Two of our favourite Bengali sleuths — Feluda and Byomkesh — came on screen for the first time to unravel a mystery together. Directed by Dibakar Banerjee, the new ad film on 50 50 Golmaal gets the two popular detectives, Feluda played by Sabyasachi Chakrabarty and Byomkesh by Anirban Bhattacharya, to solve the mysterious taste of this new product from the house of Britannia. As the intriguingly filmed ad campaign released on YouTube on April 13, The Telegraph caught up with the two actors on mysteries and more:
What about the Britannia 50 50 Golmaal campaign interested Feluda and Byomkesh to come together on screen?
Sabyasachi: There is a golmaal in the cracker. The biscuit is fairly sweet and at the same time has kalo jeera (nigella seeds). Kalo jeera doesn’t really go with sweet, so there is a slight golmaal where we as Sabyasachi and Anirban, representing Feluda and Byomkesh respectively, try to investigate.
Anirban: It can be imagined that the kalo jeera represents one of us and the sugar represents the other. Even though there is a contrast in taste, eventually it tastes good. Similarly, if Feluda and Byomkesh are brought together, they can be served as a delicious dish to the Bengali audience.
Did you ever wish to play each other’s character?
Sabyasachi: I was approached to play Byomkesh but I always thought that it would be a golmaal and there is a 50-50 chance of people liking me. After getting recognised as Feluda it would not be right for me to play Byomkesh as it has been played by many good actors. I have played other detectives but Feluda is close to my heart.
Anirban: For me, it is also a 50-50 situation. There was a time when I felt it would be great to play Feluda but after acting in Byomkesh films, it changed for me. After exploring all the traits of a character, there is a fear as an actor whether there will be anything new to explore in another detective character. Feluda and Byomkesh fans are a little rigid about these two characters. So, out of fear I did not want to do Feluda.
But rumours are doing the rounds that we will soon see you in a Feluda film. Is that true?
Anirban: Rumours are rumours. We don’t have any right to break that mystery (laughs).
What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when we talk about mystery?
Anirban: In college life, I would think differently but now I think the entire life of a human being is a mystery in this world....
Sabyasachi: I think everything is a mystery. We don’t know what we have to face the very next moment.
How was your experience of shooting together?
Anirban: It was special for me because with Benuda I have acted on stage before but never on screen. That opportunity came in such a manner where he is in Feluda’s character and I am playing Byomkesh, the shoot is for everyone’s favourite brand Britannia and one of our favourite directors, Dibakar Banerjee, directed it. It was shot in Bombay, where a house set had been created like the Rajani Sen Road house (Feluda’s residence). Overall it was a good experience.
Sabyasachi: The shooting experience was wonderful. Dibakar has done many ad films and I was quite happy to know that he would do it. It was managed by SVF, which is an experienced organisation. And it was also fun. I am sure people will love it. The ad is very intriguing but people should like the biscuit even more than that. I loved it and had many on the set.
Anirban: We had around 50 while shooting.
When were you first introduced to mystery as a genre and how?
Sabyasachi: That was long back. We grew up reading Bengali books by Dakshinaranjan Mitra Majumdar, later Enid Blyton, James Henry and others. The Famous Five stories intrigued me.
Anirban: I was in school in class 8 or 9 and in our syllabus, we had a story called Byomkesh’s Lohar Biscuit. Here also there is a similarity with biscuit (laughs)! It was kind of a refuge for me when I didn’t want to study but had to pretend that I was preparing for my exam. I would never feel tired of reading it. Incidentally, Byomkesh and Feluda I first saw the films and then read the books.
What do you like best about playing Feluda and Byomkesh?
Anirban: Exploring the old age bangaliana. The timeline I belong to and the language and culture I practise, going back 60-70 years and exploring the cultural coding of that time is something I enjoy as an actor.
Sabyasachi: The character is an absolutely no-nonsense guy. He is very well-read but keeps reading. He is very disciplined and simple. Nothing in life can make him flinch… while playing Feluda I act in that manner but in real life, I cannot be a detective. My job is to act. What I like best is that the audience loves Feluda by reading the books. The later generations are more into films but the books are what we grew up reading . I just love playing him.
Who are your favourite mystery solvers and mystery makers from detective stories?
Sabyasachi: Mystery solvers are Sherlock Holmes, the police in James Henry, Raymond Chandler’s stories, Swapan Kumar’s Dipak Chatterjee. But Feluda and Byomkesh have always been close to my heart.
Anirban: Mystery makers would be Moriarty from Sherlock Holmes, Maganlal Meghraj, the villain in Byomkesh who comes back in Upasanghar story, who has many names.
Sabyasachi: More or less the same for me. Since Satyajit Ray’s writing caters to the youth, the villains’ attitude is not fierce but in Byomkesh villains are much more dangerous, far more formidable than Feluda .
Anirban: I think Satyajit Ray and Saradindu Bandyopadhyay are bigger mystery solvers than Feluda or Byomkesh.
In real life are you both deft mystery solvers as well, or which person in your life plays the role best?
Sabyasachi: As a mystery solver at home I am really bad. Every time I try to solve mysteries, I get it completely wrong. I am told at home “tumi ekhaney tomar Felugiri foliyo na.Tumi ekdom fail”. My parents were the biggest mystery solvers in my life because I couldn’t hide anything from them (laughs).
Anirban: I prefer to leave the mystery unsolved. It is not necessary for me to always solve it. My mind is absolutely not a detective’s mind. If I talk about the other small incidents of my life then I am also absolutely like Benuda. I cannot use my intelligence a lot and even if I do it doesn’t help much! I can never reach a conclusion. The ones around me have to take responsibility. We are big flops as detectives in real life (both laugh).
Why do you think even after more than five decades Feluda enjoys the same universal appeal? Does it have a fan following beyond India and Bengal as well?
Sabyasachi: This is also a mystery and there is some golmaal in this too! Probably because of the films Sandip Ray has come up with, for television as well as the big screen. He has very deftly come up with films that don’t bring Feluda into the modern world. He doesn’t allow Feluda to use a personal cell phone or have his own car and he doesn’t encourage Felu to be very tech-savvy but he knows how to use these. This has a mystery, too. Satyajit Ray’s Sonar Kella was a blockbuster. One dying city was revived because of a film. Jaisalmer was known as an exile city, where people were sent to die. It was a great achievement.
Of course, Feluda is popular worldwide. I was walking in Times Square and someone shouted “Arrey! Feluda,” and the man runs a restaurant there. I was invited from Holland where Bengalis got together to felicitate Feluda. Dutch people were sitting there. They have all watched the films. From Sandip Ray I came to know later that Feluda has been translated into 12-13 Indian and foreign languages, too.
Byomkesh is popular but caters to the adult audience. Have you ever missed that universal appeal that Feluda enjoys?
Anirban:Not actually. I never missed anything while playing Byomkesh. It talks about certain complexities and human relationships. It is not only the cat and mouse. There is a married relationship and affairs between human beings and the way the murderers commit the murder is very complex. Rather I have always felt proud that in our language there are so many detective characters and it can cater to so many different age groups.
Just like the 50 50 Golmaal ad, if you had to do one Feluda and Byomkesh story on screen together, which one would you choose?
Sabyasachi: I would opt for an incomplete story. Then it could be taken to a point where the case gets complicated and then he contacts Byomkesh to solve it together.
Anirban: Saradindu Bandyopadhyay has a story which he couldn’t complete. Bishupal Bodh. If Byomkesh could meet Feluda in the incomplete section of the story and could solve the case together, nothing like it. It is a huge coincidence that both Feluda and Byomkesh have incomplete stories..
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