The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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White wonder

Baksharahasya, the telefilm directed by Sandip Ray, was my first Feluda project. It was also my first brush with snow. In this telefilm, I was cast as Feluda, Rabi Ghosh played Jatayu and Swastata (Chatterjee) was Topshe.

Snowfall in Shimla

A set had been created in Calcutta where we shot the train sequence, where the box (baksha) actually gets swapped. The set was amazing! There was a compartment where we all got in with the equipment. Babuda (Sandip) sat behind the camera and asked me to climb up on the topmost tier. But as soon as I clambered up, I came crashing down along with the bunk. Thankfully, I didn’t get hurt.

Our next shoot was in Delhi and Shimla. Babuda went some days before us for location-hunting, and one day he called very excitedly to say that he loved Shimla. It was all covered in snow! It was February and biting cold.

The rest of us took a train to Delhi where Babuda joined us. We stayed at Janpath Hotel where we shot a few scenes for two days and then boarded the Kalka Mail for Chandigarh. By the time we reached Shimla by bus from Chandigarh, all the snow was gone! The sun was shining for two days while we were busy working in Delhi and all the ice had melted. All of us were very depressed, especially Babuda. Anyway, we shot some indoor scenes at a hotel in Shimla. We also shot the last sequence of the film in Kufri, where Prabirbabu (the villain) gets caught and there’s a round of firing. We got some brilliant shots on the slushy roads. That was the positive side of the snow melting.

On the shoot in Shimla

But we still needed snow for some sequences. Babuda said we would wait for one more day for it to snow. If not, we pack up. The next morning, Bunidi (Lolita, Sandip’s wife) woke us up, urging us to look out of the window. And it was indeed a fascinating sight! Everything outside was covered in a white sheet. We didn’t realise that it had snowed all night. There was snow on the trees and on the road and we all roared with joy.

The Gangtok trip was made to actually shoot the leftover portion of Baksharahasya. We stayed at The Retreat from where you could see the Kanchenjungha from close. The Retreat was at the highest point of Gangtok. The snow-clad mountains glisten like gold when the morning sunshine falls on it! It’s breathtaking.

It was March by then and there wasn’t much snow left. We got snow near Chhangu Lake. Yet it was very cold and there would always be a shower of snowflakes. It was foggy and if you watch Baksharahasya carefully you can make out the difference between the shots taken at Shimla and Gangtok. The Shimla shots are cleaner.

(Next week: Feluda and Jatayu in Shimla)

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