Book Review: Celebrating the Iconic Feluda

Feluda @ 50 Curated and Edited by Boria Majumdar Harper Collins  Rs 499
Feluda @ 50
Curated and Edited by Boria Majumdar
Harper Collins
Rs 499

First things first, writer Boria Majumdar is seen on TV screens enlightening us about cricket and other sports with his apt analysis and clear perspective. But each time he decides to pen his thoughts on a book, he raises the bar.  His last book co-authored with the God of cricket Sachin Tendulkar- Playing it My Way had earned him Kudos. Now Boria Majumdar dwells into a subject that is part of Bengali cult folklore in his recent venture Feluda@50.

The character that was discovered by iconic film-maker Satyajit Ray in 1965, drawn from the detective tradition made popular by characters such as Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot, went on to influence Bengalis of an entire generation in the years to come. And when a stalwart actor like Soumitra Chatterjee played the dapper detective in the landmark film, Sonar Kella, a cult was born. When it was born fifty years earlier not many would have envisioned that the charisma will endure half a century. Amazingly the cult has not only endured but has the box-office in tizzy with every new Feluda film. This is the magic of feluda. Simply peerless.

Feluda@ 50 seeks to explore this phenomenon. What makes Feluda tick? What is it that we love about this man? Why is it that every Feluda film continues to run to packed houses for weeks and months on end in an otherwise struggling Bengali film industry? What is the way forward for the franchise in the years to come ? What role do Feluda’s sidekicks Topshe and Lalmohan- babu play? These are pertinent questions that every ardent fan of Feluda would like answered. The book gives a rare insight into facts that were till now unknown or perhaps not told with such panache.

The book is laced with wonderful anecdotes, and candid interviews of actors who played Feluda on screen and subsequently weaved magic into the tales and sent the audiences into ecstatic mode. Seventy-six-year-old actor Soumitra Chatterjee speaks his heart out and talks about Sonar Kella’s release in 1974, how it subsequently turned into a classic and left the crowd chanting ‘Feluda’. Feluda thus became Bengal’s truly loved icon. As Soumitra began ageing the Feluda mantle was taken up by tall Sabyasachi Chakrabarty, who showed great audacity to walk up to Satyajit Ray and express his desire to play the character. Finally an interesting conversation with Abir Chatterjee, the present Feluda, and the challenges ahead of him to carry forward a rich legacy.

Making a film on Feludu was not an easy task. It required a lot of conviction and patience since in the mid 1990’s no producer in Bengal thought it was worthy to put their money on Feluda. This candid confession comes from none other than ace film-maker Sandip Ray. As a matter of fact Sandip Ray was instrumental in keeping alive, indeed growing, the cult of Feluda with his numerous versions of the ace detective starting with Baksha Rahasya in 1996.

Yet even after the grand success of Baksha Rahasya situation remained the same and the euphoria hardly translated into a Feluda film on the big screen. Yet Sandip did not lose hope and kept Feluda alive on the small screen and saw his hard work being rewarded with a proposal to make 30 part Feluda series on the detective’s 30th anniversary. Things started blossoming when ETV approached Ray for a Feluda film on television. Dr Munshir Diary and later on the commercial success of Bombaiyer Bombete somewhat managed to create a buzz about Feluda. So to become a cult and a successful film it had to overcome various obstacles to reach what it is today.

All in all , the book is a quintessential fan tribute and the celebration of feluda on the occasion of his fiftieth anniversary. And for someone who grew up outside Bengal and Kolkata, going through Feluda @50 has been a mesmeric journey and needless to say Boria comes out and hits a clean six.