FELUDA PHEROT- SEASON 1 : CHHINNAMASTAR ABHISHAP (2020)

Tota Roy Chowdhury, Anirban Chakrabarti, and Kalpan Mitra in a still from Feluda Pherot
  • Release Date: 25/12/2020
  • Cast: Tota Roy Chowdhury, Anirban Chakrabarti, Kalpan Mitra, Dhritiman Chatterjee
  • Directed By: Srijit Mukherji

A nostalgic retread of one of my favorite characters and stories of all times

There is a strange benevolence in ignorance. Even though I love the character of Feluda and have seen every one of his previous adventures from the very best to the most mediocre, I have never read a Feluda novel. Hence I have no precedence to weigh Srijit Mukherjee’s adaptation of Satyajit Ray’s Chhinnamastar Abhishap against and that makes me one of the very few people capable of watching and enjoying this film without any overbearing of what the Great Satyajit Ray envisioned the story to be and how well Srijit Mukherjee was able to grasp his vision and transform it to the screen. All I cared for in this film was to have a whirlwind adventure that was characterized by everything that I have come to love about the character over the years through Satyajit Ray’s and then later Sandip Ray’s films.

Chhinnamastar Abhishap takes Prodosh C. Mitter aka Feluda (Tota Roy Chowdhury), “Rahashya-Romanch” novelist Jatayu (Anirban Chakrabarti), and Feluda’s cousin Topshe (Kalpan Mitra) to Hazaribagh where they are pulled in by the patriarch of a wealthy and well-known family of the area, Mahesh Chowdhury (Dhritiman Chatterjee) to execute his dying wish. Mahesh Chowdhury had an interesting past and his relationship with his three children was also not exactly ideal. He also loved playing with words and their meanings in different contexts. When he suddenly dies due to a heart-attack that looks triggered by heightened emotions, Feluda is morally obligated to dwell deeper into his past to find out the true meaning of the mysterious entries in his diaries as well as to unearth the meaning of the hand-gestures that Mahesh Chowdhury made to him just before dying.

Tota Roy Chowdhury effortlessly slips into the shoes left vacant by stalwarts like Soumitra Chatterjee and Sabyasachi Chakraborty who also happens to be my favorite Feluda. I had no problems accepting Tota as the titular character and that in itself is a great achievement for him. The trademark “dadagiri” of Feluda is rendered wonderfully by Tota who adds an additional trait of his calm demeanor to it making the character even more effective. Every time I looked at him, I could take him to be this extraordinarily gifted and intelligent man as his mannerisms suggested it and his cool and calm yet overbearing demeanor reiterated it. He also looked like someone who could easily hold his own in a fight against anyone and that made the character even more imposing. In spite of being a physical and towering presence, Tota has impeccable comic timing that he complements equally well with a sense of wonder at the inaccuracies and sheer ineptitude of his polar opposite, Jatayu with flamboyance and charm. Please refer to the “bengur” scene in the series to understand exactly what I meant. Srijit was able to find the right leading man for his vehicle in Tota and that put him in the driver’s seat right away.

Tota Roy Chowdhury, Anirban Chakrabarti, Kalpan Mitra, and Dhritiman Chatterjee in a still from Feluda Pherot

Anirban Chakrabarti is an endearing Jatayu. He is, in all eventualities, the least hyperactive Jatayu that I have seen in a Feluda film. However, what he lacks in hyperactivity he more than makes up for in sweetness and gullibility. I wish I could say the same for Kalpan Mitra as Topshe but I cannot. The character was previously played by superlative actors like Saswata Chatterjee and Parambrata Chatterjee and they invariably left their own telling marks on the rendition and what to expect from Topshe. Kalpan Mitra looks older than Feluda, has no bearing on the character like the others did and it seems as if Srijit least interested to make the character anything more than a sidekick that does nothing but lurks in the background to fill up the emptiness of the screen. Dhritiman Chatterjee as Mahesh Chowdhury is towering. He enacts the character with his trademark charm and powerful screen presence. He always plays himself through the characters that he is given and you will either like his rendition or hate it depending on whether you loved or hated his zillion other characters in the past.

The story of Chhinnamastar Abhishap is simple enough but is made thrilling by the approach that Srijit takes to the storytelling. The narrative shifts between the present timeline of the film and the past often and that adds some intrigue to a story that if told in a linear fashion would have been straightforward and devoid of any tension. There are two tracks to the story that most definitely unfolds parallel to one another but one of the tracks enjoys about 80% of the runtime while the other pops up occasionally to make its presence felt. The golden rule of “show don’t tell” is not something that Srijit seems to be too keen on and I felt every now and then that it would have been a good idea had he taken the rule a tad bit more seriously and tried to implement it in his screenplay.

It is always nostalgic to go back to the world of Feluda and Chhinnamastar Abhishap gives us another opportunity to bask in the glory of the charming milieu that Satyajit Ray created with his pen and imagination. Even though most of the story unfolds in Hazaribagh, and we do not get to see the recreation of Feluda’s iconic house, it has enough nudges to mouthwatering foods, interesting settings, historical references, and an inherent old world charm to remind us of all that we love about Feluda films. I am confident that as we go along in the latest series of adaptations, the execution will grow stronger and the impact will be more profound.

Srijit Mukherjee, the director of Feluda Pherot

Overall, I had a great time with Feluda Pherot: Chhinnamastar Abhishap, and I believe that will be the case with anyone who is willing to accept the latest adaptation with an open mind and not get too technical or critical about it. Feluda films have an inherent quality that reminds me of a famous Salman Khan Dialogue, “Dil mein ata hoon, Samajh mein nahi”. While the logic is almost always in place in the Feluda stories, the reasons and the inspirations of characters for doing certain things might not always be convincing. In those circumstances, the “Salman Bhai line” should be kept in mind.

For a viewer like me for whom Feluda has been an essential source of entertainment growing up and provided a means of remaining close to my roots, it is impossible to review a Feluda film without being a little biased. It also doesn’t help that I love Srijit Mukherjee films dearly and he is one of my favorite directors of recent times who re-invigorated my interest in Bengali films. Hence with all the biases and the love for the genre, I have to admit that Feluda Pherot: Chhinnamastar Abhishap is an essential watch and can be easily appreciated if one is not too critical about it.

Rating: 3/5 (3 out of 5 Stars)

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