In an engaging discussion at the Kolkata Literature Fest, Mr Dhritiman Chatterjee spoke about the many ways a character like Byomkesh Bakshi can be understood. I caught up with him before the session to ask him about Byomkesh, his favourite detective and more. Here’s what we talked about:
Let me start by saying that whenever I’ve been a part of films which come from literature, I have never felt that it’s my responsibility to go back to the original source, unless I’ve already read them. My responsibility is to the director’s vision and the screenplay, and to interpret what the screenplay writer has done, which was so in this case as well. Saibal Mitra, who is the screenplay writer and the director of Shajarur Kanta, wrote the middle aged, elderly Byomkesh in a certain way and I thought my job was to portray that as well as I could.
First of all, because Byomkesh is an iconic character. Two, well, an elderly Byomkesh- a number of Byomkeshes have been done, but a middle aged Byomkesh had never been done. Thirdly and very importantly is the fact that Saibal, although he hasn’t made a great many films, is a very good friend and I have a great deal of respect for his commitment, dedication, seriousness. So a variety of reasons.
I would say… I don’t want to say either/or, but I would say Feluda. Only because the current crop of readers or filmgoers know Feluda more than they know Byomkesh, the younger lot, especially. That is normal- Sharadindu wrote much earlier, so it’s quite natural that younger readers know Feluda better.
Good question! It’s Commander Dalgliesh who is a P. D. James character.
It must have been Sherlock Holmes. In our times, that’s what you cut your teeth on!
I think one has to make a distinction between the kinds of fiction that the detectives are found in. British crime fiction is not the same as American crime fiction, is not the same as French crime fiction, is not the same as Swedish crime fiction, which is not the same as Bangla crime fiction. It varies. I am a great follower of Scandinavian crime fiction. They still depend a lot on what’s called the police procedural. The novels, you really have to have patience, because the novels are slow, they go on at their own pace, a lot of group choric scenes do not happen, so you really have to be dedicated to follow it. American crime fiction, it’s become much more fast-paced, much more violent. So it’s difficult to generalize.
It was probably from the last time, or the time before last. I was able to pick up a lot of Nabarun Bhattacharya’s work, which normally is a little bit scattered and hard to find. Encounters that particularly stand out include one at the Kaurab stall. Kaurab, a magazine of long standing, has gone internet-based now. A lot of people who are associated with Kaurab and with whom one has corresponded but never had the opportunity to meet face to face were there. That led to some really nice moments.