Will Parambrata's Feluda make us kiss goodbye to Satyajit Ray's sleuth?
Bengali actor of Kahaani fame is directing the first season of the webseries on one of India's most-loved detectives.
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It was 1999. Ananda Bazar Patrika organised a readers' meet in Cooch Behar. My father, back then, was the district correspondent for the Bengali newspaper. Dad dragged me along to this "boring" readers' meet. I was told that they had a "special gift" for the kids at the end of the programme.
The promise of this gift made me sit through the hour-long discussion on what readers in north Bengal wanted from the newspaper and its reporters. While the man at the mic (sorry, Hirak Kaku) droned on about the good and bad of subscribing to Ananda Bazar, I had caught a sight of the manna making its way to us. It was a rectangular pack, wrapped in fancy shiny paper. I couldn't wait to get home and tear the wrapper off.
After another hour of an excruciating wait, and the parcel burning into my palms with every passing minute, I finally got around to taking the wrapper off. It was a book called Aro Ek Dojon (Another Dozen). A collection of 12 of Satyajit Ray's short stories. By the time mom called us for dinner, I was done with half the book, and what stories they were!
Parambrata Chatterjee in and as Feluda
Finally, I reached the 10th story. It was called "Sheyal Debota Rohoshyo" (The Anubis Mystery) and I was introduced to a character that, little did I know back then, would stay with me for many, many years.
He was Prodosh Mittir. Feluda to Bengali kids; Satyajit Ray's immortal detective and a force to reckon with in contemporary Bengali literature to the grown-ups. The book had two more Feluda stories, "Samaddarer Chabi" and "Ghurghutiyar Ghotona", both remarkable ones.
Over the next few weeks, I hunted for and read every single Feluda mystery that Satyajit Ray had written. Including the unfinished ones. But the thirst wasn't quenched.
Over the next few years, I hunted for more Bengali stories, mysteries, anything at all, any character at all, who could come even remotely close to Feluda. The search was futile.
The kind of baroque detailing that has gone into each of these, be it short stories or novels, make you stare in wonder at the genius that is Satyajit Ray. The man gave Bengal a detective who could take on Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes with the same ease as he could tackle a Byomkesh Bakshi closer home from Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay. Bengali literature and its mysteries were never the same after Feluda arrived on the scene.
The handful of Feluda stories that have found their way to the big screen have mostly been appreciated; be it a "Sonar Kella" from Ray himself, or a "Badshahi Angti" from his son Sandip Ray. After years of ruling over our hearts, Feluda has now arrived on the internet too.
The first promo of the Bengali webseries, Feluda, was unveiled yesterday and has already left people curious as to what is being done to our favourite Feluda this time around. Actor Riddhi Sen steps into the shoes of Topshe, Feluda's cousin-narrator, and Parambrata Chatterjee has the task of playing Feluda. Some extremely big shoes to fill in there, what with actors like Soumitra Chatterjee and Sabyasachi Chakraborty having played their Feludas to perfection in the past.
Parambrata has joined hands with an app and is all set to revamp Feluda to "suit it for the contemporary audience". But like it has happened with so many of the gems from our childhood, do we even want Feluda to undergo a makeover?
On Twitter yesterday, Parambrata was asked if the webseries will change Feluda a la BBC's Sherlock Holmes. Parambrata's reply made many people sigh in relief, "Will be tweaked slightly to suit the contemporary world setting. Core story events remain same. #Feluda"
Parambrata's Feluda still smokes Charminar, yes, "even in this age", but he is no longer the next-door detective from Ray's books. He flexes his muscles and fires a gun. His bicep-hugging sleeves are a far cry from Mittir's humble dhuti-panjabi.
What this Feluda looks like, is a man who ostensibly, as of now, cares more about his physique than his mogojastro (grey matter-weapon).
Feluda is no longer the lovable detective-elder brother of our childhood.
There is much excitement at seeing Feluda getting a 21st-century makeover. But the bigger question here is, will Parambrata do justice to Ray?
Guess we'll know in a few months... Else, there's always Satyajit Ray's Aro Ek Dojon (and Feluda Samagra) to get back to and bury oneself in.