Monday, July 16, 2007

Detective Stories of Satyajit Ray

Detective Stories of Satyajit Ray

Satyajit Ray

Satyajit Ray

Satyajit Ray was India's first internationally recognized film-maker and, 15 years after his death, still remains the most well-known Indian director on the world stage. Ray has written that he became captivated by the cinema as a young college student, and he was self-taught, his film education consisting largely of repeated viewings of film classics by De Sica, Fellini, John Ford, Orson Welles, and other eminent directors. With the release in 1955 of his first film Pather Panchali ("Song of the Road"), whose financing presented Ray with immense monetary problems, compelling him even to pawn his wife’s jewellery, he brought the neo-realist movement in film to India. Little could anyone have imagined that this first film would launch Ray on one of the most brilliant careers in the history of cinema, leading eventually not only to dozens of international awards, India’s highest honour, and a lifetime achievement Oscar from Hollywood, but the unusual accolade of being voted by members of the British Film Institute as one of the three greatest directors in world cinema.

Being a versatile genius of his times, much has been said about the skills used by Ray in transforming Celluloid from only a medium of entertainment to an arena of creative arts. Well known Directors of India namely Shyam Benegal, Adoor Gopalakrishnan and others have seen his first film Pather Panchali a number of times and learnt huge lessons relating to story telling in cinema. But much less has been said about Ray’s literary skills. Being a maestro of numerous number of Arts, including scripts, illustrations, music, his literature which predominantly was filmic got unnoticed. My entire childhood was flooded with crime thrillers of Ray being simplified for the children in series of stories of Feluda and Professor Shanku. [Feluda is the Private Investigator created by Satyajit Ray named “Pradosh Mitra” just like Fiction Character “Sherlock Holmes” created by Arthur Conan Doyle.] There were other writers of Bengal namely Premendra Mitra ( who have also made films on suspense thriller titled “Chupi Chupi Ase”, “Hanabari”), Hemendra Kumar Ray, Sunil Ganguly, Saradindu Bandopadhyay( Satyajit Ray’s film “ Chiriakhana” was based on his story where Uttamkumar played the role of Byomkesh Bakshi, a famous detective who solved a number of mysteries) [Chiriakhana was released in 1967 and won the National Film Award for Best Direction. Also Uttamkumar won the best Actor for playing the role of Satyanyeshi meaning founder of the truth] to name a few, who had attracted the attention of young readers and made a notable impact of stories relating to crime and punishment. But what was different in case of Ray’s literature was that he made the incidences cinematic. He always used to give description of the characters through ‘tapesh’ so that the chain of thoughts of the readers did coincide with the thoughts of the characters in his story.

When the same stories which were written, depicted by Ray were later made Films, they ended in excellence by their standards. The best example can be Sonar Kella ( The Golden Fortress). [Sonar Kella was released in 1974 , the film where Ray introduced the character “Jatayu” for the first time which was played by Santosh Dutta on who demise Ray stopped making any more films on stories of .Feluda ] Mukul, a young boy, was being haunted by memories of his previous life. He was taken to Dr. Hajra, a parapsychologist, for treatment. On discovering some drawings by Mukul that represented scenes from the past, Dr. Hajra believed that a Fortress in the drawings may be in Rajasthan. Dr. Hajra decided to take Mukul on a trip to Rajasthan in the hope that it might be a cure. A newspaper report caught the attention of two bandits. They kidnapped Mukul in hope of getting their hands on the treasure. The detective Feluda was engaged, along with his assistant Tapesh, to recover the child.

Sonar Kella was a bewitching comedy-thriller for children of all ages. An exciting and fun-filled journey that took audiences from Calcutta to Jaisalmer in Rajasthan including Felu and friends chasing a train on a camelbacks. It included beautiful color photography and use of color for dramatic effect.

The greatest skill of story-telling which was made evident by Ray was the use of coincidence. There is a scene where Feluda while travelling in a train from Kolkata to New Delhi was anticipating that the two Bandits to be in the same train with Dr. Hajra and Mukul if they have stayed in Delhi for one day and he anticipated any harsh step to be taken by the bandits. In the next scene Ray shows that Dr. Hajra is being pushed by Kamu Mukherjee who played the role of Mandar Bose from the cliff of Nahargarh Fort in Jaipur. [Nahargarh means the abode of Tigers. In Jaipur it is one of the most eminent tourist attractions. Satyajit Ray discovered that entire Jaipur can be seen from the summit of Nahargarh Fort. So he shot his sequence where Mandar Bose throws Dr. Hajra from the Cliff to kill him.] Ray realized that every reader while reading a story generally paints a picture of the person in their mind who is referred to in the story. So the writer or the novelist is supposed to give the details of the looks of the character to the readers .It became easy for him as he reached a level of excellence in illustration. The character “Jatayu” was intitially drawn in a different way. When Ray saw Santosh Dutta, the actor who played Jatayu in “Sonar Kella” and “Joy Baba Felunath”, he started drawing the character identically like Santosh Dutta. Seeing Satyajit Ray’s script full of illustrations is a treat for the eyes *. The film Sonar Kella was made for the children, but ended up in catching the attention of intellectual adult viewers, there were so many scientific aspects like telepathy, hypnotism employed in the film with justifications who reshuffled the knowledge base of viewers of different age.

Those readers who are addicted to read novels, short stories of Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle were also attracted towards literature composed by Ray. Besides the pictographic description of the places Ray used to describe ( Description of Lucknow in “ Badshahi Uncty”, description of Jaipur, Jodhpur, Bikaner, Jaisalmer in “Sonar Kella”, description of Benaras in “ Joy Baba Felunath”) was simply brilliant. Rays standard of perfection has given a new light on the historical, geographical, social and other aspects of every part of the world on where his stories were based. These days Sandip Ray makes films based on Satyajit Ray’s stories. [Sandip Ray had made films “Baksho Rahasya”, “ Bombaiyer bombete” and other films and TV serials on the stories of Satyajit Ray.] But the readers basically miss Ray’s literature which flooded the hearts of youth of the country with treasure of knowledge of different fields, subjects,dimentions. Research should be done on the literature of Satyajit Ray with same priority as the way his films are scanned. Detailed analysis of his literature can throw new light on the upcoming fresh talents of India who use their pen as a sword.

* [My Father, Sri Chitta Ranjan Chatterji, the then Chief Public Prosecutor of Bankshall Court, Kolkata was handling the brief of Sandip Ray ( son of Satyajit Ray) in a case where Uday Acharya, the brother of Nirmalya Acharya, denied to give Rays scripts which were with him, which were supposed to be kept in Nandan Archive under the supervision of Dr. Sur. The trunk containing the scripts of Ray were opened in Lalbazar, Kolkata Police Headquarters, where the scripts were unfolded. It included even the demi-newspaper called “ chandipurer Barta” used in the film Ganashatru by Ray . The case was reported in Anandabazar Patrika, Pratidin, The Statesman,etc in 1994.]

Article By Souvik Chatterji.

Master of Law from Warwick University,UK
LLM from Case Western Reserve University,USA

Assistant Director,
CUTS International Centre for Competition Investment and Economic Regulation, Jaipur, India


Souvik-indrajalik said...

Satyajit Ray has written stories on science fiction too. Along with the series of stories about Feluda and Professor Shonku he has written stories of the 12 series namely Ek Dojon Goppo, Aro Baro, Aro Ek dojon, etc where diverse subjects were dealt with. For example he has written a story named" Terodactiler dim" where a story was told about the prehistoric period when human beings did not come in this earth and it was inhabited by dinosaurs. There was a cheat who said the story and extracted money from a humble clerk who was sitting near Outram Ghat besides Ganges in Kolkata.His stories were designed for children but were enjoyed by people of different ages.
Souvik Chatterji
Assistant Director
CUTS International,
Centre for Competition, Investment and Economic Regulation
D-217, Bhaskar Marg,
Bani Park, Jaipur 302 016, India
Ph: 91.141.2282821 (Board)

Anonymous said...

Well written article. It was a very informative one for people from outside West Bengal. It sheds a new light into the personality of Satyajit Ray. We are waiting for more articles by Souvik Chatterjee, a great lawyer and a known film critic in the Calcutta press.
Shiju Verghese.

Rathnashikamani said...

Satyajit Ray is one of my favorite writers and cinema directors. I admire his genius.

I've read some of his books including Sci-Fi, detective and ghost stories.

He's a master creator of stories in books as well as on screen.

This article by the author Souvik is a wonderful tribute to the great thinker and genius Satyajit Ray.