Spreading Feluda fever

Comic Books

Spreading Feluda fever

The result is a new series of Feluda Mysteries comic books, the first two of which hit the stands sometime back. Feluda was a character created by Ray to cater to a readership that could be in the age range of anywhere between teenagers to old people. And the way the stories have been lapped up by generations of people in Bengal and elsewhere is proof of the enduring popularity of the Feluda stories. Readers decade after decade have fallen for the rakish charm of the detective as well as his companion characters — young cousin Topshe and friend Lalmohan Ganguli who writes crime stories with the pen name Jatayu.

The first time people outside the Bengali-speaking world became aware about the character was when Ray made Sonar Kella (The Golden Fort), rated among one of the best children’s films to be made in India. And now, thanks to Guha and Sen Gupta’s effort, Feluda has entered the world of comic books too. Published by Puffin, the children’s book imprint of Penguin, the first two comic books — A Bagful of Mystery and Beware in the Graveyard — are based on the stories Baksho Rohosyo and Gorasthane Sabdhan. These will be followed by three more in the near future — Murder by the Sea, The Killers of Kathmandu and Danger in Darjeeling.

‘Daunting’, ‘nervous’, ‘panic’ are the words bandied about by Sen Gupta and Guha when asked about their first reaction when they were approached to do the comic strip, which first appeared in a Kolkata-based English daily five years ago. But an approval by Ray’s filmmaker son Sandip Ray of their sketches helped cool the nerves. And now that they are out with the first two comic books of the series, the illustrator-artiste duo, which has won quite a few awards jointly for their work, including the White Raven award at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in Italy for three consecutive years, is a bit relaxed.

“It was a mix of delight and panic when the offer to do the series came. Feluda is our favourite detective and we felt very honoured but also got an attack of nerves because this was Satyajit Ray! Fortunately Sandip Ray approved of what we did as sample pages,” recalls Sen Gupta. “I felt pretty nervous in the beginning, but at the same time we were confident as it was going to be our interpretation of Feluda,” says Sen Gupta, even as Guha says that as an artist his first thought was that it should be “clean, uncluttered, colourful storytelling, and not depressing and confusing storytelling.”
Going by the fact that Ray himself had illustrated Feluda’s character to go with his stories, the two devised their own ways to give their own touch to the idea. Guha based his drawings on Ray’s creations but did it in his own style, something he explains such, “Everyone’s style is like handwriting, it is very difficult to change or copy.” Sen Gupta, meanwhile, stuck to what Ray wrote, only occasionally — and very rarely — changing a location to make it visually more interesting. Ray, whose writing is as visually rich as his movies are, made it easier for them, as Sen Gupta found herself quite at home while visualising the frames based on which she developed her script.

Both Sen Gupta and Guha have one common wish though — to see the comic books getting translated to other languages. “It should come out in other languages too. For me, Feluda is regionless, timeless, ageless,” says Guha.

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