Cine sleuths

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By Tollywood is giving popular Bengali detective fiction a smart makeover, says Yashodeep Sengupta Pic by Subhendu Chaki
  • Published 13.01.13

How do you bring a Bengali detective created in the 1980s into the 21st century? True-blue detective fiction buffs in Bengal are familiar with Kakababu, the mustachioed, no-nonsense adventurer created by author Sunil Gangopadhyay. But now, he is getting a screen makeover. So, Kakababu — who has featured in a few films earlier — will now sport a stubble, a pair of shades and branded outfits in director Srijit Mukherji’s yet-untitled film.

Then take a look at Gogol, the popular child detective created by Samaresh Basu, who’s also poised to get a cosmetic makeover with gelled, spiked hair and a constant companion — a tablet which he’ll use to solve a mystery. All this and more awaits viewers in director Arindam Dey’s upcoming movie, Goyenda Gogol.

There’s something new in store for film-goers who’ve been fans of Bengal’s dhoti-clad sleuths who drive vintage cars and keep revolvers handy. This year they can get their share of on-screen murder mysteries with Arjun, Colonel, Gogol and Kakababu — all celebrated fictional and homegrown sleuths and adventurers — making their way to celluloid from the pages of Bengali novels.

But in all these movies there will be one crucial difference from the past — the film-makers have gone all out to make the characters more appealing by giving them a New Age makeover. For instance, Arjun, author Samaresh Majumdar’s creation, will sport a rugged look for the film (of the same name), and will do some slick stunts too. “The posters of Arjun are sleek and the background score is contemporary,” says Sumita Bhattacharya of T. Sarkar

Productions, which is producing the film.Two Arjun stories — Khunkharapi and Kalimpongey Sitaharan — have been punched into a single plot for this film in which the detective is appointed to protect the female lead, whose life is in danger.

These sleuths will also be seen toting the latest gadgets to solve crimes. While Kakababu will use a laptop besides the iPad, Colonel — a fictional creation by Syed Mustafa Siraj — will rely on his mobile phone and laptop to solve the mystery.

“It’s very necessary to ‘contemporise’ the stories so that today’s audience can relate to them,” says Raja Sen, director of Colonel, in which the detective solves the mystery of a missing actress.

Twelve-year-old Ahijit Ghosh will be seen toting a tablet as he goes about solving a murder mystery in Goyenda Gogol

Mukherji says that his film will be very modern in style and treatment. “It will be similar to BBC’s interpretation of Sherlock Holmes’ character in its popular TV series, Sherlock,” he adds.

What’s more, all the four films, most of them with budgets of around Rs 2 crore, have been shot in exotic locales in India and abroad. While Arjun is set in picturesque parts of North Bengal, Mukherji is shooting parts of his film in Egypt. Goyenda Gogol will boast of an attractive beach setting in Puri.

The filmmakers all agree that however modern their interpretations, settings or characterisations, the essence of the stories will be retained. So, no romantic angle — usually a must in every commercial film — has been included in the films as it was not part of the original stories.

“It would be foolish disrupting the originality of the stories that’ve had readers hooked for ages,” says Bhattacharya. So, the plots of Mishor Rahasya (Kakababu’s adventure in Egypt related to a mummy hidden below a pyramid) and Sonali Parer Rahasya in which Gogol witnesses a murder and later solves the case, have been retained.

What’s causing the sudden spurt of detective films in Tollywood? “The recent success of films based on fictional detectives like Feluda and Byomkesh has led filmmakers to turn to detective fiction,” says Sen. Dey attributes this growing trend to the popularity and success of films that are based on Bengali literature. “Such films are generally more risk free to make,” he says.

Also, top Tollywood stars have been signed on to play the lead roles in these films. So, actor Chiranjeet will make a comeback as Colonel Niladri Sarkar — the eccentric detective who smokes a pipe and sports a beard — in Colonel. Likewise, superstar Prosenjit Chatterjee will play the legendary Kakababu in Mukherji’s upcoming film.

Actor Saheb Chatterjee, who plays important roles in Goyenda Gogol and Colonel, says that detective stories and big stars make for a terrific combination, as it draws huge crowds to theatres.

Interestingly, these films are primarily targeted at children and young adults — a rarity in Tollywood. Dey says that this was one of the most important reasons why he chose to make Goyenda Gogol. “It’s uncommon to come across a film where a kid is the hero,” he says. The film has 12-year-old Ahijit Ghosh playing the lead. “Children’s films in Tollywood are making good money at the box office,” adds Dey. He has plans to release Goyenda Gogol during the school term-break in Calcutta in March.

Says Mukherji: “Films like these can be a great way to educate kids about the works of the great authors of Bengal.”

Veteran actor Sabyasachi Chakraborty, who has played Feluda in five films so far and also stars in Arjun and Colonel, says: “Bengali detective creations are shown to be brave and virtuous — qualities that make them role models for kids.”

So, grab your tickets when these movies hit theatres. For what better way would there be to revisit the pages of your favourite detective books?