Wednesday, May 15, 2013


 Sometime in mid-eighties Doordarshan used to telecast an intriguing detective series called Satyajit Ray Presents, though I myself could watch them only during later part of that decade when they were repeated. It had a haunting title music with the sound of a ticking clock making its main theme well followed-up by equally ominous background score.

I don't have much memory of the most of the episodes, but I do remember a longish story which was shown over many episodes called Kissa Kathmandu Ka. It featured Shashi Kapoor, Utpal Dutt, Mohan Agashe and Alankar Joshi (Pallavi Joshi's brother and previously known as Master Alankar) as the main leads and the adventure, as the name suggests was set in picturesque Kathmandu with a climax around the famous Pashupati Nath temple.

I quite liked the series - not just for the story and but also thrill element it brought due to its settings. They reminded me of the taut settings of Vijay Anand movies. At that time, I just assumed that they must have been episodes directed by great Satyajit Ray and that was that.

It was much later that I came to know that they were based on a famous character (and detective series) created by Satyajit Ray himself called Feluda aka Prodosh Chandra Mitra aka Pradosh C. Mitter. By Ray's own admission, the series was inspired by Sherlock Holmes of which Ray was a huge fan himself.This series' Watson and Feluda's trusted lieutenant is his intelligent teenaged cousin Tapesh Ranjan Mitra aka Topshe. He is also the delightful voice of narrative which brings the child back out of you while reading.

The story would get published every year in one of these magazine edited by Ray - Sandesh, Sharadiya Sandesh, or Sharadiya Desh from 1965 to 1995. The intended target audience was supposed to be children but its popularity swept across the generations and was eagerly awaited by people from all ages. But since they were written in Bangla, rest of India missed out the treat. Even the movies based on these stories, directed by Satyajit Ray and his son Sandip Ray, were in Bengali. The only non-Bangla movie based on Feluda was Kissa Kathmandu Ka (based on Joto Kando Kathmandutey and directed by Sandip Ray).

However, as they say - all days never remain same, the lady luck has smiled on non-bengali fans of detective fiction. Penguin India has started publishing the English translations of these books. They come in two volumes : The Complete Adventures of Feluda Vol. 1 & Vol.2 . What more, there are comic series as well under the collection Feluda Mysteries. Likewise there are Marathi translations as well.

While I was already a fan of Ray through his only Hindi movie Shataranj Ke Khiladi, but after going through these Feluda mysteries, I have become even greater fan of this genius personality. Not only these books are first rate adventure books, these also show us the knowledge in general this writer possessed. Almost each of his stories are based in a different city yet he captures the ethos, essence of each of them beautifully in the story. In fact, the place itself becomes an important character in itself - where its locations play valuable role as the story progresses. Reader is literally transformed to these places through his description and imagery.

One thing where I could relate with him was his love for trivia. Some interesting information would be thrown at the curious reader somewhere in the beginning of the story to chew upon and later it would play an important part in solving the mystery.

However, for a series to be successful, more than plots, it is the characters who should appeal more to the readers. The most endearing feature of this series is the delightful bond of love and respect which the two cousins possess making them appear friendly real life folks. This ensured a cult following. This is the reason these books are liked by all class and age of people.