Starring: Abir Chatterjee, Sourav Das, Paran Bandyopadhyay, Rajatava Dutta, Dipankar De, Biswajit Chakraborty
Directed by Sandip Ray
Just as Prodosh Chandra Mitra or Feluda lands in Lucknow for a short trip with his uncle and cousin Topshey on a cold winter afternoon, a dazzling diamond ring passed down from Emperor Aurangzeb goes missing from a safe in the house where the trio has put up. Feluda, one of fiction’s most popular detectives, who seems to attract adventures like moths to flame, jumps into action, in the process dragging a gamut of other characters into a vortex of clues and counter clues until each begins to look like probable suspects. From the flashy young film star who claims that his father was the original owner of the ring, having inherited it from ancestors, to the shrewd elderly bhadralok, a former animal tradesman who now keeps rattlesnakes, scorpions and poisonous spiders as pets and displays an unusual interest in the missing jewel. And even the current owner, a doctor who suspects that robbers broke in at night with the sole purpose of stealing the ring.
In two films, Feluda’s creator Satyajit Ray had set high standards; his son Sandip Ray is striving to keep up the Feluda legacy. He did so with the memorable Royal Bengal Rahasya (2011); he has done it again with Badshahi Angti (The Badshah’s Ring). Sandip Ray’s Feluda films are noteworthy in their conscientious attempt to retain the original ‘Bengali’ flavour of the Feluda books (from character traits to the much-maligned monkey cap). Here, it prevails from the very first scene, when the train pulls into Lucknow station and the three men alight, en route to Rishikesh and Haridwar.
Yet, stylistically, Sandip Ray embellishes the time-tested flavour with his own garnishing. And he sprinkles it with his own brand of visual humour framed in foibles—for instance, the exasperated expressions on the faces of train passengers tossing and turning in discomfort as one of them snores loudly, or the palm-reader’s earnestness even as his sickly, skin-coloured socks peep out of sandals. Badshahi Angti is also a treat because it takes you along on a fabulous journey—giving you a guided tour inside the amazing Bhoolbhulaiya of Lucknow’s Bara Imambara, driving you past the filth-strewn but awe-inspiring Ganga at Rishikesh with its bird’s eye view of the sea of pilgrims gathered on the banks before leading you into the forests en route to Haridwar and straight into the impending embrace of a rattlesnake. He even titillates one’s taste buds with scrumptious shots of Lucknowi delicacies, all the while keeping one intrigued with a thickening plot and a gut feeling that one may have got it all wrong.
Abir, who has also portrayed Byomkesh recently, slips easily into the skin of the hawk-eyed, knife-sharp sleuth whom Bengali audiences have for years come to associate with Soumitra Chatterjee and more recently, Sabyasachi Chakraborty. Sourav’s Topshey, however, does not do justice to Feluda’s bright and alert sidekick.