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Bhaskar Chattopadhyay. His films have received worldwide critical acclaim and won him several awards, honours and recognition — both in India and elsewhere. Satyajit Ray once remarked that he never earned nearly enough money from his work as a filmmaker, and that, as a matter of fact, it was his income from his books that allowed him to run his day-to-day household expenses. Ray wrote several independent Bengali short stories, a series of science fiction adventures with a protagonist named Professor Shonku, and another series of short stories depicting the fantastic adventures of an old man named Tarini Khuro or Tarini Uncle who, during his youth had had several remarkable and often supernatural experiences in various parts of India.
But the one body of work that had made Ray a shining star in the literary scene of Bengal through the '70s and the '80s was the series of mystery adventures of his immortal creation — detective Pradosh Chandra Mitra, more popularly known to young and old simply as Feluda.
The adventures of Feluda became so popular, that Ray decided to make not one but two films based on two of his most famous Feluda novels. Mukul Dhar is a seven-year-old boy living in North Kolkata who can remember events and scenes from his past life, when he used to live in Rajasthan hundreds of years ago.
He talks about a fortress made of gold, and of precious gems and stones which were buried in the ground in his house. When two seasoned criminals learn about Mukul from the local papers, they try to kidnap him, hoping that he would be able to pinpoint the location of the buried treasure to them. But they soon find out that they have kidnapped the wrong boy, and that the real Mukul has gone off to Rajasthan in search of the golden fortress with renowned parapsychologist Dr Hemanga Mohan Hazra, who is researching reincarnations.
And then, Feluda and his cousin Topshe embark on a cross country chase of the two criminals in a bid to nab them before they can get to Mukul. Although Satyajit Ray liked the story of Sonar Kella as a possible subject for a film, he was not too keen on making a whodunit. He was of the opinion that in general, whodunits do not make for suitable cinematic subjects, thanks to the long speech at the end of the story where the detective reveals all and explains how the crime was committed and how he managed to catch the culprits.
How was he to make Sonar Kella then? Ray had a solution for that. He changed the story a little while writing the screenplay, and revealed the identity of the two criminals right at the beginning of the film. But the taking away of the mystery element from the story did not, by any means, diminish the beauty of the film. Full of witty and intelligent dialogues, the film is a treat for those who are interested in puns, spoonerisms, malapropisms and various other forms of word play that Ray and his father before him were so well known for.
It is an intelligent film, that is enjoyed by everyone. Satyajit Ray strongly believed what great storytellers have always said — that entertainment and intelligence can co-exist without affecting each other in a negative way. It is perhaps one of the most intelligent and entertaining thrillers to have ever come out of the Bengali film industry.
Bhaskar Chattopadhyay is an author and translator. Find latest and upcoming tech gadgets online on Tech2 Gadgets. Popular gadgets including laptop, tablet and mobile specifications, features, prices, comparison. Robert Downey Jr. COVID lockdown leaves Delhi migrant workers with neither jobs nor social security; experts blame political apathy, lack of legal protection.
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Satyajit Ray's Sonar Kella: The train to a golden fortress that wasn't
The film begins with a school-boy Mukul Dhar played by Kushal Chakraborty , who is said to be able to remember events of his previous life, and soon receives media attention. Hemanga Hajra Sailen Mukherjee , a parapsychologist , offers his help, believing it might help him in his own research. Mukul mentions that he lived in the Golden Fortress [Sonar Kella] and that their house had lots of gems. Hajra decides to take Mukul on a trip to Rajasthan. Two seasoned fraudsters, Amiyanath Burman and Mandar Bose, plan to kidnap Mukul to capture the treasure. Their first attempt at the kidnapping fails when they pick up another boy, also named Mukul Santanu Bagchi , from the same neighborhood.
Sonar Kella: How Satyajit Ray brought a much-loved Feluda mystery to the big screen
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However, more than two decades before Rowling first spun her charm, Satyajit Ray had achieved nearly the same effect - if not a more pragmatic and credible act - in the film, Sonar Kella Ray himself jocularly spoke about the train-chase sequence that he achieved using one camera, where "Kurosawa would be using nine". Here modes of travel - railways, motor cars and human potential for meditative or "telepathic" time travel - are brought into a contest for a fixed geography, that of Jaisalmer in Rajasthan , and its golden fortress. The meaning of "golden", however, has different connotations for each character.