Unique documentary on a fictional character

Unique documentary on a fictional character

This one’s a whodunit that will gather all the clues to find out why and how things work for Pradosh C Mitter. Better known as “Feluda” to millions of people, young and old alike, he continues to enthral readers with the many books and two films made by his creator Satyajit Ray.

While Satyajit’s son Sandip made a number of “Feluda” films, based on books written by Ray Senior, narrating the adventures of the iconic Bengali detective — his matter-of-fact business card says “Private Investigator” — this is probably the first time in India that a documentary is being made on a fictional character.

Much has been said about Ray, the auteur, with a Bharat Ratna, a “lifetime achievement” Oscar and a Legion d’ Honour from the French government standing testimony to his abilities and acceptance in India and abroad. Sagnik Chatterjee, a city-based young filmmaker, wants the world to know more about Ray in his author and illustrator avatars.

Feluda’s journey began in 1965 with a simple, yet gripping novella based in at Darjeeling where he traced the perpetrator just by taking in remnants of an aroma good cigars leave behind. Since then, he has travelled across India to solve cases, making friends and enemies on the way. On rare occasions, he even travelled abroad, as cases took him to Kathmandu, Hong Kong and even London.

Now that Feluda is available in a number of Indian languages, including Hindi, Odiya, Malayalam, Marathi and Gujarati, besides English, French, Italian, Swed­ish, German and Japanese, it is only natural that Ray’s films on Feluda, along with the latter ones made by Sandip, also draw interest. Sagnik, a Rayphile and Feluda enthusiast, points out that if a Feluda film takes between Rs 1 crore and Rs 1.5 crore to make these days, the film recovers the amount, within three days of opening in cinema halls.

But is Feluda known to people outside Bengal? Sagnik is confident he is not taking in uncharted waters. The film is being produced by Kalash Entertainment of Richard Peters, which was associated with the Hindi dubbed version of Ang Lee’s Life of Pi. Sagnik first met the Gujarati as a fellow student, while pursuing a degree in mass communication from Symbiosis in Pune.

“Richard spent most of his growing up years in western India. When I approa­ched him with the proposal for the film, he enquired with his friends, who are mostly non-Bengalis. Convinced that the film has potential, he agreed to produce it,” said Sagnik, who runs his own production house, Sound Motion Entertainment. Affirmation also came in the form of interest in the books and films on Feluda Sagnik noticed in others while at Pune and later in Mumbai.

“Most of my classmates were non-Bengalis, yet they knew about Feluda either through Ray’s films or through translations,” he said. He agreed that Feluda’s sole appearance on national TV, where Shashi Kapoor played the detective, helped reach a larger audience.

The story chosen for this outing was The Kathmandu Caper, or Kissa Kathmandu Ka, the title for the mini-series, with Hindi actors Alankar playing Feluda’s cousin and sidekick Topshey and Mohan Agashe playing the inimitable Lalmohan Ganguly, close friend and crime thriller author, who writes under the pseudonym, Jatayu.

Even BBC recently aired radio play series on Feluda, starring voices of actors Rahul Bose and Anupam Kher as Feluda and Jatayu, respectively.

After spending long summer afterno­o­n­s with the detective and his many expl­o­i­ts, like millions of Feluda fans, Sagnik came to the conclusion that a document­ary on the fictional character is unavoida­ble.

“While planning the documentary, I didn’t think it would be India’s first but my idea is to demystify this phenomenon. It’ will be 50 years in 2015. What makes Feluda so popular? I would like to know and I’m sure so would be his fans,” Sagnik said.

The 90-minute documentary in English, tentatively titled ‘Feluda: A Sleuth’s Story’ is slated to have release across India in 2015 to mark the detective’s 50th anniversary. Before its release in India, the film will participate in competitive sections of various film festivals in Europe, the US and elsewhere and hopefully, will win accolades. Sagnik, who has earlier worked with filmmakers Govind Nihalani and Sandip Ray, acknowledged the latter’s support in his project.

“He (Sandip) has helped me with not only valuable insight but also as a leading member of the Ray Society. He has given me complete access to rare archival matter related to Ray and his works,” Sagnik said. The film is not only an attempt to deconstruct the phenomenon of Feluda but also to explore the character for a whole new generation of cine-goers and readers. The film, which will feature a number of interviews, will have Sandip talking on Feluda not just as a creation of his father but also as the maker of new age Feluda films.

The docu-film will also show why and how Feluda came into being, along with influences such as Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie, besides how illustrations in Feluda books are influenced by Ray’s days as a fine arts student in Santiniketan. “It is a film that travels through the life and times of Feluda.

The viewer will become a character and move with the film,” Sagnik said.

Besides being thrillers, Feluda’s adventures are also travelogues and the docu-film will travel to places like Jaisalmer, Shimla and Benaras, along with cities like London and Hong Kong, where the sleuth went. The film will also visit Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Pune to interact with Feluda fans. “We have been able to get together interviews of people from across India, who have read and loved Feluda in their respective mother-ton­g­ue. It’s a unique vision of India,” the young filmmaker added.

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