As Soumitra Chatterjee’s first death anniversary approaches on 15th November, we remember him through one of the most memorable characters in Bengali Cinema – Feluda. His portrayal of Feluda with such a mesmerising aura is one of the most remarkable performances of all time. Satyajit Ray’s Sonar Kella (1974) is the first movie to bring alive the character of Feluda from his literary works of the same.
Sonar Kella revolves around Mukul, a six-year-old boy claiming to have memories from his past life. He draws pictures of those memories, among which the drawing of a golden fortress stood out. His worried parents take him to Dr. Hajra, who examines him and accompanies him to find the fort to Jodhpur. Pradosh Chandra Mitter, popularly known as Feluda, is a private investigator asked to save Mukul and investigate the matter. It is an unconventional thriller film where the criminals are revealed initially, which cleverly hooks the audience to the storyline. Resonating with Herge’s Tintin series, the film has fascinating supporting characters like Feluda’s younger cousin Topshe and a crime writer Jatayu who adds an element of comedy. The film set in places like Jodhpur and Jaisalmer in Rajasthan brings out Ray’s sense of direction and cinematography that transcends beyond the realms of cinema in the 70s. The film is a comfortable watch, giving us the feel of a movie that can be watched on a cosy, warm Sunday afternoon.
Chatterjee’s depiction of Feluda plays a significant role in popularising Sonar Kella. He is the patient, calm, intelligent presence that was required to keep the audience hooked. Soumitra Chatterjee has acted in fourteen of Ray’s films, but his portrayal of Feluda will always be memorable in their partnership’s history. Leaving behind a legacy of more than two hundred films, he also worked as a director, playwright, and poet. Soumitra Chatterjee was indeed one of the greatest gifts to the Indian film industry.
Written by – Meghana Nair (Batch 2024)
Art by – Vidhi Agarwal (Batch 2024)