An Obituary For Beloved Feluda

By Sandeep Chatterjee, Curator, Ctrl Alt Cinema

Satyajit Ray

“Why can’t I connect to Feluda anymore” is a question that has been nagging me for quite sometime now.

I still remember how my brother and me used to eagerly wait for the newspaperman to deliver “Anandamela” or “ Sandesh” (2 popular Bengali literary magazines for children in 70’s & 80’s) where the Feluda stories used to appear as a series every month during the years when we grew up in Kolkata.

The urge or need to connect to Feluda has slowly melted into a distant past and I can only connect to him through the lens of nostalgia.

Is it simply due to the fact that I have out grown Feluda as I grew up in age or is it because there is something in today’s scenario that desists me from revisiting or reconnecting to Feluda.

A little digging into the past unearths some reasons for this disconnect.

As I pass out of the film school in 1991, I had to struggle with this image on television of an ailing Satyajit Ray holding on to the Oscar that he had won and being sentimental about this award.

For us Feluda emerged from that towering persona of Satyajit Ray. Feluda is an extension of Satyajit Ray. Somehow I could not accept his sentimentalizing the Oscar, and that was the first instance of disconnect. Me and Feluda started gradually drifting apart.

In years after the passing away of Satyajit Ray, every now and then, came a version of Feluda on cinema or television. It is a sordid story of gradual decay. Each of these banal adaptations fossilized Feluda with its mundane representation. As we entered the new millennium, Feluda and I couldn’t connect anymore. Feluda had become a commodity.

Feluda was dead.

This was in a way like not being able to connect to my childhood and had a tragic dimension.

So, now that the last rites of Feluda are done, as an obituary note, let me try and delineate why Feluda was of some value to us.

He was a representation of the idea of the ‘modern’ that trickled down from the first half of 20th century and existed in middle class Kolkata post independence. A rational and analytical mind that is capable of throwing light on the dark corners of our society. He knew his history and was connected to the world around him. He kept himself fit, had no vice and in essence was like an ideal teacher for society. He was young and handsome but wasn’t chasing the pleasures of life that money can buy.

He stood by his family, lived ‘local’ and thought ‘global’.

Feluda’s world was an ideal Man’s world, a world without the complications of the ‘other’; Women. He was not a philanderer and did not need court anybody. In spite of being handsome and healthy, he was not a good candidate for any matrimonial site, as he didn’t chase money. He was more or less like an urban brahmachari who did not don a color or any religious sign.

It is because of Feluda, that I have never been able to perform the ‘banality’ of saying ‘I love you’ to any woman on a lush green monsoon afternoon in a park near the Victoria Memorial in Kolkata.

The master that Satyajit Ray was, his real ideal was represented through a character that appears only occasionally in the narrative: “Sidhu Jyatha”, a senior citizen who was like a mentor to Feluda.

Sidhu Jyata was a reservoir of knowledge and was connected to the world. Whenever in crisis, he was the only person Feluda could go to seeking some advice or wisdom.

If anyone asked him that in spite of all the knowledge that he had gathered why did he not professionally practice something and earn success or fame, he would simply say that he was only interested in doing nothing, living his life in a room at his home with all windows of his mind kept wide open so that light from all sources can enter and keep it illuminated.

It is rare to find a Sidhu Jyatha in our times and will probably be impossible to find him in our future generations.

What has happened to the majority of urban middleclass in our country post Satyajit Ray is a plain and simple regression into darkness sprinkled with irrationality and superstition.

Feluda may be dead, but irrespective of our socio economic compulsions we need to ensure that our future generations can keep the windows to their mind open for the passage of light.

An Intensive Course on the Art of Cinema. We have a purpose not a syllabus.

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