Why ‘Joi Baba Felunath’ stands out for me

Joi Baba Felunath (1979) is a masterwork of the great director and cinematic genius Satyajit Ray. I have the earliest memories of watching this movie in the summer of 1999, when I was precisely a ten year old. Since then I have watched it innumerable times. Now I do not usually like watching movies on a repeat mode, but Satyajit Ray’s movies stand out for me, and Joi Baba Felunath certainly has something magically entertaining about it. Here I will list a few reasons why over the years this movie has become one of my favourites.

1. The movie is a work of Satyajit Ray, a director whose approach towards cinema as an art was more about life through a realistic lens. Like every other brilliant creation of Ray, every small, big, significant or insignificant scene in Joi Baba Felunath stands out, and speaks volumes of the genius that Ray was.

2. The screenplay for the movie has been written by Satyajit Ray himself. The striking tale about how a young detective solves difficult cases is crafted with utmost brilliance. This movie is based on one of those tales where detective Pradosh Mitra aka ‘Feluda’ solves another case, when he visits Kashi, accompanied by his nephew Tapesh Ranjan aka ‘Topshe’ and friend and popular writer of detective stories Lalmohan Ganguly aka ‘Jatayu’.

3. Joi Baba Felunath has an amazing cast with Soumitra Chatterjee as Feluda, Santosh Dutta as Jatayu, Siddhartha Chatterjee as Topshe, Utpal Dutta as Maganlal Meghraj, Haradhan Bandopadhyay as Umanath Ghoshal and Monu Mukherjee as Mochhli Baba.

4. The setting of the movie is in Kashi/ Varanasi. Since I have spent almost a decade in this ancient city, it is very close to my heart. Seeing familiar places as part of the various sights and scenes from Joi Baba Felunath makes the movie more special for me. The portrayal of the ancient ghats (banks of the river) of river Ganga throughout the movie is something truly remarkable.

5. Joi Baba Felunath has a thrilling narrative. As a detective story, it keeps you glued right from the beginning to the end. There are plots and sub-plots, each of which are interesting. The movie centers around a particularly valuable statue of Ganesha that belongs to the Ghoshal family, which suddenly goes missing and then Feluda steps into solve the case. The ending is completely unexpected and surprises just like a great detective story ideally should!

6. There are certain scenes from the movie that have just stayed with me despite watching them over and over again. The arrival of Feluda, Jatayu and Topshe against a background music at the Ghoshal house, the scene featuring little Ruku’s room on the terrace, the scene of Arjun throwing knives at Jatayu and Jatayu’s golden expression, the scene that takes place in Jantar Mantar with Feluda questioning Bikasj at gunpoint, the disguise of Jatayu and Topshe as sadhus, the final scene where Feluda exposes Maghanlal Meghraj and has his revenge for Maghanlal’s torture over Jatayu – each of these scenes are just brilliant!

7. Satyajit Ray was known to have cast children in the most unique manner – preserving their natural self, innocence, mischief and joyful side. The details with which Ray has portrayed Ruku has added more charm to Joi Baba Felunath. Ruku’s love for detective stories and the fictional hero Captain Sparks who he also imagines himself as, and then there is the child’s own world that he has created for himself in the room on the terrace, the significant role that he plays in the plot of the movie – all these just go on to convince me of the wonderful manner in which Ray could think of, portray and cast a child on the screen.

If you have not watched this amazing work of Satyajit Ray, please do watch it sometime. I have found several reasons to keep watching the movie time and again, and I am sure, you will discover the genius of Ray through this great work of his!

“Joi Baba Felunath!”

“Long live Feluda!”

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