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Cave caper

Without revealing much at the start — something that Satyajit Ray’s Charminar-puffing sleuth would strongly disapprove of — let’s say that Sandip Ray’s Kailase Kelenkari is an enjoyably crisp, racy and visually-rich film.

Feluda may not flaunt a cellphone yet but he lives in today’s Calcutta, with its coffee shops and modern cars. So, Jatayu trades his green Ambassador for a green WagonR, while Feluda and gang drop in at Cafe Coffee Day instead of Waldorf.

With Kailase Kelenkari, Ray shows his maturity as a film-maker and his mastery over the difficult task of transcreating a whodunnit text on to the screen. He lays out his cards from the beginning, a ploy that has worked perfectly for both Bombaiyer Bombete and Kailase Kelenkari. You almost know who is what; it’s about how Feluda exposes them.

So, we start with a stolen artefact from an Orissa temple finding its way to Aurangabad, where a big player in the smuggling business has his sights set on the exotic Ellora caves. Feluda and team reach the spot just in time to mingle as tourists and bust the racket.

But Ray’s screenplay doesn’t stick to the book, page by page. He chops passages, merges scenes and introduces a character or two when needed. One of his embellishments is an informant of the villain who tails Feluda and even lays a trap to bump him off right in the beginning. Apart from the climax inside the Ellora caves, this is the only other action scene adding to the thrill factor on screen.

Besides, Ray Junior retains the flavour of the Feluda books, where Ray Senior would provide interesting nuggets of information of the place or the setting to the reader through Feluda’s vast bank of knowledge.

Here, the spotlight is on the Ellora caves, captured in all its splendour by cinematographer Sashanka Sanyal.

And no, Sabyasachi doesn’t look too old to be Feluda. Rather, his pockmarked face, piercing gaze and body language lend a matter-of-fact feel to his detective persona. This Feluda may be different from the one we find in the books, but he is equally engaging. Sabyasachi scores with his natural acting and deliberate underplaying even in dramatic moments.

Like guru, like chela — Topse follows suit. By shrugging off his cool dude look, Parambrata turns into the boyish Topse who feels helpless without Feluda, the loyal sidekick who gives a knowing smile when his hero stuns people with his razor-sharp observations.

Thirty years have passed since Joy Baba Felunath, but when it comes to Jatayu Santosh Dutta still looms large. Bibhu Bhattacharya creates his own Jatayu — an over-the-top, funny character whose antics draw many laughs.

Haradhan Bandopadhyay’s Sidhu Jyatha — though very different from Harindranath Chattopadhyay in Sonar Kella — sets the tone for Kailase Kelenkari, as Feluda’s mentor.

And Dipankar De makes a really cool villain. He looks every bit the suave, educated and polished Chattoraj who can also kill with a smile on his lips.

Only a bit of careless detailing remains a blot. The bunch of kids rummaging through objects at the plane crash site look and sound too urban to pass off as villagers (though art director Manik Bhattacharya has done a brilliant job of the crash).

Besides, Feluda’s contemporary “disguise” — just a cap, dark glasses and grey sideburns — doesn’t match up to the book’s Hippie act.

But with the haunting Ellora caves becoming both backdrop and protagonist, you might be tempted to pack your bags and hit the Feluda trail this winter!

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