Release Date: 17/06/2022
Cast: Tota Roy Choudhury, Kalpan Mitra, Anirban Chakraborty, Rahul Banerjee
Director: Srijit Mukherji
Tota and Anirban’s spirited performances save an otherwise lackluster Feluda Adventure
Ever since Srijit Mukherjee took over the Feluda Franchise and cast Tota Roy Choudhury as the titular character, the franchise has seen a resurgence that I have come to welcome with open arms and starry eyes. Chhinnamastar Abhishap was a home run for me but it took me a while to get used to Tota as Feluda after basking for years in the glory of Sabyasachi’s tremendous contribution as the character and loving each and every one of his films. I quickly realized that Tota was just as good as the character if not better. The character’s most iconic attribute is what can be called his “dadagiri”.
This “dadagiri” is present in every frame that features Tota but is dialed down to a level that never lets the character become unlikeable. Tota has the physicality and mannerisms to sell this aspect of the character without breaking a sweat. Srijit and Tota understand the character wonderfully and put their best feet forward resulting in a rendition that feels fresh but often brings back memories of all that was best about Sabyasachi’s rendition of the character.
The latest adventure pits Feluda against a host of colorful albeit shady characters who form part of a film crew. The crew is shooting a film based on Lalmohan Ganguly’s (Anirban Chakraborty) “rahashya romanch” novel in Darjeeling. Feluda, Lalmohan, and Topshe are invited to the shoot by the film’s director Pulak Ghoshal (Rahul Banerjee). As is unavoidable, a murder happens and Feluda is roped in by the local police to help in the investigation. As he dwells deeper into the case, he realizes that anyone from the entire crew or even the people in the victim’s household could have committed the murder. What happens next and how Feluda unearths the murderer is what the rest of the film is about.
As is always the case with Feluda’s adventures, the focus is on how Feluda and his companions unearth the murderer. The path that he takes for this is made of inquiries, investigation, considerations, and a lot of interrogations. Peppered along with it is a lot of local “Gyan” and references to iconic places and anecdotes from the history of the place. This has been synonymous with Feluda’s adventures. I love this aspect of the films and I look forward to what every new Feluda adventure teaches me about a certain place.
Feludar Goyendagiri: Darjeeling Jawmjawmat unravels in the picturesque town of Darjeeling. How much of it was actually shot in Darjeeling is not clear to me but the makers create an authentic look and feel of the town that made me feel that I was in Darjeeling. I was very recently in Gangtok and the memories of that trip are still fresh. The fact that a lot of the visuals resembled Gangtok only made me relate that much more with the charm of the settings as Darjeeling and Gangtok have very similar vibes.
The mystery here is juicy and it is hard to predict who the murderer is unless you have read the story before. Tota Roy Choudhury carries the film single-handedly with his charming rendition of one of India’s most popular detectives. He hits the right balance between dadagiri, respect, and wide-eyed amazement at a certain other character’s inaptitude and simple ways to conjure up a character that is likable and yet imposing. As the story progresses, his intelligence and intellect are stretched to the limits but it only leads him to find a way in the darkness. Tota is fast becoming my second most favorite Feluda after Sabyasachi. If he continues in the same fashion, he might just end up becoming my favorite soon.
Anirban Chakraborty as Lalmohan Ganguly is as sweet as one can be. Every time he tries to speak Hindi he ends up being so endearing that he overshadows some of the more important aspects of the series playing along at the same juncture. When Feluda points out this aspect of his personality during a conversation, I couldn’t agree more with him. One also has to give due credit to the writer who writes his dialogues and the amount of thought that he must have put into it in addition to the time he must have spent noticing Bengali people speaking Hindi to come up with such endearing albeit genuine lines riddled with mother tongue influence.
Sadly the same Anirban looks out of place in the bits where he is recruited by the film crew to enact a side character. It was totally unnecessary. If it was meant to extract laughter, then it was a complete failure. If it was to make the character more important to the narrative then it was a failure too. Even Anirban, who is otherwise organic and loveable in his rendering of the character, looked constrained and out of place in these bits. I feel that these bits could have been avoided completely.
Rahul Banerjee is generally a bankable star and he has done fantastic work in some of my favorite films including a Byomkesh Bakshi adventure where he played the principal antagonist. Sadly, here as the director of the film crew, he is extremely irritating and every time he is on screen, you just wish that his portions were over quickly. The writing fails his character terribly too and feels as if they had given him some unnecessary lines just so that he could be given some screen time to justify his presence. His character calls out people and talks to them hurriedly and then leaves suddenly saying he has a lot of work to do. If that was so, why did he have to call out the person and walk all the up to him in the first place? These are problems that the director should have taken notice of and dealt with.
These are major discrepancies on the part of the writers and director that Rahul Banerjee has to suffer for. Also, when Anirban is shown enacting a certain character in the film, after every shot he goes so over the top in his praise of Lalmohan’s performance that after a while you just want him to stop. In fact, he is over the top throughout his essay. Paran Bandopadhyay had essayed the same character in a different film and his rendition was pure love for the beloved character. Sadly both the writing and the rendition of the same character here will only tarnish the good memories of Paran Bandopadhyay’s memorable turn as the character.
I still feel that Kalpan Mitra as Topshe is the worst choice to play the character. Even Saheb did a better job with the character and he was my least likable Topshe by far for years. Every other actor in the film simply walks through the motions and that is what results in the series not having the necessary sense of urgency that characterized Chhinnamastar Abhishap and made it so great. Sans Tota and Anirban none of the other actors are able to influence the audiences with their performance. Even the great Barun Chanda with his baritone feels like any of the other characters that he had played in the past and brings nothing new to the one at hand.
I have to agree that the film felt rushed in terms of its craft and making. There were many things about how characters were portrayed, introduced, or even built up that didn’t feel like coming from a master storyteller like Srijit Mukherjee. In comparison to Chhinnamastar Abhishap, Darjeeling Jawmjawmat will definitely feel flat and that is one of the major causes of the series receiving a lukewarm response from the audiences. While Tota and Anirban divert a lot of the attention from the problems to their performances, there are a few gaping holes in the execution, narrative, and performances that are too big to be covered up. On repeat viewing these issues become a lot more pronounced leading to the fun of the series being marred further.
Having said that, I still have so much for the Feluda films that even a poorly made one would still have a considerable impact on me. This might not be the best effort that Srijit has put into a Feluda film but is still good enough to entertain you even with all its issues. It is also a film that will take you back down the memory lanes and will remind you of some of the best Feluda adventures while not being one itself. Last but not the least, Tota Roy Choudhury and Anirban make their respective characters memorable, and with it, they elevate a large chunk of the film ensuring that the audiences are inescapably hooked to their respective performances. For all this and more, I enjoyed Feludar Goyendagiri: Darjeeling Jawmjawmat and believe that Srijit and the team will iron out the major issues of this series in their future forays into the Feluda Adventures. What happened to Joto Kando Kathmandute, Srijit Da??
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