Monday, January 14, 2008

Joi Baba Felunath (The Elephant God)

This is an entertaining light detective story written and directed by Satyajit Ray. It’s such a change to see an Indian detective on screen in kurta and pyjamas instead of a long black coat and top hat. But there are allusions to the sleuths of the West.

An old man living in Kashi, an avid detective story fan (like his grandson) recruits the famous detective from Calcutta, Feluda for a case. The mystery of the missing Ganesha Idol is actually solved with the help of ‘Tintin in Africa’.

The assistants are rather cute - young Jotayu and Topse, the Uncle who himself is a writer of popular detective stories for children. Uncle conducts himself admirably in the lair of the villain when a doddering old knife thrower is called in throw knives at him while he stands at a board.

Villain Utpal Dutta has enough villainy in his big eyes to frighten one but of course not Feluda.
Another interesting byplay is a body-builder with whom they share a room. He is fanatical about the temple of his body and cannot allow it to be sullied by such things as knives, so he is prepared to depart when a threatening note arrives. .

Soumitra Chatterjee as Feluda is perfect, underplayed and yet broodingly intelligent and his smile with crooked teeth appears only occasionally fittingly. And the best part is the action is set in Benares and one is allowed to go through the narrow streets, past cows and holy men, right into ancient buildings with endless corridors and numerous arches. With Ray’s camera, even the grime on unpainted walls looks regal. And the river, when it makes an occasional appearance is of course magnificent
A charming film to entertain both children and adults.

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