With Abir Chatterjee as Dipak Chatterjee and Paran Bandyopadhyay as Swapan Kumar, the film is set to hit the theatres on January 12.
Swapan Kumar’s pulp fiction was a sensational hit in Kolkata in the 50s and 60s. His detective character Dipak Chatterjee was hugely popular and yet never got the prestige of other detectives like Feluda or Byomkesh Bakshi from the general Bengali readers. Director Debaloy Bhattacharya wanted to capture this ‘double standard’ of Bengalis in his ambitious project, Shri Swapankumarer Badami Hyenar Kobole. With Abir Chatterjee as Dipak Chatterjee and Paran Bandyopadhyay as Swapan Kumar, the film is set to hit the theatres on January 12.
By his admission, Debaloy is tired of the constant flow of entertainment revolving around mainstream detectives like Feluda and Byomkesh Bakshi. “The overwhelming culture of mainstream detective characters is tiresome by now. Meanwhile, the practice of pulp fiction is barely celebrated and is going into oblivion. In fact, it is often looked down upon. That is why Swapan Kumar,” said the director. He also pointed it out that Swapan Kumar and his detective characters are widely read but never celebrated. “Everybody read it but Swapan Kumar could never manage a position in the bookshelves of a Bengali household. He is secretly read and cherished but barely celebrated in public. In the film, I wanted to capture this hypocrisy.”
Debaloy seems to be fascinated by the unmistakable pulp fiction created by Swapan Kumar. “With Dipak Chatterjee, Swapan Kumar created a meta-realistic world within the city. There is a huge space to let your imagination run wild. Now amid this tiring mainstream cultural rigmarole, I needed this space and I made the space through Swapan Kumar. This is my story, my homage to Swapan Kumar. What I took from him though is his world,” the director said.
Debaloy planned this film for a decade and took years to lay it down as a complete film. “The film is when Swapan Kumar starts writing his last novel – the last case of of Dipak Chatterjee. When Dipak Chatterjee is making a comeback, the city is flooded with celebrity detectives. The detective points that out. Dipak Chatterjee has never been a celebrity. In reality, people devoured Swapan Kumar and yet refused to keep those books in their drawing room bookcase. Now people are celebrating him just out of nostalgia and nothing else. There is this hypocrisy,” he said passionately.
Debaloy continued, “I wanted to make this film dearly – with all my heart – for a long time. It is a grand-scale film. Finally, I got the producers who supported me without having any idea if this film would work. It has been an ambitious project and that’s it. I have no idea if people would like the film as it is very different from what we usually watch. I am hopeful about the reaction we saw after the teaser, trailer, and the song release.”
The trailer and teaser deliver a unique style with the usage of colours and are packaged with a graphic novel vibe. “I have a fascination for nighttime and rain. Such scenes are there in my other works also. I work majorly at night and people tease me for this fascination. They say my energy level goes up after the sunset. All these are used in the film. Teaser and trailer are a glimpse of that,” he said.
It goes without saying that Abir Chatterjee, who plays almost all the Bengali celebrity sleuths on the screen, was Debaloy’s obvious choice for his sub altern detective Deepak Chatterjee. How did he convince the favourite Bengali detective on-screen to deconstruct his image? “Abir is the one who’s carrying the baggage of Bengali celebrity detectives. He is the best person to contradict it. When he heard the story he immediately connected with it. There has to be fatigue in playing mainstream celebrity detectives regularly. SSBHK is that unexplored space for him I think.”
Debaloy is anxious to see the response of the film. “If this works, there will be a possibility of a franchise. It is an interesting genre,” he said.