Welcome! – স্বাগতম

Thanks for stopping by. Here at Feluda.net we will discuss the original books and films, as well as spin-offs of Satyajit Ray’s inimitable creations. We hope you will find this website useful and that you decide to join us in our ongoing discussions!

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Gorosthane Sabdhan- a short review (গোরস্থানে সাবধান)

I have been holding off on commenting on Sandip Ray’s cinematic adaptation of Satyajit Ray’s Gorosthaney Shabdhan! for a over a month now. I first read the book fifteen years ago. It was one of the first novellas I read again after I started the Feluda fansite. In an earlier post I commented on the difficulty in transferring the book to a modern setting many months before the film was released. I also conveyed my concern with the danger that Sidhu Jyatha would become redundant in the age of search engines. Having seen the film I can say that my fears were not completely unfounded. The inclusion of Sidhu Jyatha in the film is strictly by the force of habit (and Feluda awkwardly mentions it too).

While I enjoyed Sandip Ray’s last adaptation Tintorettor Jishu (and I wrote a praiseworthy review of that film), I cannot say the same for Gorosthaney Shabdhan! I am fine with Sandip Ray changing the whodunit format of the story to an action thriller – something that he has done with his last few endeavors as well.  But I found the film quite  insipid.

When I first read Gorosthaney Shabdhan! what fascinated me more than the actual act of detection were the tidbits of information regarding Kolkata. These are completely lacking in the film which unfortunately has failed to coherently convey a sense of place.

In addition, the transition to the age of the internet is at best an uneasy one. I will provide one example of errors which stick out due to the change, but I am sure there are many others. A clue in the novel is the small scrap of paper which one of the characters, Naren Biswas had when disaster struck at the Park Street Cemetery.  The letters written on the scrap of paper were  “MN, OU, GAA, SJ, WN.” This signified the initials of British publishers. When Satyajit Ray wrote the letters decades ago he made a minor error with GAA – which should have been GAU because the name of the publisher was George Allan Unwin (not Anwin as Satyajit Ray implied). In 1985 the publishing house became Allen & Unwin – an Australian-based publisher.  By making the cinematic version modern without updating  the name, location, or even rectifying the error the film, is anachronistic.

I would still be able to get past these shortcomings had the film been paced properly. In my opinion, it is lethargic and slowly stumbles along to an unfulfilling end. There are entire episodes in the film which I found boring despite having savored the book only a few months earlier. Take for example the scene when Feluda, Topshe, and Jatayu meet the elder Godwin. Tinnu Anand is miscast in the role  and he sucks the oxygen out of the screen for the duration. Lalmohan Ganguly (Jatayu) is absolutely humorless. There isn’t a single line of dialogue spoken by him which made me even smile, even when there are quite a few Jotuyu-ismsthat make me laugh out loud in the actual novella.

I waited for Gorosthaney Shabdhan! to come out for the big-screen for over a year. I am very sorry to say that it thoroughly disappointed me.

(Please post your opinion of the film in the comments section, especially if you disagree. Please please also keep your comments civil).

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Gorosthane Shabdhan – the graves of Park Street Cemetery

In a post I wrote over a year ago, I introduced readers to many aspects of Victorian Calcutta, a major “character” in Gorosthaney Sabdhan! In the interim, Sandip Ray’s film based on the novella has been released. I thought it might be a good time to expand on the early history of the Calcutta with respect to Satyajit Ray’s original work.

There is a very wide body of work available for modern sleuths who wish to visit the Park Street Cemetery to see some of the old gravestones. Three books I recommend which are available online are Thacker’s Guide to Calcutta (published in 1906), The Thackerays in India and some Calcutta Graves (written by the historian Sir William Wilson Hunter in 1897), and perhaps the most definitive book on early Calcutta ever written, Calcutta: Old and New, a historical and descriptive history of the city, a 1100 page guide written by Sir Evan Cotton and published in 1906. 

Sir Cotton’s book lists all the major roads of early Calcutta along with the names. I plan to cover them in a future article. He also mentions all the marble cenotaphs in St. John’s Cathedral on Park Street. Sir Cotton has provided as much biographical information on all of the listed dead in the North Park Street and South Park Street Graveyards. My goal in this post is not to go into too much detail into the graves of Calcutta, but to provide an introduction to a few tombstones, many of which are mentioned in Gorosthaney Sabdhan!

A few of the notable dead inhabitants of the South Park Street Cemetery are two Chief Justices of the Supreme Court—Sir Richard Henry Blosset (1823), and Sir Christopher Puller (1824) Bishop Truner (1831), the fourth Bishop of Calcutta; Charlotte Bercher (1759). Richard Thackeray, the father of the famous English novelist, William Makepeace Thackeray is also buried in the old graveyard; indeed the younger Thackeray was born in Calcutta. A very large number of the early inhabitants of Calcutta passed away and are interred in the graveyard. In fact, in of the early years after the founding of Calcutta, nearly one third of the population of English colonists passed away in the swampland.

Of course the most impressive structure is the mausoleum of Job Charnock, the founder of the city itself. The Charnock Mausoleum was erected in 1695 over the grave of the founder of Calcutta by his son-in-law Sir Charles Eyre. Of Charnock’s mausoleum, Sir Cotton writes:

There can be no doubt, that whoever else may afterwards have been interred within the great tomb, the body of Charnock must have occupied the central position and still rests there. Excavations made in 1892 as the result of the state of disrepair into which the Mausoleum had fallen, disclosed human remains in the centre of the floor, lying east by west: and had the work been persisted in, there is every likelihood the mortal part of the Father of Calcutta would have been discovered. There are four black stone slabs now within the tomb. The two in the centre commemorate Charnock and his daughters, Mary Eyre and Catherine White, whose husband Jonathan’s stone lies among those which encircle the base of the Mausoleum outside. Flanking them on the right is a slab in memory of Mrs. Maria Eyles, and on the left is the well-known tablet which recalls the name of Surgeon William Hamilton.

There is also a mention of theLatin  inscription in Gorosthaney Sabdhan! of which Feluda explains the meaning to Lalmohan Ganguly (aka Jatayu) and Topshe:

D. O. M. Jobus Charnock Armigcr Anglus et nuper in hoc regno Bengalensi dignissimus, Anglorum Agens mortalitatis suae exuvias sub hoc marmore deposuit, ut in spe beatae resurrectionis ad Christi judicis adventum obdormirent.

If Job Charnock was the unhappy founder of Calcutta, then Surgeon William Hamilton, whose body was laid to rest next to him, was one of the early employees of the East India Company who cemented the rule of the British. As Sir Cotton notes:

[Surgeon Hamilton] was appointed to accompany Surman’s Embassy to Delhi in January, 1714: and it was during his stay in the capital that he cured the Emperor Ferokh Shah in November, 1715. In consequence, so runs the tradition, the prayers of the English were granted. The purchases of the three villages of Govindpore, Suttanuttee and Calcutta, was confirmed : permission was given to acquire Zemindari rights over the neighbouring villages: and the privileges of free trade and a free use of the Mini were accorded.

Had Hamilton failed to properly treat the Mughal emperor, the city of Calcutta might never have been founded and the history of the subcontinent would have been different.

The most striking monument might be what looks like a Hindu temple. It is erected over the remains of Major-General Charles Stuart, known as  ” Hindu Stuart” for his acceptance of Hindu customs.Hindu Stuart built a temple at Sagar In 1828, he died at his home in Wood Street and was buried in the South Park Street Cemetery.

Finally, most readers will be familiar with the persona of Henry Louis Vivian Derozio who died in 1831 at the age of 22! His body is laid to rest in a quiet corner of the South Park Street Cemetery.

Two hundred years ago Park Street was the most sophisticated area of European Calcutta. Today it maintains some of the status and of the early history is buried in the plots adjacent the hustle and bustle of Kolkata.


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Apsara Theatrer Mamla: Feluda’s weakest mystery? অপ্সরা থিয়েটারের মামলা

Reading Satyajit Ray’s Feluda stories and novels has provided me with some very enjoyable experiences. There are some stories, novelettes, and novels that rank up with the “best of the best” in mystery fiction. Take for example, Royal Bengal Rahashyo which deftly combines a unique plot with believable characters and a fantastic setting. However, it would serve no purpose to only point out the truly magnificent. It serves us well to also consider the lesser Feluda stories which scarcely bear the imprimatur of the maestro.

Apsara theaterer mamla would be a decent short story from most other Bengali writers. Because it was written by one of modern India’s greatest visionaries, it is mediocre. In my opinion, it lacks the finesse in plot, character development, and setting that we expect. But first a brief outline of the story.

In Apsara theaterer mamla, a stage actor working at the Apsara Theatre approaches Feluda because he has been getting anonymous threat-letters. A few days later, the actor vanishes without a trace. The trio investigate, but do not come across any major leads. They suspect that the actor has been murdered. Three months later while visiting the beach-resort town, Digha, the trio discover that another actor from the same theatre has been killed, only now they are dealing with the actor who played the main roles for the theatre. Feluda is injured in Digha, and consequently he requests Lalmohan babu and Topshe interview members of Apsara Theatre on his behalf. Among the interviewed is the new bearded actor who has come to replace the dead lead actor. (Yes, I know what you’re thinking). In the final act, Feluda reveals the whole “mystery”. The first actor had disappeared only to return and murder the lead so that he could take the latter’s role. The only character in the story with a clear motive commits the crime.

Why would the criminal come to Feluda? Obviously to set the stage for his disappearance.

The plot disappointed me. Because there are very few suspects, the reader’s suspicion immediately falls on the obvious one and suspicion is slowly verified as the story progresses.

But that is not my main gripe with the story. Does every major detective have to come face to face with a character who is considered dead, but who leads a double-life? I mean Sherlock Holmes came across a variation of this sort of ordeal in The Case of the Man With the Twisted Lip. Byomkesh Bakshi proved his mettle in overcoming a double-role adversary in Adwitiyo.

In my opinion, the difference is that both Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay leave us with memorable sketches of the perpetrators of the double-life in their stories: in Apsara Theaterer Mamla, Ray does not. The story trudges along from drawing room to theatre to thana with very little in the way of incidental conversation or descriptive scenery. In fact, not even Feluda, Topshe and Lalmohan babu seem to be themselves in the story. Lalmohan babu does not entertain us, Feluda does not instruct us, and Topshe does not keep us engaged with his lively prose.

This is quite surprising, since most Feluda stories stand out, in part, due to the memorable characters. Ray was also a master at vividly describing places. Apsara Theaterer Mamla, however, is almost wholly unadorned narrative.  Satyajit Ray wrote some true masterpieces which I will always remember. Apsara Theatrer mamla is not one of them.

So, which of the Feluda stories do you think has the weakest mystery?

©2010-2012 Feluda.net. All rights reserved.

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Sidhujyatha.com – the dangers of modernizing Feluda’s world

In an earlier review of how Sandip Ray’s cinematic version of Tintorettor Jishu stacks up against the book, I pointed out the extensive  makeover that Feluda has undergone since the Seventies. In Sandip Ray’s Feluda films, Lalmohan Ganguly’s green Ambassador has given way to a green Hyundai Santro. Characters move about in the present day. As Sandip Ray mentioned in an interview with the Telegraph taken during the shooting of Tintorettor Jishu, even though Feluda himself does not use a cell-phone, others around him do. I think this transition to modernity is a very bold move.

Sandip Ray has made clear his desire to make a film based on Gorosthane Shabdhan! in modern Kolkata. As I review in my commentary of this book, in the middle of the adventure, Feluda is entrusted with finding out exactly what a Perigal Repeater is. As customary in many of the Feluda stories, he seeks information from Sidhu Jyatha. In this case, Sidhu Jyatha cannot help him out because he doesn’t know the answer to his question. Feluda, Topshe, Jotayu, and the readers have to find out the hard way and it is an enriching experience!

The use of Sidhu Jyatha as a reliable compendium of information works brilliantly in a world that predates the internet. Sidhu Jyatha becomes anachronistic and redundant in today’s world – the world of internet search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo. In my opinion, this is the primary danger that Sandip Ray faces in completely updating the series. It took me under five minutes to find out what a Perigal Repeater was from Google. Do we want Feluda to live in a world where antiquated books can be accessed through Google Books and up-to-date maps through Google Maps thereby making travel through time and space essentially an armchair feat?

What would be the role of Sidhu Jyatha as a  purveyor of rare information? Would he be asked to peer through well-worn volumes of newspapers clippings or would Feluda do a search for articles by year on Google News instead?

Sidhujyatha.com!

Of course, in a world filled with “crowd-sourcing”,  Sidhu Jyatha might be a contemporary equivalent of Yahoo Answers or Ask.com (formerly better known as “Ask Jeeves” and named after the fictional valet of Bertie Wooster from P.G. Wodehouse’s works). Sidhu Jyatha could provide expert insight along with opinion through his website Sidhujyatha.com.

Still, one cannot help but be anguished by the role that Sidhu Jyatha would play brushing shoulders against members of Generation X and Y who tread easily on the information superhighway.

©2010-2012 Feluda.net. All rights reserved.

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Feluda – where are the women? ফেলুদা সিরিজে নারীচরিত্র কোথায়?

I was reading some of the old Sherlock Holmes stories after a long time. As you may know Irene Adler from Scandal in Bohemia was the woman in Sherlock’s life.

I’ve been thinking about this for a while. Who was the woman in Feluda’s life? Did he never fall in love? Or was he completely obsessed with his profession?

One explanation is that even if he did have a girlfriend or fiancee, he hid it very well from Topshe. Or maybe Topshe was forbidden from writing about personal matters? In fact that there were cases that Feluda worked on that were too violent or racy for Topshe (as Satyajit Ray mentions in Noyon Rahasya).

This brings me to a second point. There are a lot of female fans of the sleuth in the real world but there are very few female characters in Feluda’s world. A very-well researched post in Calcutta Chromosome confirms and expands on the topic of female characters (or lack thereof) in Feluda’s world.

I highly recommend that you read the piece. This complements Lila Mazumdar’s spot-on observation on the dearth of major roles for any of the relatives of Feluda and Topshe in the series.

Until next time, keep reading.

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Feluda Quiz 6 – Gorosthane Shabdhan! (গোরস্থানে সাবধান!)

This is the sixth part of a series of trivia quizzes on Feluda films and stories.  If you’ve read the book, Gorosthane Shabdhan!, you should be able to answer most of the questions in this quiz.

Questions:

1. What were the two news-items covered in the newspaper cuttings that were found in the wallet at the Park Street Cemetery?

2. Okay, this one should be quite easy for hardcore fans. What type and color car did Lalmohan Ganguly (Jotayu) buy? What the original tune of his car’s horn that annoyed Feluda?

3. What is a Perigal Repeater? Why was Thomas given a Repeater by the Nawab of Lucknow?

4. Complete the name on the gravestone. “Sacred to the Memory of Thomas God________”

5. Naren Biswas’ wallet had a piece of paper with the letters “MN, OU, GAA, SJ, WN.” What do these abbreviations signify?

6. Why did Jotayu keep saying “hell” when the trio were crossing Chowringhee?

7. How was Charlotte related to Thomas?

8. What was the name of Feluda’s classmate mentioned in this story?

9. What is the name of the company that provided the photograph of Calcutta taken in 1880 from the top of the Ochterlony  Monument ?

10. What is Lalmohan Ganguly’s driver’s full name?

Answers:

1. There were two newspaper cuttings: one mentioned the opening of the South Park Street Cemetery and the other had news of the Ochterlony Monument (Shahid Minar) being built.

2. Jotayu bought a green Mark II Ambassador. The thought the color green was very “soothing.” There was a Saregama tune on the horn that Feluda found quite annoying.

3. It is an antique British watch made by Francis Perigal. Thomas was given the watch for his excellent culinary skills.

4. “Sacred to the Memory of Thomas Godwin”

5. Publishing houses viz.  Macmillan, Oxford University, George Allen and Unwin (minor mistake here as it is Unwin not Anwin), Sidgwick & JacksonWeidenfeld & Nicolson

6. The Kolkata Metro Rail was under construction and Jotayu called it “hell-rail” as a direct translation of Metro Rail, “Paataal-rail” (পাতালরেল). Paataal means hell in Bengali.

7. She was his daughter.

8. Suhrid Sengupta

9.  Bourne & Shepherd

10. Haripada Datta

©2010-2012 Feluda.net. All rights reserved.

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Feluda Quiz 5 – Chinnamastar Abhishaap (ছিন্নমস্তার অভিশাপ)

This is the fifth part of a series of trivia quizzes on Feluda films and stories.  If you’ve read the book, Chinnamastar Abhishaap, you should be able to answer most of the questions in this quiz.

Questions:

1. At the start of the story, readers learn that Lalmohan Ganguly (better known as Jotayu) had huge success with his last novel, Vancouvere Vampire. Why was he reading a book on the history of Bengalis in the circus on the way to Hazaribag?

2. What was the name of Mr. Kutty’s circus?

3. Which Bengali figure was Birendra Choudhury idolizing when he left home at the age of nineteen?

4. According to Mahesh Choudhury and his granddaughter’s code what did “RKAHA” mean?

5. Mahesh Choudhury had a collection of stamps and rocks. What also did he collect as a hobby?

6. What was Jotayu’s answer to why he thought a balloon was a living thing in the sky? According to Jotayu, what is a “bengur” (বেঙুর)?

7. Whose photograph did Mahesh Choudhury point out to Feluda with two fingers shortly before passing away?

8. Where was the actual proof that Arunendra Choudhury did not get along with his father? (Hint: Mahesh Choudhury was carrying it at Rajrappa)

9. Who was Sultan?

10. What is Indovision?

Chinnamasta Temple at Rajrappa, Jharkhand

Answers:

1. Jotayu was planning to have a trapeze-act play a central role in his next novel.  In the middle of a trapeze-act, one trapeze-artist was going to murder another one by means of a lethal injection. Jotayu planned to have hero, Prakhar Rudra, learn how to swing on the trapeze to solve the crime.

2. “Great Majestic”

3. The Bengali adventurer, Colonel Suresh Biswas.

4. The letters in this order sound like the question “aar ke aayeche?” (আর কে এয়েচে?) in Bengali which means “who else has come?”

5. Butterflies

6. Living things require oxygen and balloons are filled with oxygen! Earlier he yelled “bengur” (বেঙুর) a mix of bang (frog), hangor (shark) and balloon – ব্যাঙ, হাঙর, বেলুন

7. Swami Muktananda (who has the power of three continents behind him).

8. The conversation that was recorded on a cassette in the tape-recorder Mahesh Choudhury was carrying just before his heart attack.

9.  Sultan was the tiger that escaped from the Great Majestic Circus.  Chandran was injured trying to capture it and Tosphe, Haripada, and Lalmohan babu saw it later. Kandarikar (who had trained it) was successful in capturing it.

10. A new brand of television that Mahesh Choudhury’s youngest son, Preeteendra claimed to be from his electronics company.

©2010-2012 Feluda.net. All rights reserved. (Image of temple was created by a department of the Govt. of India and may be used freely without license)

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