a common man, the guy next door, isn’t it?

Yes, he is a common man… but with uncommon intelligence. A fictitious character created by a legend, late Satyajit Ray (May 2, 1921 – April 23 1992), and immortalized on screen for the first time by Soumitra Chatterjee (January 19, 1935 – November 15, 2020).

In 1965, Feluda’s first adventure (Feludar Goendagiri) was published in a Bengali children magazine Sandesh.

The character of Feluda soon won the hearts of everyone… from 10 years to 80 years-old. Every one became a fan of Prodosh Chandra Mitter and people totally forgot that he is a fictitious character.

The character

feluda
Prodosh Chandra Mitter (Mitra), popularly known as Feluda to the world

Feluda was one of the most memorable characters created by Ray, an eminent film director, writer, illustrator, and music composer. Ray was a multifaceted talent and the first Oscar winning film director from India.

Ray portrayed Feluda as a young man around 27 years (born approximately 1938) with 6’ height with superb analytical and observation ability. He is very good at martial art, but he relies more on his brain which he jokingly called “mogojostro” (brain weapon) and intuition. He admires the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes and considers him to be the guru of all detectives in the world. In one of his cases (London e Feluda), when Feluda was in London he went to 221B Baker Street to pay his homage to the fictional character created by author Sir Arthur Conan.

Little did Ray know that Feluda will also become a part of Bengali popular culture, and fans will throng the Rajani Sen address just like fans of Sherlock Holmes still visit the Baker Street address.

Feluda is also a fan of Herge’s Tintin, and his favorite authors are Bibhutibhusan Bandopadhay and Jim Corbett.

Feluda is very selective about the cases he takes up. He prefers the cases which involve a lot of brain work. Feluda is depicted as an early riser and starts his day with Yoga and exercise. He believes that a healthy body leads to a healthy mind. Despite being health conscious, he is depicted as a heavy smoker. His favorite cigarette brand is Charminar. Feluda possesses a .32 caliber revolver but he seldom used it.

Key characters

Like Sherlock Holmes, Feluda too has an assistant Topesh Ranjan Mitter aka Topshe, who is also his cousin. Topshe is depicted as a school going boy when Feluda started his career as a private investigator. Topshe is also the narrator of all Feluda adventures. Topshe also shares Feluda’s interest in the comic charater Tintin.

teen murti
Jatayu, Topshe and the one and only Feluda

Later in one of his cases, Sonar Kella, Feluda meets another friend named Lal Mohan Ganguli, a thriller writer who wrote under the pen name Jatayu. Jatayu was a comic character who makes silly mistakes in his writing and Feluda is there to correct him. Jatayu is depicted as rich and very generous and having a great fan following for his writings.

Feluda is very keen on learning and he tries to learn about new things which help him in his investigations. At that time, Feluda did not have the services of Google, but he had Sidhu Jetha! Sidhu Jetha (Siddheswar Bose, a close friend of Feluda’s father) is a walking encyclopedia and claims to have a photographic memory. He helps Feluda with many cases by giving him relevant information.

Another important character in Feluda Series is Haripada Dutta, Jatayu’s driver, who is portrayed as very loyal, brave and trustworthy. He has great admiration for Feluda and is always ready for action.

In popular culture

There are a total of 35 published and four unpublished stories in the Feluda series. The character of Feluda is so much etched in popular culture that in Kolkata there is a children theme park called Sonar Kella. In that park there are paintings and statues of Feluda, Topshe and Lal Mohan Ganguli. In Kalyani (West Bengal), there is a Feluda-themed restaurant named “Mogojastro”.

The popularity of Feluda has also gone beyond West Bengal and the Bengali diaspora in different parts of the world. Feluda’s stories have been translated into many languages. Apart from English, Feluda’s stories have been translated into Oriya, Gujarati, Marathi, Malayalam, Hindi, German, Japanese and French.

Ray in discussion with the stars of his movie Sonar Kella
Ray in discussion with Soumitra Chatterjee (Feluda), Santosh Dutta (Jatayu), Siddartha Chatterjee (Topshe) and Kamu Mukherjee (Mandar Bose) in the set of his film “Sonar Kella”

Ray made two films on the adventures of Feluda – Sonar Kella (1974) and Joi Baba Felunath (1978). In those films, the character of Feluda was played by Soumitra Chaterjee, one of the finest actors in Bengali films. The Feluda character played on screen by Soumitro turned out to be the same as it was portrayed by Ray in his stories. So, the readers finally got their hero in flesh and blood, and through the role played by Soumitro, Feluda’s character become immortal.

Baksho Rahashya
The poster of “Baksho Rahashya”, Sandip Ray’s first tele film on Feluda, released in 1996 where Sabyasachi Chakraborty essayed the role of Feluda

After Ray’s demise, his film maker son Sandip Ray made a film on Feluda, Baksho Rahasyo (1996).

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Subsequently, numerous other films were made about Feluda and this has continued to this day. Other actors who have portrayed the character on screen included Sabyasachi Chakrabarty, Ahmed Rubel (Series for Bangladeshi TV channel), Shashi Kapoor (Hindi TV Series) and Abir Chatterjee. While many actors played Feluda’s role, Soumitra and Sabyasachi Chakraborty are widely credited with giving life to that character… to the extent that people started calling them Feluda.

End of an era

In the later part of 2020, when Soumitra was admitted in hospital due to COVID-19, people were sending him messages such as “Fight Feluda, fight!”. Even after nearly five decades people still remembered him for a character which he had portrayed decades ago and only twice!

Soumitra is one of the most versatile actors in India and has played numerous unforgettable roles in Bengali films. So one can very well imagine the impact he had had on people’s mind while playing the role of Feluda.

In one episode of reality game show Dadagiri, Soumitra had recounted: “While reading the Feluda stories, I nurtured the wish of playing the role if a film was ever made on the subject. One day, I asked Satyajit Ray whether he made the illustrations of Feluda based on his own image. To this, his response was ‘Many others say I do the illustrations keeping you in mind.’ So I feel he already had me in his mind for the movie.”

Soumitro Chatterjee passed away on November 15, 2020. It was an irreplaceable loss for the entire film and theatre industry… end of an era. Fans bid adieu to their beloved Feluda with a heavy heart.

Show must go on

But the show must go on! Our next generation should be introduced to Feluda.

Feluda Pherot
Scene from Srijit Mukherjee’s upcoming series “Feluda Pherot” with Tota Roy Chowdhuri as Feluda, Kalpan Mitra as Topshe and Anirban Chakrabarty as Lal Mohan Ganguli

So this November a brand new Feluda web series, Feluda Pherot, is being launched in Addatimes. The series is directed by Srijit Mukherji, and with a new cast – Tota Roy Chowdhury (Feluda), Kalpan Mitra (Topshe) and Anirban Chakrabarty (Lal Mohan Ganguli). We hope this version of Feluda also succeeds in recreating the same magic for the audience.

In the Feluda stories, whenever Jatayu came across any interesting character he used to say that we should cultivate this person. Likewise, my advice to anyone looking for engaging and simple detective stories is to cultivate Feluda.

 

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