Tuesday, June 15

An engaging discussion on sleuths in Bengali cinema

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Feluda has always been meant for kids. That’s why you’ll see that two hardcore criminals pass time by playing ludo. But Byomkesh is a different ballgame altogether. You tend to look at the stories from an ever-changing perspective as you grow up,” said Abir Chatterjee. The modern-day screen Byomkesh was part of the discussion, ‘Why sleuths are a rage in Bengali films’, along with ‘Mitin Mashi’ Koel Mallick and National Award-winning director Sagnik Chatterjee at the Times Kolkata Litfest 2019 on Sunday. And the session, which was moderated by author and publisher Tridib Chatterjee, turned out to be full of interesting moments.

Sagnik, who has made an award-winning docu on Feluda, started the discussion with how Satyajit Ray’s Sonar Kella turned out to be a golden goose for residents of Jaisalmer, where the maestro had shot the film. “The fort now ensures the livelihood of thousands and even now, hordes of Bengali tourists visit the fort. That’s the kind of emotional connect Bengalis have with Feluda,” he said.

When Chatterjee asked Abir about his take on the famous sleuths of Bengal from a cinematic perspective, the actor said he would rather comment as a fan rather than an actor who has played both the characters. “If I read Byomkesh now, I’ll look at it differently from how I did maybe 10 years ago. That’s the beauty of the writing and the character,” he said, adding that most Bengalis have grown up wanting to be like Feluda or Byomkesh Bakshi, or at least Topshe or Ajit.

The discussion weaved in and out of how the two sleuths are ingrained in the Bengali psyche till it veered towards the first woman sleuth of Bengali literature and cinema, Mitin Mashi. Koel, who had been silently nodding in agreement with Abir or Sagnik till then, made a pertinent point at the very outset: “Why is a woman detective so different? She’s intelligent like her male counterparts, has similar deductive abilities. So what makes her different? Just because she’s a woman?” Then she went on say how she drew inspiration from the women of her family, who juggled multiple roles with élan. She, however, drew a sly grin from Abir when she tried to explain how the knowledge of martial arts empowers a woman to beat a man of any size. “Tumi hashcho keno?” she asked Abir with a smile before continuing with the discussion.

Finally, Chatterjee asked a question that caught everyone on the back foot. “Is a relationship like that of Byomkesh, Satyabati and Ajit actually possible?” While Sagnik said maybe Sharadindu Bandopadhyay would be in a better position to answer that, Abir said it was actually discussed on the sets of Abar Byomkesh. “Ushashie (Chakraborty, who played Satyabati) would often say that she loves Ajit (Saswata Chatterjee) more,” he said with a smile, adding that if one looks closely, a majority of Satyabati’s requests are actually catered to by Ajit, as the Satyanweshi is always out in search of the truth.

During the Q&A session in the end, Koel responded enthusiastically to a question posed by an audience member: “Can’t there be gender swapping in Bengali detective films like it’s done in the West?” The actress deemed it an interesting proposition. On being asked if he’d like to play James Bond, Abir said no since 007 has a deep British connect just like Byomkesh or Feluda have a Bengali connect.


Source: Times of India

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