Despite lacunas, the show is a one-time watch
Last Updated: 08.17 AM, May 10, 2023
Story: The first season of Shabash Feluda is based on Gangtoke Gondogol. Perfumer SS Selvankar (Arindam Sil) gets killed in an apparent road accident in Gangtok. Before his death, he buys an ancient Tibetan idol – Jamantak – from a simpleton Bengali, Nishikanto Sarkar (Rudranil Ghosh). On their way to the holiday in Gangtok, Feluda (Parambrata Chatterjee) and Topshe (Rwitobroto Mukherjee) meet Shashadhar Bose (Ritwick Chakraborty) – SS Selvankar’s employee in Mumbai. After Selvankar’s death, Shashadhar Bose seeks Feluda’s intervention in resolving the case as the accident turns out to be fishy.
Review: The real question is perhaps not why we are adapting more detective stories on the screen in Bengal. That has a simple explanation: There are takers for those detectives even today. Contemporising those classics is not a problem either. A maker must enjoy the creative liberty to tell their stories. The bigger question, however, is how are we adapting them on screen. As it seems, the makers in the Bengali entertainment industry invest little thought behind it. As a result, we often get a half-cooked presentation with zero entertainment value.
Satyajit Ray’s Gangtoke Gondogol was penned in the 1970s. It was one of the early Feluda-stories of 150-odd pages. Arindam Sil and Padmanava Dasgupta expanded the plot to make it a long-ish 10-episode drama. They aced it with some expansion and failed in some other elaborations. They elaborated on the irregularities at Selvankar’s firm and introduced important characters, and most of such elements are well-sync barring a few unnecessary loose ends. For example, SS Selvankar’s brother Pravin Selvankar’s character is introduced. Later, the character gets murdered. Why and how is he murdered is somewhat convoluted. On the other hand, the introduction of Sikkim police is pretty much convincing. The story also incorporated a little bit of Indo-China political tiff and China's sour relationship with Tibet. The story is well mounted but it lacks suspense.
Let’s talk about the characters. Over a long period, Parambrata proved to be one of the finest actors of this generation, not only in Bengal but nationally. And yet, as Feluda, he appears stiff. There was not a moment when he looks comfortable in the character. On the contrary, it appears that the pressure of playing Feluda and the perception battle that chased him have taken a toll on the actor’s skills. If that is the case then it will be a regret that we could not watch a carefree Parambrata playing Feluda in this web series. Rwitobroto, on the other hand, is a perfect Topshe. In fact, his hero worship, smartness, and assistance are very real.
It is a no-brainer that Ritwick will be Shashadhar Bose to a T. His job wasn’t difficult and his final delivery is perfect. Sauraseni Maitra and Debopriyo Mukherjee as Rinchen Gonpo and Inspector Gaikonde are newly brewed characters and both of them put their best foot forward to make the characters convincing. Meanwhile, a Maganlal Meghraj-esque kingpin character MM (Kamaleswar Mukherjee) is introduced very shoddily. The character leaves no mark in the entire series.
When Gangtoke Gondogol was written, the character of Lalmohan Ganguly was yet to be introduced. However, according to many, the character of Nishikanto Sarkar was Ray’s first impression of Lalmohan Ganguly. However, Satyajit made neither Nishikato nor Lalmohanbabu a joker. Arindam Sil and Rudranil’s Nishikanto is unpardonably loud and clownish. Nishikanto is one of the sore points of the show.
Another major plus is portraying the picturesque Sikkim. The camera work is commendable and even the production side is worth appreciating. The background score seems perfect but the title track becomes boring after two episodes.
Verdict: A Feluda should never be missed. However, this one has glaring lacunas. If there is another season of the show, it will need a little more conviction to prove that a childhood classic can be contemporised and presented lavishly. It is surely a one-time watch but will not be remembered as a valiant effort.