Feluda would have been 78, if he were real and alive with us.
For all Bengalis who have grown up being Ray or Feluda fans, a movie with the latter in it is something to eagerly wait for. Regardless of the fact there is no sense of suspense given that the stories have been committed to memory long back by many of the viewers. The debate about who has played the best Feluda between Soumitro Chatterjee, Sabyasachi Chakravarty and Abir Chatterjee continues.
Oscar winning Manik babu’s son Sandip followed his father’s trail and made some Feluda telefilms, and then moved on to making regular movies starting with Bombaier Bombete, and contiuned with Kailashey Kelenkari, Tintorettor Jishu, Gorosthaney Sabdhan, Royal Bengal Rahasya. Sabyasachi Chakravaty played Felu in all these outings.
Cinematising a character over multiple decades and many stories, especially when the stories are known by the viewers is difficult. Easier to get a miss than a hit. Unfortunately, Babu da (Ray jr.) missed it more often and continues to prove it. However, that would be too blanket a statement to make.
On to of that, the absence of an appropriate actor to play Jatayu poses a problem. All the Jatayu’s have passed on rather early or at least without having played the role too many times, Sadip Ray might not have been left with too much of a choice in terms of stories to cinematise. One option was to reboot with an early Felu story with a younger Felu, Topshe and no Jatayu. That is what he did with Badshahi Angti with Abir Chatterjee as the new Felu. The reboot idea didn’t last long, inspite of the promise that Abir Chatterjee put on display in Badshahi Angti. Chatterjee signed up with director Arindam Sil to play Byomkesh Bakshi (another super popular detective character) and that put paid to his being Felu.
In the new Feluda movie, Double Feluda, Sabyasachi is back as Pradosh C Mitter and so is Saheb as Topshe. Double Feluda, is two stories in one movie, based on Ray’s (senior) book by the same name.
The first story, Samaddarer Chaabi, is around Radharaman (Samaddar) who had retired in sub-urbs of Calcutta and had stoked his passion of collecting rare musical instruments post retirement. Post a heart attack, in the presence of his cardiologist, nephew (Monimohan) and his househelp Anukul, he refers to a key in his name. The nephew assumes it to be an indication to a will or some stashed away money both of which would be of interest to him. Monimohon reaches out to Felu to unravel the mystery of the key.
The story then revolves around deciphering the Radharaman’s last words, understanding how the musical instruments work and complexity is added by another musical instrument collector who wanted to buy two of the collectibles, a grandson and the lying nephew. The nephew ends up being the villain, and a neighbourhood boy (Sadhan) the hero. The story is narrated somewhat better than on previous occasions.
Saheb is too old to be Topshe. And, Sabyasachi is a 60 trying to play a 28 year old. He has a large pot belly, (seems like) a neck problem and is unable to do much in terms of action. An unfit Feluda is rather unpalatable. Incidentally, the actor playing Sadhan’s father might not be a bad choice for playing Felu in the future.
But, wait. The movie starts with a changed and a fine format of non-boring opening credits with pictures of various Feluda book covers. What also is new is additional new pieces of music composed by Sandip Ray, to go along with. Well done.
The second story, Golokdham Rohosyo, (post intermission) revolves around a theft in a scientist’s (blinded in an explosion) suburb home and leads through to a murder. The scientist is played by an aging Dhritiman Chatterjee. Chatterjee, like always, does a stellar job with a character whose eyes (in dark glasses) are never visible in the movie.
There is at least one script fault in the movie, and at least one translation from the book to the movie problem. However, it does seem that most people watching the movie never caught these. Most likely, because they had might not have read the book carefully enough.For the former, the murder weapon is somewhat malformed. You can’t kill with a murder weapon which is shaped the way it is, in the movie. And the second, I will let you figure out on your own when you watch.
By the way, Sanyasachi’s son also gets a place in the movie and plays a supporting bad guy.
The second story has turned out to be more or a mystery drama rather than a thriller or action movie. Convinces me that Sandip Ray can make movies of other genres, but not a detective thriller. Usually ends up making documentaries, but this time he did not have the scope. Having said all that, the movie has turned to better than his previous outings.
What you will like, if you are a Feluda fan is how the ending credits appear. There are short pieces by people who have acted in Feluda movies in the past – Siddhartha Chatterjee who was Topshe (Felu’s cousin and assistant) in the first two outings; Biplab Chatterjee who has appeared in Joy Baba Felunath and Kailashe Kelenkari. Also the two Mukuls, Kushal Chakraborty and Santanu Bagchi, from Sonar Kella made and appearance. All these actors shared remembrances from the movies that they acted in, of their experiences with Satyajit Ray and how they are remembered by the cinema going people even today. Siddhartha Chatterjee, incidentally, has acted in another 3-4 movies and is a partner in the restaurant chain “Bhjohori Manna”. Kushal Chakravorty, is a civil engineer by training, but continues to act in Bengali movies even now. Soumitra, Feluda of the first two outings, however was conspicuous by his absence.
So, how did the movie fare? If you are looking for an edge of the seat suspense, you will be dissappointed. If you went in with an open mind, two pretty decent stories narrated and shown much better than they have been in a long time. Go spend the money.