When it was announced that Feluda was getting a 'Bangladeshi' reboot, I was excited. As someone fortunate enough to have grown up in an era before smartphones and the internet, books were a big part of my childhood, and Feluda was one of my first idols. The Feluda TV series directed by Sandip Roy is also one of my fondest memories of watching television as a child, following the adventures of the inimitable trio of Sabyasachi Chakrabarty, Saswata Chatterjee and Rabi Ghosh solve crimes. Truth be told, I became fairly detached from Feluda in the years after; I did not have a chance to follow the films, so this seemed like a great opportunity to reconnect with a long-lost hero. To know that Kandy Productions and Tom Creations were the producers was also assuring: they had brought us some good content in recent years—Aynabaji Original Series and Osthir Somoye Swosti'r Golpo.
After watching about 96 minutes of the first story—Sheyal Debota Rohoshho—on streaming platform Bioscopelive, I felt equal parts happy and irked.
First up, the good stuff: This is a Feluda of our times. He has a Facebook page, hauls Uber for his commutes instead of the ambassador taxis, and the iPhone has replaced his film camera and notebook. With the Joker t-shirts and iPad vlogs, Topshe (played by Riddhi Sen) is also the quintessential post-millennial. Parambrata Chatterjee, who directs and stars as the sleuth extraordinaire, has gotten the tonality of a 21st-century Feluda and Topshe right. He has done justice to the 'reboot'—taking a 1970 story from Sandesh magazine and blowing it up to fit the web and app-streaming times. Still keeping plenty of nods to the original story must have been a daunting task and screenwriters Aniruddha and Padmanava Dasgupta have done commendably on that aspect. The music, too, is great—interpreting the original tune into something very contemporary and yet really nostalgic. The throwbacks to Charminar cigarettes and seeking some Sidhu Jyatha wisdom are also nice touches. The 'Dhaka romanticism', including Feluda's family ties here, feels a little like pandering to the Bangladeshi audience, but is also done mostly well.
Acting-wise, Parambrata sheds his Topshe shadow (which he played in three Feluda films from the 2000s) and embodies a young, agile and suave Prodosh Mitra (Feluda's real name). Tariq Anam Khan is expectedly brilliant in his complex character. But more on the acting later.
Now, getting to the not-so-good part, and this list is longer than I ever wished it to be. The production seems rushed and really callous, and prevented me from ever getting lost in the story. The dubbing was really hurried: lip-sync was off at way too many places, and continuity errors (like Tarek's having gloves on one hand in one shot and not having them on in the next early in episode 1, and Feluda shooting with his left hand from the bike near the end of episode 4 although he is clearly right-handed) can be overlooked in début or amateur works, but in a high-profile production like this, feel sore to the eye. Whoever was in charge of graphics did not proof-read the Sherlock-style floating texts and graphics, leaving spelling errors (misspelling the medicine 'Metformin' for 'Metmorfin' in episode 1 and misspelling 'Kolkataye' in Bangla in episode 3). There was also a terribly-done mock-up of a Facebook profile with horribly-Photoshopped photos (episode 3).
Dialogue writing is one of THE biggest issues with the series, to the point of ruining it, at least for the Bangladeshi audience. The weird accent that most Dhaka-based characters talk in is almost an intentional mockery: people of Dhaka (or anywhere in Bangladesh) do not speak in such colloquialisms. The worst of the lot is Shahed Ali's Inspector Parvez; I don't know if he was meant to be a foil character or comic relief, but every time he spoke it infuriated me. Dolly Zahur's character also weirdly switches her accent mid-dialogue in a couple of places—to that nauseating accent that people from West Bengal think we speak in.
The character of Nilmoni Sanyal also speaks an unfathomable concoction of an accent. At one point in episode 2, Topshe is offered samocha and is bewildered, only for Feluda to explain that “Over here, they call shingaras samocha.” Just... no. Firstly, we have both shingaras and shamucha here and they are different. Secondly, samosa is too common a Hindi word for Topshe to be culturally shocked by.
Nobody in Dhaka refers to any Mr Mitra (Feluda) as 'Mr Mittir' as Nilmoni says. That is a distinctively Kolkata style of saying things, and often used in Satyajit's scripts. Feluda's Dhaka driver saying 'Agge' and 'Ji Mama' in the space of three seconds in the same conversation (episode 4) sums up of how terribly the Dhaka and Kolkata dialogues are mixed up by the writers. Countless such oversights take away greatly from the entire experience. Such a shame.
The script, while brave and largely good, is not watertight. A number of plot devices are done poorly. What's Nilmoni's motivation to give Feluda the hieroglyph? Why do the goons just mildly rough-up Feluda and Topshe and leave without any threat? How does Feluda just acquire a gun in a different country, and fire it in the middle of a road with oncoming traffic in broad daylight without any commotion? How does driver Hasan convince a stranger in a matter of seconds to lend a motorbike and just continue on a hot pursuit? Finally, Topshe gathering police backup and finding Feluda and Nilmoni in the climax scene just at the right time is a lazy Deus Ex Machina that really pushes the audience's willing suspension of disbelief.
In terms of direction, it feels like a gallant effort that falls ever so short; the action scenes (especially the opening chase sequence and Feluda's sole close combat one) don't invoke the thrill they should. Depicting Feluda on-screen is no small task, and it feels like playing the lead AND directing does get a little much for Parambrata, from all these issues. One expositional scene where Feluda walks Topshe back through the first triggering event, however, is a masterstroke, and was my highlight of the entire story.
Another of my gripes is that almost the entire production crew, judging by their names in the credits, appear to be from West Bengal. Maybe it was just that Parambrata was given full liberty on assembling the crew, but it just feels a little odd that an essentially 'Bangladeshi' production is almost entirely made by foreigners. In the press releases, we were promised that this was going to be a 'Bangladeshi' production, and I feel in that aspect, we got a little duped. From the promotional campaign for the series in India (where it is showing on Kolkata-based streaming platform Addatimes), it seems like they are branding it entirely differently there as a new Feluda web series, directed by and starring their own stars—and that feels a little two-faced. While that is a marketing decision and should not be my headache, I cannot help but be a teeny-weeny bit uncomfortable with it.
Fahmim Ferdous is Sub-Editor, Arts and Entertainment at The Daily Star.