|Soumitra Chatterjee as Feluda
|David Suchet as Hercule Poirot
She is Calcutta’s most female private eye, and one of its youngest, too. A food writer on the side, she bakes a mean puff pastry and pokes her nose exactly where it doesn’t belong. Meet Reema Ray, the heroine-detective of Madhumita Bhattacharyya’s The Masala Murder. Taking time out of her sleuthing, baking and bumping into mysteriously handsome strangers, Reema answers some reader queries for t2
I am appalled that in your choice of best TV detective [in t2, November 1], you missed out David Suchet as Hercule Poirot. How could you?
I admire your passion. It is one I share. But if you remember, I mentioned that I could not consider Benedict Cumberbatch’s Holmes as a ‘TV detective’, and that is the case despite the new BBC Sherlock series being a very original take on the Conan Doyle books.
When it comes to Hercule Poirot, I adore Suchet. I watch those shows and films over and over again. But he is so brilliant precisely because he is channelling the spirit of the creator, Agatha Christie herself, and the genius of the source material. Which is why, in this case too, the TV detective title doesn’t hold well with me. It would be like calling Feluda a film detective, just because of Soumitra. While Soumitra Chatterjee is as pure a Feluda as Satyajit Ray could have hoped for, the genius of the detective in print went so far beyond Sonar Kella and Joy Baba Felunath. An inspiration for all us desi private investigators, with his unfailing powers of deduction, skill in transformative disguise and witty comebacks.
However, when it comes to my favourite detective from literature, Hercule Poirot — featuring David Suchet’s twinkling eyes, precise gait and growing girth — leads the list, second to none despite the fact that his abiding love for tisanes and sirops baffles the tastebuds.
After working with cheaters and murderers all day, how do you sleep at night?
I lie down, put my head on my pillow, and before I know it, it is morning. I sleep well, and preferably for at least seven hours a day. I find limiting caffeine after 5pm helps immensely.
If your question is about the guilt I may feel, as opposed to my actual sleep habits, the answer is more complicated. The way I see it, the guilt belongs to others. It is not my responsibility, particularly since most often my clients feel like they have been wronged in some way, or might be wronged if they are not careful. I help them as best as I can.
If I have ever worked for a murderer, it has been without my knowledge. Even if I were to take an assignment from a cheater, instead of on behalf of the cheated, I don’t think it is up to me to sit in judgement. We are only as right as our last good decision — I am constantly afraid my next big slip might be around the corner, rubbing shoulders with the latest bigamist I have helped expose.
I have written at length elsewhere about a little theory I call the Pastry Principle, which I try to stick to. It’s core, immutable belief: Nothing is ever as simple as it seems. When it comes to solving crimes, I find this is usually true. But when it comes to moral judgements, it is always true. A fact I try not to forget, particularly when righteous certainty looms large.
Purely theoretically, is poison the best way to kill a person in order to avoid detection?
Dear Innocently Curious,
I fear there is nothing innocent about your question. And while still striving to avoid moral judgements, I must point out that aiding and abetting murder is not on my list of things to do this week.
As a general rule of thumb, the best way to avoid detection in a murder case is not to kill in the first place.
Who do you think would solve a murder faster, Poirot or Feluda, and why?
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