Bengal and its connection to detective fiction

Detective stories have always been an integral part of Bengali literature right from the beginning of the 19th century. Bengali readers and film enthusiasts have always been fascinated by foreign detective stories and films – be it Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and his logical analysis of each case, Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot and his use of the “little grey cells”, to Alfred Hitchcock’s spine-chilling mystery thrillers on screen. This inspired a whole series of detective novels and short stories by great novelists that have kept readers enthralled over decades. Bengal too had its own share of charismatic detectives – Satyajit Ray’s Feluda, Saradindu Bandyopadhay’s Byomkesh Bakshi, Nihar Ranjan Gupta’s Kiriti, Sunil Gangopadhay’s Kakababu, and more.

Besides reading about their favourite detective characters, the Bengali audience has always enjoyed films which have given shape and form to these literary characters. Veteran actor Soumitra Chattopadhay’s portrayal of Feluda the 1970s was legendary and started the trend. Over the last decades Bengali cinema has seen a splurge in the number of detective stories being converted into films. The Bengali intelligentsia has gobbled up these movies. Let us take a quick look at some of the most popular ones.

Feluda is at the heart of all Bengalis as the six-foot charming detective with his young associate. Satyajit Ray introduced him 50 years ago and Soumitra Chattopadhay is in everyone’s imagination still today as Feluda. Sabyasachi Chakraborthy also deserves special mention for portraying Feluda in Sandip Ray’s films.

Byomkesh has been played by many actors over the years, starting with Bengal matinee idol Uttam Kumar in “Chiriyakhana”. However, the first actor who became famous was Rajit Kapur in Basu Chatterjee’s TV adaptation. Recently though, the actor who has gained cult status as Byomkesh is Bengal heartthrob Abir Chatterjee with his films “Abar Byomkesh”, “Byomkesh Pawrbo”, “Byomkesh Phire Elo”, “Har Har Byomkesh”, and “Byomkesh Gowtro” being box office hits.Jishu Sengupta has also been seen portraying Byomkesh in a few films by AnjanDutt. Dibakar Banerjee’s “Detective Byomkesh Bakshy” in Hindi gave a fresh look with Sushant Singh Rajput playing the charismatic character.

Srijit Mukherjee’s spellbinding films casting Prosenjit Chatterjee as Kakababu is fascinating. “Mishawr Rohosyo” and “Yeti Obhijaan” brought this iconic detective character to life.

Nihar Ranjan Gupta’s famous detective character Kiriti has been portrayed by Indraneil Sengupta and has received reasonably decent response from the audience.

Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay’s creation, honest detective police cop, Shabor Dasgupta is yet another runaway success story once converted into films. “Ebar Shobor”, “Eagoler Chokh”, and “Aschhe Abar Shabor” have all been well appreciated by the audience with Saswata Chatterjee playing Shabor and director Arindam Sil having the reins in hand.

Imaginative and courageous child detective Gogol was Samaresh Basu’s creation. The stories are quite delightful, and we have seen two adaptations on screen, “Goyenda Gogol” and “Gogoler Kirti”.

In addition to the above, we have seen actor Chiranjeet Chatterjee play the role of Colonel Niladri Sarkar Sanyal, a detective character created by Syed Mustafa Siraj. The bearded ex-Army officer is an amateur ornithologist, a butterfly collector, and a private investigator.

There are many more in the list and frankly the list is inexhaustible. A Hindi film worth mentioning here is Sujoy Ghosh’s “Kahaani” which was a huge box office success with its roots in Bengal.

The actors in Bengal know that they will instantly shoot into fame and recognition if they feature in a popular detective adaptation on screen. This has made it more and more possible for producers to invest in detective story scripts. The nostalgia and the tradition will continue. And we will certainly see more and more such brilliant films being made.    

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