Feluda Exhibition (April 30 to May 4) at the Bengal Art Gallery, ICCR, Kolkata to mark 50 years of Feluda, is a must-see exhibition not only for Ray aficionados but also for every individual who isn’t aware of myriad-minded Satyajit Ray.
Organised by the Society for the Preservation of Satyajit Ray Archives, the exhibition brings to the fore the man who’s the only director in the world who apart from film-making is an incredible writer and an outstanding illustrator. He was a bestselling writer of novels and short stories, and possibly the only Indian filmmaker who wrote prolifically on cinema.
As many as 108 exhibits (elegantly framed) are on display showing rare documents, drawings and illustrations of Ray. Photos from Ray’s famous ‘Kheror Khata‘ (doodles and rough illustrations of films and stories) are also on display at the exhibition.
The drafts and documents show Ray’s methodical modus operandi. “What strikes me particularly about Ray’s greatness is his practicality. He was such a practical person,” recalled Dhritiman Chaterji who participated in a talk at the Satyajit Ray auditorium on April 30, the day the exhibition was opened.
The exhibition begins with a black-and-white photo of Ray deeply immersed in his work at his Bishop Lefroy Road home. The second exhibit named Author’s Note explains Ray’s keen interest in crime fiction. “I have been an avid reader of crime fiction for a long time. I read all the Sherlock Holmes stories while still at school…Although the Feluda stories were written for the largely teenaged readers of Sandesh, I found they were being read by their parents as well…the first Feluda story –a long short—appeared in 1965.” the Note says.
Ray’s Feluda novelettes which appeared in the autumn issues of the literary periodical, Desh occupy a pride of place among the novels and stories in Bengali.
A film buff comes to know from the documents that Ray had initially named Rajasthaney Feluda (Feluda in Rajasthan) which he later changed and named Sonar Kella (The Golden Fortress) in 1971.
Visitors see the first draft of Royal Bengal Rahasya (1974). Cover designs of all the 35 books in the Feluda series, including Sonar Kella (1971), Gangtokey Gondogol (1971), Kailashey Kelenkari (1974), Badshahi Angti (1966) and Robertsoner Rubi (1991), the last of the Feluda series were on display. All the cover designs show Ray’s ingenuity as an illustrator.
Visitors were thrilled to see the first draft of Kashidhamey Feluda (Feluda in Kashi) which Ray later changed and named Jaibaba Felunath (The Elephant God) (1975).
In Jotokando Kathmandutey, Ray made an error in the illustration (in pen and ink) for Desh. Jagdish, the henchman of Maganlal, was left-handed. The mistake was rectified when the book came out in 1982.
The book cover of Darjeeling Jomjomat (Murder in the Mountains) shows the trademark Ray whose use of pen and ink is incredible.
‘The Elaborate Rajsthan Shooting Schedule’ shows how methodical and meticulous Ray was. The documents show how immaculately Ray planned his work and how cerebral he was in the art and craft of film-making.
Recalling his father’s penchant for sketch and drawing, Sandip Ray says: “My father did some sketches in a drawing book after he came back from London in 1950 and illustrated a succession of pictures (in pen, brush and ink) for the sequences of the frames as they would come up in the film, Pather Panchali. He used to take them to the producers and explain the sequences. The producers he approached, however, had no interest, nor could they understand the whole process.”
‘The Final sketch of Feluda’s drawing room’ (1973) is a tour de force that leaves visitors awestruck. The drawing in colour shows Ray’s command over the medium and his eye for details.
The Ray Society deserves kudos for putting together all these documents which lay scattered over the years. “The documents on display offer revealing insights into the evolution of my father’s thoughts on aspects of cinema as a visual art and his own craft of film-making. Putting together all these documents and artworks is really a tough task. I now realise it’s easy to make films than holding an exhibition of this kind,” Sandip Ray says with a smile.
Who’s Feluda: Prodosh Mitra, as Ray himself calls him, or Mittir as Lalmohan Babu calls him or ABCD, i.e. Asia’s Brightest Crime Detector, the title that Lalmohan Babu has given him, or Feluda, as Tapas or Topse calls him, is the most popular investigator in Bengali detective literature. He is a a six-foot tall guy. His body is shaped by a regular course of exercise and asanas. He has a remarkable capacity to adjust to any situation. This young man with his sharp intelligence has a special capacity for unravelling quibbles. He shows extraordinary prowess in the act of cracking a crime.