Saturday, April 6, 2013

Blogging from A-Z: F for Feluda

F for Feluda

A Sketch of Feluda, Topshe and Jatayu by me

This evening when I scanned the horizon to discover ideas about today’s blog post, several prompts beginning with the sixth letter of the English alphabetical series came to my mind: F for Friendship, F for Fantasy, F for Frustration, F for Family, F for Future, etc. All seemed quite judicious at the moment, I told myself I could very well pick one among the several magic-props and start scripting my ideas; and just when I was wavering between F for Family and F for Future, a door to my past opened with unusual vim and there, under the hallowed portals of days bygone, I found the very topic of the day: F for Feluda. Among the olla podrida of yesteryears’ images, among the grime and slime, among good and bad memories, were my Feluda, the hero if my youth, my first love.

As I sat in my chair on the pile of unacknowledged ideas, which looked at me goggle-eyed like those leftover congregation of Thanksgiving turkeys after one in the group had been selected to be pardoned, I saw my meta-voice upon hearing Feluda’s name performed a terpsichorean feat. I smiled and headed for my laptop.

Feluda, the astute private detective from Kolkata is an immortal fictional creation of the flamboyant genius Satyajit Ray. Ray, known to the world as an auteur who directed such gems of Indian cinema as the Apu Triology and Pather Panchali, was a brilliant writer as well, who concentrated mostly on literature for children and young adults, and Feluda was his unequivocal master-creation. Prodosh Mitra of 21 Rajani Sen Road, Kolkata -700029, is best known to the world by his informal sobriquet, Feluda. He along with his cousin, his “satellite” or his assistant, Topshe (Topesh Ranjan Mitra), and his friend, mystery-thriller writer, Jatayu (Lal Mohan Ganguly), partook of innumerable baffling criminal cases. Feluda emulated the great detective Sherlock Holmes and applied a method of detection and deduction for his own cases similar to Holmes’. An astute observer, Feluda was armed with a “magajastro” –his impeccable weapon of a brain capable of plunging into the convoluted sinews of a criminal’s mind and extracts his secrets, and a Colt revolver. Feluda’s first adventure was “Feluda-r Gyoendagiri” (English title “Danger in Dargeeling”) which was followed by such gripping escapades as Badshahi Ankti (The Emperor’s Ring), Sonar Kella (The Golden Fortress), Joy Baba Felunath (The Mystery of the Elephant God), etc. Each of the innumerable stories that I read as a child struck me as masterpieces, but the best among them was “Sonar Kella” or “The Golden Fortress”. It was a novel chronicling the adventures of Feluda in deciphering a labyrinthine mystery that involved a child who was able to recall his past and became a target of two dangerous crooks after mentioning the presence in his previous life of precious jewels in a golden fortress.

What was most intriguing about the Feluda mysteries was their setting. In his professional capacity Feluda had travelled far and wide, and his stories, which also read like fabulous travelogues, inspired many young readers in Bengal to become travel enthusiasts. I remember how after reading “Sonar Kella” I threw a fit until my dad agreed to take me to Jaisalmer, Rajasthan which houses the eponymous fortress. The Golden Fort in Jaisalmer is probably the only fortress in India made famous by a novel and a subsequent cinematic production (“Sonar Kella” was made into a movie by Satyajit Ray). The aureate aura of this flavicomous structure made of yellow sandstone draws innumerable Feluda enthusiasts every year, who come here to see the various places inside the fortress where Ray did his shooting for the cinematic adaptation of his famous novel. Those sights are a ticket to the gilded dream land of fictional-upliftment and imagination for many of Feluda’s young and old fans. When I revisited the place last year it proved to be equally exhilarating for me like it had been back in 2001 when I saw the fort for the first time.

As a kid my sister and I took it upon ourselves, ardent fans that we were of Feluda, to travel all the places Feluda visited. I am happy to say that we both have overtime managed to cover ninety percent of those travel-locations: London and Hong Kong and a few places in India are left. It was Feluda who made us love travelling, and even now, whenever I travel to a location haunted by Feluda in one of his fictional journeys, I cannot help but be elated.

 My love for Feluda has kept the adventure-loving child alive in me. It is to Feluda and his gripping-adventures that I turn to when on certain sleepless nights I feel the grown-up world’s weight tiring me.

 I know it is difficult to keep the child alive in you among the din and cry the world, but by not decathecting from my favorite childhood reads, I have been able to do it; and I say this without an iota of abashment that come what may, I am never going to do otherwise. Feluda and I are united, and even if age with all its majesty and intuitiveness demands a jettisoning of the leftover streak of youth, I propose to curl back in my youthful corner and enjoy an escapade with Feluda and display a stuck out tongue at the grimacing face of the demanding world eternally wanting me to grow-up.

The Feluda Song :