Update: The Feluda mystery “The Mystery of the Elephant God” is currently playing on BBC 4 Saturday play this week.
Why do most of the mainstream detectives in India come from Bengal? This is one of the questions which needs a Byomkesh to solve. Because, second in my “detective” series is also a Bengali “Da” (Not to be confused with Kannada “da” as in “what daa?”).
His Name: Pradosh Chandra Mittar
His (biographer) Watson: Topshe (Tapesh Ranjan Mittar), his cousin
His (clueless) Watson: Jatayu (Lalmohan Ganguly), a crime thriller writer
His Moriarty: Maganlal Meghraj
I have already written about Satyajit Ray’s science-fiction and mystery stories. I need not say anything about his movies. But he has also left his mark on detective genre, with his Feluda stories.
For the uninitiated, Feluda is a card-carrying (literally, he carries his business cards with occupation as “Detective”… I know, bad joke…) working detective. He is helped by his cousin in his cases (when his school permits), who is also encouraged to write about them by Feluda. On one of these adventures (Sonar Kella/The Golden Fortress), they meet Jatayu, a crime thriller writer who later becomes their friend and accompanies them. Despite being a bestseller author, Jatayu is as clueless about real-life crime as Watson on his worst day (or maybe as Lestrade is on his best day). Feluda’s best source of information on anything under the sun is their uncle, Shidhu Jyatha, a living encyplopedia who has clippings and books on every subject on the earth.
As for the bad boys, Maganlal Meghraj is a smuggler, has his own gang, and is a thoroughly sophisticated and dangerous criminal. He crosses sword with Feluda many times in his career. In almost all these cases, it’s Jatayu who suffers the most (and Maganlal seems to take particular pleasure in targetting the hapless author), but all their lives are in peril more than once.
Feluda gets involved in high-profile crimes, like theft of a historical stone, smuggling, murder. So, unlike Byomkesh he finds himself in mortal danger more often, along with his associates (which explains his carrying a gun I guess). He is also probably the most energetic detective I have ever seen, as he is roaming all over India and abroad (with Topshe in tow when the schools permit). Among other places, he travels to Agra, Ajanta, Rajasthan, Mumbai, Lucknow and even Kathmandu for his cases, or the cases find him on one of his travels.
Also unlike Byomkesh, there is a clear influence of Sherlock on Feluda. Among other things, he frequently refers to Sherlock as is “Guru”, and his cases as well as his techniques show that clearly. I guess, I can safely say that he is Sherlock to Byomkesh’s Poirot.
Unfortunately, I haven’t seen any of the movies or telefilms as they are in Bengali, but if they do justice to the stories (which they should, given that Ray himself directed at least some of them), these feature high on my list of “Movies I Won’t Understand but Will Read Subtitles For”… Can somebody convert them in Hindi TV serial?
As I said, in Indian literature I have come across only these two cases of fairly famous detectives. Of course, the only languages I read include Marathi and English, and I have tried reading Hindi once before. So my main source is translated-into-English versions and Marathi literature. Even in Marathi, I have come across famous detectives only in kids’ literature, the detectives being kids as well. So please feel free to tell me about any famous detectives in your language, and direct me to the books.
Quote of The Day:
Oh dear, I never realized what a terrible lot of explaining one has to do in a murder!
– Agatha Christie