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Home » My Kolkata » Lifestyle » ‘Magajastra’ or Maganlal — What makes Feluda… Feluda?

Detective Fiction

‘Magajastra’ or Maganlal — What makes Feluda… Feluda?

What makes the ‘tiktiki’ tick — his ‘magajastra’, his trademark mannerisms, or the indomitable Maganlal Meghraj?

Pooja Mitra | Published 02.08.22, 06:59 PM

Karishma Siddique Roy; TT archives

Feluda’s stories may have been your go-to comfort read as a kid. However, that shouldn’t stop you from appreciating the dynamic, martial arts-loving, Colt-owning sleuth with a love for meetha paan and a fine Makaibari brew. Feluda’s love for disguises, his voracious appetite for books, his razor-sharp wit and his deep baritone may add layers to his persona, but they don’t define who he is.

So, who is Prodosh C. Mitter? Is he defined by his invincible magajastra? Or the baddies he catches? Turns out, it’s not quite elementary. Here are a few things that make Feluda who he is…

‘Magajastra’

Feluda’s deduction skills are not too different from Sherlock’s top-down logic. And there are times when Feluda needs to escape into a ‘mind palace,’ like Sherlock — to flex his magajastra. Leave the sleuth alone with his blue notebook for an hour and you may just have yourself a solved case!

Feluda’s process of deduction and elimination can be almost as thrilling to witness as his car chase through Central Calcutta — in Sheyal Debota Rahasya. In the story, Feluda had to deduce that the only possible perpetrator of the crime would have to be his client’s supposedly sick nephew. But how would a sick child pull a heist? And why did the thief have the strength of a grown man? Feluda deduced that the thief would have to be an adult man who can be masqueraded as a child — hence, a dwarf. 

Be it startling Lalmohan babu with his observations, or his power play with Maganlal Meghraj had it not been for his unassuming skills of deduction, Feluda wouldn’t really have been Feluda.

Wit

Feluda’s crackling and irony-laced humour is simply not appreciated enough — be it his banter with Lalmohan babu or his exchanges with Sidhu Jetha on world affairs — Feluda’s brand of wit is worldly and wise. Is it any wonder that he could decode the aam antir bhenpu wordplay in Bose Pukure Khoon Kharapi?

Feluda’s sense of humour has also helped him out with some of his more eccentric clients. In Ambar Sen Antordhan Rahasya, for instance, the sleuth plays along with the drama-loving Sen family as they try to outwit him. He acts naive, looking for the missing Ambar Sen, playing along with the prank, but when the time comes he serves them a mystery from within their family.

Topshe and Jatayu

Topshe and Jatayu are so much more than just sidekicks, they are the eyes and ears of the sleuth. Be it looking eye-to-eye with Maganlal Meghraj in Joi Baba Felunath, or chasing a lead in Joto Kando Kathmandute  — the duo has exhibited almost as much bravado as Feluda. Like Byomkesh’s trusted associate Ajit Bandyopadhyay or Kakababu’s assistant-nephew Sontu — Topshe and Jatayu are trusted allies and often turn co-detectives.

Topshe’s zeal perhaps stems from his aspirations to be like Feluda. The young gun goes an extra mile to seek answers and does not shy away from donning the detective’s hat, much like in Apsara Theaterer Mamla  (where Topshe and Jatayu lead the questioning of the suspects on Feluda’s behalf).

Though Lalmohan Babu may come across as gullible and unsuspecting — the crime writer has been an asset for Feluda.  Despite his glaring errors and slips of the tongue (remember when he mistook the South Pole for the North Pole in Dr. Munshir Diary?) the creator of the fictional sleuth Prakhar Rudra has often shown his grit and courage in the face of immediate danger, with or without his prized kukri.

Maganlal Meghraj

The Moriarty to Feluda’s Sherlock — Maganlal Meghraj has quite the appeal as the sleuth’s nemesis. The shady, conniving and yet God-fearing criminal with a love for theatrics — Maganlal is a formidable opponent. Ray added a fresh perspective to the cat-and-mouse dynamic between a private eye and a notorious criminal by making it a battle of equals. While Maganlal has his army of goons and means of escaping the law, Feluda has the brains to bring him down.

While Utpal Dutt excelled at depicting Maganlal’s cold, intimidating persona in Joi Baba Felunath and Joto Kando Kathmandute, Mohan Agashe introduced a touch of humour to his role in Golapi Mukta Rahasya. One of the best creations in Ray’s arsenal — the character of Maganlal is open to several possibilities because his felonies too, have quite the range. Only the notorious crime lord would think it funny to drop a cube of LSD in Jatayu’s tea just for fun.

Offbeat take on solving cases

Who else but Feluda could deduce the killer from one ‘ke’ in Golokdham Rahasya and bring down a smuggler from just a handwritten numeral in Bombaiyer Bombete? Gathering clues from scratches around the almirah lock and finally unearthing the ‘killer with a motif’ — the detective also shows a different take on ethics and justice in Golokdham Rahasya. He concludes that an aged, blind, sickly man driven by revenge stemming from a mammoth personal loss, can be served justice simply by deducing his crime, instead of producing him in a court of law. And who can forget his antics in Badshahi Angti when he kept the prized ring in his own possession from the get-go just to provoke the real thief?

Relatability

Feluda may not be the boy-next-door but sleuths seldom are. Feluda was never written to be ideal — he makes oversights, he gets arrogant, he procrastinates and gets angry. But he is also an avid reader, he loves to travel and loves a good paan after his meal. Unlike Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot, who can appear to be rather unapproachable and frosty to strangers, Feluda can break the ice within seconds if he thinks he has found a lead.

But there are also aspects about him which are rather dynamic — be it his gait, his commitment to his morning yoga, his martial art prowess, his crafty disguises or his skills with a .32 Colt  — ‘nothing is quite ordinary,’ as the villain Mr. Gore so astutely put it.

Last updated on 02.08.22, 07:04 PM
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