It took no less than 10 years for a producer to come forward and produce Bombaiyer Bombete after Feluda, the fictional detective, made his debut on the small screen in 1995. Bombaiyer Bombete was the first Feluda film directed by Sandip Ray after two widely acclaimed Feluda films, Sonar Kella and Jai Baba Felunath, directed by Satyajit Ray in the 1970s.
“The producer was not a Bengali but hailed from Hyderabad and yet he was ready to make a Feluda movie for the big screen,” reminisced Sabyasachi Chakraborty while talking about Hyderabad's tenuous connection to the iconic sleuth created by Satyajit Ray almost half a century ago in the pages of Sandesh. Although Sandip Ray had already directed quite a few films for the small screen starring Sabyasachi Chakraborty, it was only after Ramoji Rao came forward that Bombaiyer Bombete, the first Feluda movie since Sonar Kella and Jai Baba Felu- nath was shot in the post-Satyajit Ray era. “We are truly indebted to Ramoji Rao,” he said.
Perhaps, it did not cross the actor's mind but Feluda and Hyderabad share an even stronger bond. In those days when smoking was yet to be declared politically incorrect on screen, Feluda smoked Charminar, a brand of cigarettes manufactured by the Hyderabad-based Vazir Sultan Tobacco Company. The company was established during the reign of the Nizam and most remember the orange-hued pack with the red outline of the Charminar printed on it.
With such a strong connection between the ace detective and the City of Pearls, it was imperative to celebrate 50 years of Feluda's appearance in Hyderabad as well. And Feluda aficionados got the perfect opportunity during the threeday-long Hyderabad Bengali Film Festival, an annual event, organised by Bengalis in Hyderabad where Bombaiyer Bombete was screened along with a documentary on the sleuth by Sagnik Chatterjee. But the cherry on the cake was definitely the addawith Sabyasachi Chakraborty, who shared with the audience various anecdotes, his love for Feluda and his thoughts on essaying this role.
Chakraborty admitted he had seen himself essaying the role ever since he started reading Feluda though most youngsters would like to think of themselves as Topshe, Feluda's young assistant. “I found him to be extremely erudite, polite and well mannered, eager to help others and just like me, one who steered clear of the opposite gender!” Recalling with his meeting with Satyajit Ray (he straight away told him that the serials Chakraborty was acting in were quite bad), he said how the auteur turned down his request to make more Feluda movies after Santosh Dutta, who played Lalmohan Ganguly, passed away.
Chakraborty offered a rare comparison between the Feluda films by Ray and those by his son. “Satyajit Ray's Feluda films revolved around Jatayu while those of Sandip Ray focus more on Feluda as the central protagonist. Ray even changed the way he had characterised Lalmohan babuto bring in closer resemblance with Santosh Dutta in his later books,” he observed.
He was quick to add that he regarded Soumitra Chattopadhyay as the real Feluda while he himself was a mere “duplicate” since the veteran actor resembled the character far more because of his erudition and creativity. One could trace a bit of bitterness when he recalled that one of the reasons why producers did not come forward to produce Feluda films was because they were uncertain about Chakraborty's “dependability” when it came to recovering their investment. “It was the reason for Sandip Ray making telefilms as he hoped that eventually a producer would come by to make a movie,” he said.
There was a bit of inside news as well. Sandip Ray is planning his next film on the adaptation of Chinnamastar Abhishap and Chakraborty's wife Mithu was quick to add that there will be a real tiger this time instead of a digital one. “So whoever is playing Lalmohan babu would have to be really strong (in terms of nerves),” said Chakraborty, adding that the director was on the lookout for the perfect Lalmohan babu and there are scores of photographs of bald men with moustaches, lying on his table, waiting to be sorted . “So if you know somebody in Hyderabad who is bald and has a moustache — or even without a moustache as that can be taken care of — just send his photograph to Sandip Ray,” said Chakraborty as he signed off.