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-isms” that 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).