I used to be a Satyajit Ray fanatic. Correction, I AM a Satyajit Ray fanatic.
My folks still regret the fact that I am half-educated with no core skills (read programming skills). Like every middle class parent, they also wanted me to become some sort of an engineer and when I failed to do that, they thought the LEAST I could do was to do my C.A. Even my dad managed to get himself a rank in his first attempt despite no B.Com background. So really, how difficult could it be? But thanks to a very casual upbringing, I was never much into studies. The blame lies on my dad. COMPLETELY. He was the one who introduced me to all the vices in life at a very early age: cricket, tennis, Enid Blyton, and most of all, Feluda. Ironically, ‘felu’ in Bengali means “to fail”. So the writing was always on the wall. I just HAD to be a failure.
Now given the multi-faceted person that Ray was, once you develop a taste for his work, you are virtually hooked, i.e. you can kiss your academic life goodbye. Hailing from an illustrious family, he was an artist in the true sense of the term: writer, director, photographer, painter, lyricist. He was so talented that I believe even he got confused about what to do with his life. So he tried his hand at everything, and no, I wasn’t complaining.
Ever since I picked up the first Feluda in Class II, I haven’t looked back. Back then, I was a slow reader and while my mom chased me around the house with a Science textbook, my dad lovingly unwrapped one Feluda after another. By the time I was in the 4th standard, I had finished all of them, and moved on to his other works, like Professor Shonku, Sandesh, Mullah Nasiruddin and his collection of short stories. Once I had exhausted those, out of sheer desperation, I even read the ENGLISH translation of the Nonsense Verse, originally written by his dad, Sukumar Ray, which made no sense whatsoever. He did the sketches in his books on his own, and when I was in my artistic mode, I would ape those black-and-white illustrations and go to bed with those sheets firmly laid beneath my pillow.
Thankfully, his movies gave me something to still look forward to, but at an age with no hard disk/torrent/DVDs it became a little difficult to access them. I would diligently check the TV listings and bunk school/dance classes/anything that came in the way, just to catch the umpteenth screening of Sonar Kella, Jai Baba Felunath, Goopi Gyne Bagha Byne, Hirok Rajar Deshe, Aparajito, Charulata, Satranj Ke Khiladi, Aguntuk, Nayak, so on and so forth. But somehow, I could never lay my hands on his first and one of his best works, Pather Panchali, till I started working, and finally, when I did watch it, I was overcome with a sense of deep loss: there was nothing else to look forward to…
For someone with an intimidating presence (at 6”4, he would have towered over me even while being seated) he made an instant connection with children and some of his characters like Mukul, Nayan, Apu and Durga are a testimony to how well he understood kids. But for me the Jatayu-Topshe-Feluda trio portrayed by Santosh Dutta, Siddhartha Chatterjee and Soumitra Chatterjee respectively, would always remain immortal. Of course, sincere efforts have been made to keep the Feluda legacy alive in movies, but it’s just not the same. Having said that, I would still prefer to see new-age actors play the roles, rather than not watch them at all.
And I did watch the latest Feluda movie, Royal Bengal Rahashya, and what can I say, the eight-year-old in me still manages to get enthralled despite having read the book a gazillion times.
With no mystery left whatsoever in my long relationship with Feluda, we still remain the best of friends, and I can complete his sentences… literally.