Emerging from Satyajit Ray's shadow: Film-maker Sandip Ray

Ray made one more movie in the Feluda series – 'Joy Baba Felunath' (The Elephant God) – which too was critically acclaimed and was a popular hit.
Sandip Ray
Sandip Ray

KOLKATA: Living up to the legacy of legendary movie maker and author Satyajit Ray is a tough call for anyone.

For his son, the 69-year-old film director, Sandip Ray, best known for the series of detective movies he has made based on his father's popular series of books on the quintessential private investigator Prodosh Mitter alias 'Feluda', the challenge to emerge from Satyajit Ray's shadow as he accepts with a smile, is ''daunting''.

''It's daunting ... but at the same time you have to work. There are plus points and there are minus points (of being a famous director's son),'' Sandip Ray told PTI.

The younger Ray who started out life as an assistant to his father, made his debut film 'Phatik Chand' at the age of 30. Since then, he has made more than two dozen movies and tele-films, including a series of movies on 'Feluda'.

Satyajit Ray made 'Sonar Kella' (Golden Fortress), the first 'Feluda' thriller, in 1974 after having become internationally acclaimed for sensitive films such as the Apu trilogy, the Calcutta trilogy, 'Aranyer Din Ratri' (Days & Nights in the Forest) and 'Nayak' (Hero).

'Sonar Kella', an adaption of Ray's book for young adults by the same name, starring Soumitra Chatterjee as the detective 'Feluda' and Santosh Dutta as the bumbling author and Feluda's companion- 'Jatayu', was shot in the Rajasthan desert. It was an instant box-office hit and picked up a large number of national and international awards.

Ray made one more movie in the Feluda series – 'Joy Baba Felunath' (The Elephant God) – which too was critically acclaimed and was a popular hit.

There has been no looking back after that as the series was carried forward by the younger Ray, who came up with many successful films including 'Tintorettor Jishu' (Tintoretto's Jesus), 'Baksho Rohoshyo' (Box Mystery), 'Kailashe Kelenkari' (Scandal at Kailash) and 'Badhshahi Angti' (the Emperor's Ring).

''I love making movies on Feluda … I love the stories, the characters, the intrigues … I (also) love making films for young adults,'' explained Sandip Ray.

The latest from the series which he will be releasing with a totally new cast is 'Hatyapuri' (House of Death), based on murder mystery at the sea-side town of Puri.

''There was a gap between the last Feluda movie (2016) and this latest offering … Covid had much to do with that. But the choice of Puri was dictated by a lot of nostalgia and memories. My father used to love the place and wrote many of his scripts there,'' the director explained.

Till now, the younger Ray had plumbed mostly for the tall, pockmarked, sharp-eyed Sabyasachi Chakrabarty as Feluda, but this time he has chosen a younger actor, Indraneil Sengupta, who had earlier essayed the role of Kiriti, another well-known detective from Bengali fiction.

He had also cast Abir Chatterjee as Feluda for 'Badshahi Angti' but seemingly preferred Sabyasachi and now Indraneil for the detective's job.

''It's very difficult to choose a 'Feluda' … something like choosing a new James Bond,'' said Sandip Ray with a twinkle in his eyes.

''However, in Indraneil's case, he wanted to play Feluda and had asked me many years back … but at that time Benu (Sabyasachi) was Feluda and I did not think of a change. This time around, when I was preparing to make the movie, I asked him and he promptly agreed, dropping his role as Kiriti to opt for this movie,'' he explained.

Another director-actor Abhijeet Guha has been press-ganged into playing 'Jatayu', replacing Bibhu Bhattacharya. ''Memories of these iconic characters 'Feluda', 'Jatayu' … and Sandip Ray as director drew me to do the movie… ,'' Guha told PTI.

Over the years, Sandip Ray has come to be known for his own versatile talents, both as a film director, a script-writer and as editor of a popular Bengali children's magazine 'Sandesh', launched 110 years back by his family.

While agreeing that comparisons with his father would be unfair, veteran film scholar and critic Shoma A Chatterji, rates the younger Ray as a ''consistent film-maker which is rare for the Bengali movie industry, making wholesome, entertaining, family films''.

''His music stands out as very good,'' Chatterji, a National Film Award-winning critic said. The younger Ray has possibly taken after his father in that, feel critics.

The great care taken with the background score which draws on the original Satyajit Ray detective movies and yet is very different, possibly heightens the sense of suspense in Sandip Ray's 'Feluda' movies, attracting his audience to an ultimate thrilling end.

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