Feluda, the razor sharp and witty young detective investigates some very curious cases along with his cousin Tapesh and friend Jatayu through the length and breadth of India.
A recent article about the release of a new Feluda movie brought back happy memories of this childhood series. We know Satyajit Ray as the Oscar winning filmmaker but not many Indians, especially non-Bengalis know that he was also an author par excellence. Fortunately I became familiar with the “Author” Ray through his translated short stories in “Kishor” magazine much before I had watched any of his films. So when one day my local librarian showed me a new book titled “The Golden Fortress” by Satyajit Ray, I immediately lapped it up and since then became a huge fan of Feluda, Topshe and Jatayu.
In 1961 Ray revived children’s magazine “Sandesh” started by his grandfather. He started writing Feluda stories in 1965 and between 1965 and 1992 wrote 35 stories featuring Pradosh C. Mitra, nicknamed “Felu”, a young, athletic and brilliant detective. Feluda (‘da” in Bengali means elder brother) is accompanied in his adventures by his 14 year old cousin Tapesh. Tapesh or “Topshe” as he is fondly called is the young Watson to this modern day Indian Sherlock Holmes and chronicles the mysteries for us. Like all the children who have read these stories, Topshe is in awe of Feluda’s deduction skills and knowledge and Feluda is his idol though Feluda teases him a lot. Feluda is very choosy in his cases and accepts only the ones that intrigue him most. Their cases take them all over India from Sikkim to Rajasthan and Darjeeling to Maharashtra and also to Nepal and England. Many of the stories are set in Feluda’s hometown Calcutta. Ray introduced Lalmohan Ganguli a.k.a. Jatayu, writer of bestselling thrillers whose hero – Prakhar Rudra is nothing short of a superman. In Ray’s own words Jatayu offers “dollops of humour” in the otherwise sombre stories. Jatayu is a fumbling caricature with his misspelt English and love for rhyme-less poetry, who almost always makes wrong deduction, a male version of Ariadne Oliver from Agatha Christie’s Poirot stories. In fact we can see the influence of Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot throughout the series. As Feluda himself says “We have nothing new to do, we just follow the paths of the past masters Holmes and Poirot”.
Ray had to walk on a tightrope as the stories were meant for children. He had to keep the violence to the minimum even in case of murder mysteries and the fair sex is conspicuously absent from almost all the stories. Despite this constraint Feluda became instant hit among children and grown-ups alike due to stimulating plots and twists in climax. All the stories are riveting though some of them are clearly a class apart. My particular favourites are The Emperor’s Ring, Trouble in Gangtok, The Golden Fortress and Tintoretto’s Jesus.
Reading the stories takes us back in time and it’s a pleasing ride worth taking especially in the city of Calcutta due to Ray’s minute attention to details. Reading about the by lanes of Calcutta is reminiscent of Sjowall and Wahloo’s Stockholm during the same period.
Read it to your children or read it for yourself; I am sure you will definitely enjoy it.
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your time.
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