Filmmaker Barnali Ray Shukla recounts her memories of Satyajit Ray’s immortal creation ‘Feluda’ and getting to be part of Feluda — 50 Years Of Ray’s Detective, a filmic tribute to the fictional character!
When you find a stranger reading a book which you hold really special, you are not strangers anymore. Watching films in a movie theatre comes closest to that, each time. A surrender by choice, to an adopted reality, captive with numerous strangers.
All this in a darkened theatre. And sometimes we take a character home. Feluda is that someone.
The dapper, quintessential sleuth who doesn’t give up and doesn’t give in. Most of us have been that in our heads, in a certain stage of our life. Some still continue to be. He is a seeker, stands up for the underdog, his wit is so distilled that you may seem new to yourself if you are not in the moment.
Well-informed in the pre-internet era and his laid-back dynamism the prescribed combination of brain and brawn. A confidante, what we miss most perhaps. And that’s why we hope to run into them, in real life. Something to be noted here, his stories never had the presence of women. Not a single story and now that I tell you this, when you watch the films or read the stories, you wouldn’t even notice. A choice I’m told, made by the Ray himself.
If only I could ask him over a cup of Darjeeling, maybe in afterlife.
I’m sure I speak for most of our generation, the ones fortunate enough to be growing up on Ray’s work. Then Gen-neXt and Gen-whY happened. The secret is, Feluda remained just as he was, only more topical and current with each passing year. Then, we got busy with our lives. However, at times between chai and adda, begunis and phish-fry, black coffee and plum cake, the Bengali evoked Feluda as much as Neruda. I certainly hope that spilled over to the diaspora which waited to know more about home.
The evocation, a little romanticized, perhaps Holmes and Spiderman were far across the Atlantic.
We firefight through our day, most confide in Facebook, hide in public on twitter, instagram moments and blog sometimes and choose to forget that we once had friends.
Few of them lived in books and a handful, in the movies.
Two years back, while I stared at the phone for the elusive call which changes lives, it rang. Not with a promise of a film or a cheque but a call from Mr Sandip Ray’s ex-associate.
I was most surprised, pleasantly so, when Mr Sagnik Chatterjee, erstwhile assistant director to Mr Sandip Ray, announced that he was working on a feature-length documentary on Feluda and that I would be part of it. I wanted to believe him but drove away the thoughts as one of Sagnik’s friendly capers.
However, a month later, I received a parcel from Mr Ray’s office with trivia and details on Feluda. The memorabilia priceless!
A personal note said that I would represent the Probashi Bengali, the Bengali who is away from Bengal and tastes her home with films, literature, aromas, fabrics. I’m keen to watch the film when it finds its way into theatres here in our city.
Feluda has a life of his own, a life that even the auteur would have liked to see. I wish to believe that the master is watching over three generations of films and actors who have essayed the role of Feluda, who are all on board this documentary.
Right from the illustrious Soumitra Chatterjee to the current favourite, Abir Chatterjee.
This documentary, Feluda—50 Years Of Ray’s Detective, has just begun the round of festival circuit. It premieres in the US at the New York Indian Film Festival 2017 on May 2, which happens to be Mr Satyajit Ray’s birthday.
By Barnali Ray Shukla