Sunday, 31 October 2010


Dr Mohan Agashe releasing the Feluda stories
in Marathi at the National Film Archive of India
in Pune, India


Looking at the book’s cover I try to figure out which story is it. Kathmandutil Kardankal... oh... it’s that story... Jawto Kando Kathmandute. I loved that one. In fact, I still do... all the adventures of Feluda, the fictional private investigator that master filmmaker Satyajit Ray had created several decades ago. And now Feluda is here, in Marathi, to enjoy a wider readership that missed him till now. Twelve of the Feluda stories, under the title Fantastic Feluda, have been translated by veteran journalist Ashok Jain. Noted illustrator Tapas Guha has designed the covers of the books that were released in Pune recently.

Feluda is actually Pradoshchandra Mitra, a young, good-looking, suave Bengalee guy from Calcutta. Felu is his pet name. A bachelor, he lives with his uncle’s family; his teenager cousin Topeshranjan, or Topshe, is the chronicler of the adventures; he narrates the stories. And there’s the thriller-writer Lalmohan Ganguly alias Jatayu, who completes the group that goes about solving mysteries across Bengal, across India and beyond — Kathmandu to London. He has been a sharpshooter, very agile and has enough knowledge about lot of subjects. And in case he needed to know something that is unknown to commoners, Felu would depend on Sidhujetha, an elederly man, who is like a treasure trove of all sorts of information.

Ray penned 35 Feluda novelettes since the investigator’s first appearance in the Bangla-language children’s magazine Sandesh in 1965. There are some shorter stories as well. Several stories appeared as part of another children’s magazine called Anandamela. All the adventures were gradually compiled as collections. They are part of my prized possessions, even now.

“These 12 stories in Marathi were translated from the English translations of the original Bangla stories. We got the rights from the publisher of the English translations,” says Pradeep Champanerkar of the Rohan Prakashan that has published Feluda in Marathi. “Our purpose has been to fill in the vacuum that now exists in Marathi literature for teenagers,” he says about this project that took “one year to complete”.

But for translator Jain, it was “just a matter of four months” to make Feluda speak in Marathi. “I was careful that the original flavour of the stories should not get diluted during the translation,” Jain says. “I went paragraph-by-paragraph to translate, be it the descriptions or the conversations. The stress was more on the content than on specific words that the Marathi-speaking readers may not understand. And there were some difficulties with names of places and people,” he adds from Mumbai. But “people who know both Marathi and Bangla helped” him. Dr Veena Aalase, Vilas Gite, Neelima Bhave, Mrunalini Gadkari, Aruna Juvekar, Pabitra Sarkar, Aparna Ghosh being some of them, informs Champanerkar. “My experience as a translator got enriched with this project,” says Jain who is now busy translating the adventures of Byomkesh Bakshi into Marathi.

Some of the Feluda stories were adapted for big and small screens. Veteran actor Dr Mohan Agashe played the roles of Jatayu and also the villainous Maganlal Meghraj. “It was a unique experience to act in those films,” he tells me. “With Ray, one gets to see the power of script. It’s rare to see in one person the sense of lighting, detailing about visuals and good script”.

Referring to the stories, he says, “They are a wonderful combination of child psychiatry and adult world”. All these stories are like “nourishment for the teenage mind that is usually curious and adventurous” and “they make the youngsters learn about life”.

How true! Didn’t I get to know the good-bad-ugly world from the Feduda stories? And why just me? So many like me in Bengal swore by him. Now, it’s your turn.

Photograph by Biswadip Mitra