WBRi Movie Review: ROYAL BENGAL RAHASHYA (2011) Feluda Series Bengali Film by Sandip Ray

Royal Bengal Rohosso (2011): Return Of The Royal Bengal Sleuth

Sandip Ray, Sabyasachi Chakraborty, Saheb Bhattacharya
The director, Feluda & Topshe at the premiere (full WBRi premiere report is available here)

Calcutta, Dec 23, 2011 (Washington Bangla Radio / Penning Creations) Certain filmmakers believe in aggressively marketing their movies simply to ensure a decent opening at the box-office. A smaller and more elite group of directors do not believe in overt publicity gimmicks and are quietly confident in the quality of the films they make. Sandip Ray, one of premier members of the latter group of movie-makers, has always made it a point that his films would be low on cheap promotional stunts and rich in terms of content and style. Indeed, his expertise and eye for detail have immensely helped ‘Brand Feluda’ attain the immensely popular stature that it currently enjoys. While there have been odd aberrations (read: ‘Tintoretor Jishu’), Ray’s movies about the master detective have generally been well-crafted and quite brilliantly portrayed onscreen.

From the very day the director announced that he would be making ‘Royal Bengal Rohosso’, the anticipation and expectation about the film among cine-goers had been sky-high. So, has ‘Feluda’ been able to create magic yet again? Well, in most parts!

Film Trailer: Royal Bengal Rohoshyo (Bengali, 2011)

For those who are not familiar with the original story (penned by Satyajit Ray), ‘Royal Bengal Rohossho’ starts off with ‘Feluda’ (Sabyasachi Chakrabarti), ‘Topshe’ (Saheb Bhattacharya) and ‘Lalmohonbabu’ (the late Bibhu Bhattacharya) being invited by noted hunter-turned-author ‘Mahitosh Singha Roy’ (Basudeb Mukherjee). The three musketeers (so to speak!) make the long trip to the ancestral house of ‘Mahitosh’ in North Bengal, where they are greeted by the secretary of the latter, ‘Torit Sengupta’. The ‘Singha Roy-s’ have been famous as tiger-hunters for four generations and the pride of ‘Mahitosh’ in that very fact is evident as he recounts his rich family history to our protagonists. ‘Team Feluda’ also make the acquaintance of ‘Sasanka Sanyal’ (Debesh Raychowdhury), the reclusive childhood friend of ‘Mahitosh’. Plans are made for touring the jungle on the following day and a nice vacation seems to be in the offing.

But, when ‘Feluda’ is around, can a crime be far behind? Disaster strikes when ‘Torit’ is found dead in the jungle and the hands (or, more accurately, the paws!) of a man-eating tiger seems to be responsible for the sudden demise of the young secretary. ‘Feluda’, however, suspects foul play on hand and his suspicions seem to be justified when a fatal sword-wound is discovered on the body of the dead man. As is his wont, ‘Feluda’ is determined to leave no avenues unexplored (figuratively, for jungles, of course, do not have avenues!) to solve this apparent murder mystery. In addition, he is also given the duty of solving an intricate word puzzle by ‘Mahitosh’, which gives the directions to the spot where the ancestral hidden treasure of the latter is concealed. The million dollar question is, will ‘Feluda’, with all his tactical finesse, succeed in his dual quest? No prizes for guessing the answer, though!

‘Royal Bengal Rohosso’ is buoyed up by sincere performances by the entire cast. Sabyasachi, who reprises his ‘Feluda’ act, is once again, excellent. As apparent on the big screen, age is catching up with the man, but he still portrays the agility, style and smartness of the most-loved Bengali detective quite brilliantly. The paunch on ‘Feluda’ (who is supposed to be lean and fit at all times), however, stands out as a sore thumb. This glitch, however, is largely overshadowed by the sheer screen presence of this veteran actor. Saheb Bhattacharya, as ‘Topshe’, has precious little to do except for nodding in an intelligent manner at certain points and explaining the meanings of rather simple English words to ‘Lalmohonbabu’. The late Bibhu Bhattacharya sparkles in the role of ‘Lalmohon Ganguly/Jatayu.’ In what proved to be his final hurrah, the actor delivers a gem of a performance and manages to evoke genuine laughter among the audience. While comparisons with Santosh Dutta (the original and the best ‘Lalmohonbabu’) would be meaningless, Bhattacharya was indeed getting into the skin of the character and delivering improved performances with each passing ‘Feluda’ movie. One expected him to feature in many more films of this franchise, but fate had other plans.

Basudeb Mukherjee, as the frustrated yet apparently gracious ‘Mahitosh Singha Roy’, does full justice to his role. Mukherjee has one of the best voices in the Bengali film industry right now and he makes full use of this prowess to pack that extra punch in his dialog delivery. Debesh Raychowdhury, as ‘Sasanka Sanyal’, is first-rate. Paran Bandopadhyay, as the eccentric elder brother of ‘Mahitosh’ is superb. Bhashwar Chattopadhyay, as ‘Tarit Sengupta’ is adequate. Biplab Chattopadhyay, as ‘Inspector Dibyendu Biswas’, is hardly there.

The storytelling mastery of Sandip Ray is portrayed once again to the audience via ‘Royal Bengal Rohosso’. The crisp dialogs and the tight screenplay helps the film to move along at a brisk pace, keeping the viewers hooked at all times. Cinematographer Sasanka Palit does a decent job of capturing the beauty of the forests of North Bengal. The presence of Sree Venkatesh Films as the producer boosts up the production values of the movie by several notches.

The technical aspects of the movie, rather surprisingly, come as a letdown. In particular, the sequence where the actors are confronted with a Royal Bengal Tiger is entirely unconvincing. The attempts to make the scene believable by taking separate close-up shots of the tiger and the actors’ expressions fall flat on their faces. Such shortcomings are not expected of a Sandip Ray movie. The hugely popular theme music of ‘Feluda’ has been, for some reason, sparingly used by the ace director. All fans of the franchise love the tune and it could have been used more frequently to set the mood of the film from the very outset.

On the whole, ‘Royal Bengal Rahashya’ is a solid addition to an already successful ‘Feluda’ movie franchise. Only if certain technical flaws had been ironed out, the movie would have been an even better watch. Sabyasachi may or may not enact the role of the master sleuth again and Bibhu Bhattacharya is, of course, no longer with us, but, as the closing credits proclaim, ‘Feluda Fer Firbey’.

We will wait, Mr. Director!