Director: Srijit Mukherji
Cast: Tota Roychowdhury, Anirban Chakraborty, Barun Chanda, Kalpan Mitra
Streaming on: Hoichoi
All Feludas made after Ray have been exercises in nostalgia, but never has it been so obscene as in the Srijit Mukherji ones: his Feluda looks like the character in the book's illustrations, and his Jatayu is Santosh Dutta reincarnate. Here, in Feludar Goyendagiri, we have Darjeeling too. There is former Ray actor Barun Chanda cast as the elderly aristocrat, whose murder kicks adventure into what was meant to be a holiday. It doesn't seem to be a coincidence that the character owns a precious miniature idol, much like his equivalent in Joy Baba Felunath (1979).
A lot of Feluda stories riff on similar tropes, but in Feludar Goyendagiri, they almost seem like ploys to surround the audience with the familiar. Everything is a callback to something. Remember Pulak Ghoshal, Lalmohan babu's movie producer friend, memorably played by Paran Bandopadhyay in Sandip Ray's first big screen Feluda Bombaiyer Bombete (2003)? Here the character is played by Rahul Banerjee. There's even a tracking shot following Lalmohan babu doing stretches, recalling the scene from Sonar Kella (1974). The new Feluda is hardly new – nothing about it is.
If you're at all going to be making Feludas till the last member of the Bengali race is alive, take a leaf out of James Bond.
None of which would have been much of a problem if the film wasn't so lacking in intrigue and believability, and just basic scene-to-scene level competence. I never thought I'll say this but the new Feludas have begun to make the Ray stories look lame. In written form, as stories, coloured with detailing, mood, skilful plotting and misdirection, they work a certain way. Adapted on film, it's something else entirely. Ray himself took great care to adapt it for the screen, when he made those decisive changes in the screenplay of Sonar Kella. Making the distinction between a whodunnit and a thriller, he deemed the latter to be a more cinematic form. Thus the villain is revealed at the beginning of Sonar Kella, as opposed to in the end, as in the book.
For all his homages, Mukherji fails to take note of the most basic of the master's lessons. Goyendagiri climaxes with that very 'Summation Gathering' scene that Ray considered anti-cinema. Not that good murder mysteries haven't been made with such endings – Sidney Lumet's Murder in the Orient Express (1974) employed it effectively, but it did so by building suspense and making thoughtful choices.
Feludar Goyendagiri, on the other hand, heavily relies on the climactic revelation – in which Feluda summons all characters into the drawing room and breaks down the complex mystery – hoping to absolve itself of all the dullness it had subjected us through the rest of the running time. The revelations are startling, but that's Ray's doing. What Mukherji does manage to do is screw it up, when a character, while confessing, says his lines like he hasn't been paid. That a scene this shoddy was okayed feels like robbery in daylight.
Feludar Goyendagiri is as good or bad as Feluda Pherot, except the trio of Feluda (Tota Roychowdhury), Topshe (Kalpan Mitra) and Lalmohan (Anirban Chakraborty) share an ease that comes with practise. Roychowdhury is more relaxed than he was in the earlier instalment but his casting remains a problem: Feluda as a character is almost a fantasy figure, a super-heroic construct of sorts (of a Bengali, cerebral kind). You need an actor who can ground it in a reality. Both Soumitra Chatterjee and Sabyasachi Chakraborty – arguably the best and next best Feluda – did just that. I wish I had a less insulting way of saying this but Roychowdhury's a very limited actor. His casting has been based on his resemblance to the Feluda illustrations in the books. This obsession with the "look" reveals the inherent hollowness of the approach. Pictorial likeness can only take you so far in a live action world. If you're at all going to be making Feludas till the last member of the Bengali race is alive, take a leaf out of James Bond. Daniel Craig was a bold choice, look how it rejuvenated the franchise.
Feludar Goyendagiri ends on baffling note. Ghoshal, a Hindi film director with a loud sensibility, declares that he will make four films on a particular year. 'ABCD – Asia's Busiest Cinema Director', Feluda jokes, with slight mockery. In case it was Mukherji's nod to himself, it's an apt one: he needs a break. Maybe a soul-searching trip to Darjeeling.