For the love of Feluda
The Bengali detective is back. But not on screen this time. He still doesn’t use a cell phone and his mogojastro (roughly ‘brain-weapon’) is as sharp as ever.
And if this wouldn’t have been the case, then Prodosh C Mitter, more famously known as Feluda, would have been found already and there would have been no need of Mission Talaash which is being carried out by two of his die-hard fans from Baithak for the past two years.
The Bengali cultural milieu is not known for erecting shrines; else one would have surely adorned 27, Rajani Sen Road. It is there that this extremely intelligent, well-read, handsome, athletic and iconic detective, Prodosh C. Mitter, resides. Created in 1965 by Satyajit Ray, his spell over the Bengali imagination had long left the confines of the printed word, conquering succeeding generations and creating fanatic followers, generating conversation as intense as if he lived just next door.
It was this same craze and nostalgia that Shoumo Banerjee and his wife Swaralipi conceptualized through Baithak - Feludar paraye coffeer thek.
‘Baithak is a new concept coffee shop opened on the lines of 221B Baker Street (Sherlock Holmes’ address in London) to recreate the Feluda magic that has been created by Satyajit Ray,’ owner Shoumo says.‘From Babu uncle (Sandip Ray) to Benuda (Sabyasachi Chakraborty) to the famous cartoonist Debashis Deb, everyone lent us a helping hand,’ he adds.
The decor has a classical Victorian wall mounted with coffee quotes from people like Satyajit Ray to Russel and from Einstein to Hemingway. The sitting arrangement is set up with traditional northeastern cane stools and boasts of a typical Bengali traditional look.
Mitter is referred to as Feluda, Felu, being his household name which also lends itself to describe the series of 35-odd stories and novellas that Ray wrote to chronicle his master sleuth’s adventures, along with two popular movie - Sonar Kella/The Fortress (1974) and Joi Baba Felunath/The Elephant God (1978) - that he adapted from them.
His personality of the sandesh-loving Bengali with an inspired love for the liberal arts and sciences has a direct connection with his creator. Felu is always accompanied by his teenage cousin Topshethe Watson-like assistant and confidant and often his friend Lalmohan Ganguly, alias Jatayu, an enthusiastic but naïve writer of sensational thrillers.
For the die-hard Feluda fans, a sense of gratification prevailed when Satyajit’s son, Sandip, decided to revive the series with screen adaptations of other stories with a fresh cast - Bombaiyer Bombete/ The Buccaneers of Bombay, Kailashe Kelenkari/A Killer in Kailash in 2007 and Tintorettor Jishu/Tintoretto’s Jesus, that brought Feluda alive once again.
It is important to provide a detail of Ray’s such creations as they have been directly imbibed on Baithak’s menu. The unique eatery has on offer sumptuous fritatas (Spanish omelettes), milkshakes, sandwiches, sherbets and other delicacies named after the endearing characters and places that saw the trio solve their cases.
The ‘Jatayu Special’ segment is a tribute to Lalmohan Ganguly’s love for alliterations, with fritatas called Fatafati fritatas, sandwiches named Kankrar Khutinati (crabmeat sandwich) as also ‘Chenchiye Bolo Chocolate sandwich’ (shout out loud chocolate). Similarly, Bombaiyer Bombaytey will be remembered if one who orders from the ‘Bombaiya Snacks’ segment, while beverages like ‘Chocolate Meghraj’ and ‘Maganlal Sherbet’ bring back Maganlal Meghraj’s scoff, who has been portrayed as Feluda’s arch enemy. Guests are welcome to be part of a mystery called Mission Talaash which is a fictional hunt for the private-eye, who seemed to have gone missing.
But what is disturbing is Baithak will have to wind up and make way for bigger commercially viable places. Baithak will have to shut shop on 30 June. But as Feluda would say: Ache ache telepathy’r jor ache (Miracles do happen), the owner is confident to find a place and continue to serve this cult of Bengalis for long.