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Satyajit Ray Birth Anniversary Special

If Sandip Ray asks me to play Feluda again, I’ll jump to it: Sabyasachi Chakrabarty

One of Bengali cinema’s favourite on-screen sleuths opens up on playing the character he idolised

Priyam Marik | Published 02.05.22, 07:05 PM

Following the resounding success of Sonar Kella (1974) and Joi Baba Felunath (1979), it was difficult, if not impossible, to imagine anyone other than Soumitra Chatterjee as the on-screen Feluda, Bengal’s favourite detective. And yet, between 1996 and 2016, someone else not only became synonymous with Feluda but also won over a new generation of fans through his portrayal of Satyajit Ray’s fictional hero. That someone is Sabyasachi Chakrabarty, the man who has played the iconic Feluda on the silver screen more than anybody else.

My Kolkata caught up with Chakrabarty at the 2022 Kolkata Literature Festival (KLF) on the grounds of the 45th International Kolkata Book Fair to find out about the origins of his love for Feluda, his conversation with Satyajit Ray about playing Feluda, eventually playing it under Sandip Ray’s direction and more.

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Edited excerpts from the conversation follow.

‘My father had all the traits of Feluda’

Unlike most youngsters who identify more with Topshe, Sabyasachi always found Feluda to be his favourite

Unlike most youngsters who identify more with Topshe, Sabyasachi always found Feluda to be his favourite

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My Kolkata: Is it true that during your college days, much before you played Feluda on screen, you would mould yourself according to the character?

Sabyasachi Chakrabarty: Yes, that’s true. In fact, when I first read Feluda, I was mesmerised. This is the character of my dreams, so I always thought that I’d like to become Feluda one day. My father had all the traits of Feluda, and like every son idolises his father, I idolised him, too. In turn, I idolised the character of Feluda, as written by Satyajit Ray. Generally, youngsters imagine themselves to be Topshe, but right from a young age, I’ve always imagined myself to be Feluda. I always liked to dominate! Feluda has been my inspiration all through.

Sabysachi had tried in vain to convince Satyajit Ray to let him play Feluda

Sabysachi had tried in vain to convince Satyajit Ray to let him play Feluda

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What happened when you went up to Satyajit Ray and told him that you wanted to play Feluda?

Honestly, I never thought I’d get to play Feluda one day. I came into acting incidentally and had the nerve to walk up to Satyajit Ray and tell him that I wanted to play Feluda. He didn’t [let me]. Finally, his son (Sandip Ray) did and my dream came true.

‘Soumitra Chatterjee told me that you don’t have to be James Bond to be Feluda’

 Soumitra Chatterjee told Sabyasachi that Feluda’s “eyes speak”

Soumitra Chatterjee told Sabyasachi that Feluda’s “eyes speak”

Sonar Kella

Once you got the role of Feluda, did you have a conversation with Soumitra Chatterjee? Did he give you any tips or advice?

Yes, he definitely did. He said keep at the back of your mind that Feluda is very cerebral and his eyes speak. So, you don’t have to be James Bond to be Feluda, he’s (Bond) absolutely on the other side of the detective universe. He also told me about his experience with Satyajit Ray and how Ray guided him. That helped me a lot.

Once I started playing Feluda, I decided not to play Kakababu anymore

Sabysachi essayed the role of Kakababu before succeeding Soumitra Chatterjee as Feluda

Sabysachi essayed the role of Kakababu before succeeding Soumitra Chatterjee as Feluda

Jahangirer Swarnamudra

You have also portrayed Kakababu on screen. Is it fair to create a parallel between Feluda and Kakababu or would the latter be more of an adventurer rather than a quintessential detective?

Kakababu has never been a detective, he’s more of an adventurer who incidentally falls into mysteries and complexities that lead him to investigate, but he’s always been an adventurer. I never took the Kakababu role very seriously, at least not until Pinaki Chaudhuri made this film called Kakababu Here Gelen? where it was Soumitra Chatterjee who played the antagonist. I was serious about it because I knew I had stiff competition! But then, once I started playing Feluda, I decided not to play Kakababu anymore. So, I drifted away and remained Feluda.

I simply did what Sandip Ray wanted me to

As Feluda, Sabysachi always took director Sandip Ray’s word as final

As Feluda, Sabysachi always took director Sandip Ray’s word as final

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We know that Satyajit Ray was deeply influenced by Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. When playing Feluda, would you look at Holmes for reference or would you perform strictly according to how the director (Sandip Ray) envisioned Feluda?

Absolutely, I just followed what Sandip Ray asked me to do. He refused to have anything to do with his father’s films. He said: “Don’t watch my father’s films, don’t watch Soumitra Chatterjee anymore. Just stick to the sketches, illustrations and descriptions in the books.” I simply did what Sandip Ray wanted me to, nothing more than that.

Satyajit Ray primarily wrote Feluda for children and youngsters

Unlike Irene Adler in Sherlock, Feluda’s stories have never had a corresponding female character

Unlike Irene Adler in Sherlock, Feluda’s stories have never had a corresponding female character

Sherlock

In a lot of detective stories featuring a male protagonist, we generally find a strong female character who plays an important part in the plot. Even with Holmes, we see someone like Irene Adler. But why do you think there was no corresponding female presence in the stories of Feluda? Was it a conscious choice by Satyajit Ray?

I think Satyajit Ray primarily wrote Feluda for children and youngsters. He always said that it’s not a good idea to have male-female relationships as far as children are concerned. Because male children are largely restricted to their relationships with their mothers or their sisters. Nothing more than that. He felt it best not to have any female characters so as to avoid making certain impressions on children’s minds. I think he did it right.

Sandip Ray couldn’t find anyone else who could portray Feluda

Sabysachi Chakrabarty last portrayed his most iconic role in 2016’s Double Feluda

Sabysachi Chakrabarty last portrayed his most iconic role in 2016’s Double Feluda

Royal Bengal Rahasya

When was that moment you decided that you have had enough and do not want to do Feluda anymore?

It was after Royal Bengal Rahashya (2011) that I decided it’s time for me to call it quits. But then (five years later in 2016) Sandip Ray called me again when he was doing Double Feluda. He couldn’t find anyone else who could portray Feluda. He asked me to do it again and I did it again. Well, let me make a confession, if he asks me to play Feluda again, I’ll jump to it! 

We certainly hope he does.

Haha yes, let’s hope so. But I’ll have to dye my hair in that case!

Or maybe you can reinvent the Feluda look?

Ah, I’d say that’s up to the director.

‘Abir has been quite individualistic in his approach’

‘Abir has been quite individualistic in his approach’

‘Abir has been quite individualistic in his approach’

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Lastly, what have you made of Abir Chatterjee as Feluda, who took over from you?

He’s been good, quite individualistic in his approach. There are different directors creating their own versions of Feluda, and all of them are doing quite well. 

Last updated on 02.05.22, 07:05 PM
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