Parambrata Chattopadhyay on Playing Satyajit Ray’s Iconic Detective in ZEE5 Global’s ‘Shabash Feluda’

Parambrata Chattopadhyay is the latest actor to play Oscar-winning Indian master Satyajit Ray’s detective Prodosh Chandra Mitter AKA Feluda in streamer ZEE5 Global’s series “Shabash Feluda.”

Feluda first appeared in the Ray family’s Bengali-language magazine Sandesh in 1965. Ray directed two Feluda films, “The Golden Fortress” (1974) and “The Elephant God” (1978), where the Bengali detective was played by his frequent collaborator Soumitra Chatterjee. Feluda has subsequently been played by a range of Indian actors, including Shashi Kapoor, Abir Chatterjee, Tota Roy Chowdhury, Indraneil Sengupta and Bangladesh’s Ahmed Rubel.

The detective is part of the fabric of growing up in West Bengal and Bangladesh, akin to what Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple used to be for several generations in the west.

Chattopadhyay first interpreted the detective in 2017 for series “Feluda” for Bangladesh’s Bioscopelive which he directed and also played Feluda. “It was a very radical interpretation of a classical piece of literature,” Chattopadhyay told Variety.

The 2017 “Feluda” was a modestly budgeted affair and Chattopadhyay was on the lookout to interpret the detective again “with a little more wherewithal, with a little more bandwidth,” he said. The opportunity arrived in the shape of ZEE5 Global, with each episode of “Shabash Feluda” budgeted at what the entire eight-episode series “Feluda” cost.

“The interpretation in the current scenario, was a little less radical than what we did [earlier], because the platform and we both thought that, let’s try a middle road,” Chattopadhyay said. “Shabash Feluda” is directed by Arindam Sil, who has made several films featuring the other great Bengali detective Byomkesh Bakshi, created by Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay. It is produced by Chattopadhyay and Aritra Sen for Roadshow Films and Ashok and Himanshu Dhanuka for Eskay Movies.

In the Feluda stories, the detective is usually accompanied by his cousin and assistant Tapesh Ranjan Mitter, known as Topshe. Chattopadhyay previously played Topshe in three Feluda films. “While I was playing Topshe in those three films, I used to try and envision how Feluda can be for the new generation. This was an attempt to showcase that,” Chattopadhyay said.

Given the character’s history and immense popularity, playing Feluda comes pre-loaded with the baggage of massive expectation and Chattopadhyay says “the audience completely got polarized into two halves.”

“On one hand, there was a lot of appreciation. On the other hand, there was a lot of backlash as well. And we were completely prepared – Feluda is one of those rare icons or heroes that the Bengalis have got ever since independence. They identify a lot of a lot with him, they want to see themselves succeeding through Feluda,” Chattopadhyay said. “The backlash that happened actually made the series very popular in the sense that people started watching it in huge numbers, which was great. A lot of them really said very, very bad things about it. A lot of them said great things about it. But the fact was, there was incredible amount of engagement. And that’s all that we wanted.”

The series was always envisioned as running across multiple seasons and the massive success of the first one means that the plan remains intact.

Meanwhile, Chattopadhyay, who has more than 100 film and TV credits, including his national breakout role in “Kahaani,” has a busy slate ahead. He has completed filming season 2 of Prime Video’s thriller series “Mumbai Diaries” and detective drama “P.I. Meena.” In addition, there is social drama-comedy film “Avasthi vs Avasthi,” which he has also just completed, and another film, supernatural thriller “Walker House” is nearly complete.

Chattopadhyay is also producing and directing a supernatural horror series, currently titled “Parnashabarir Shaap.” Later this week he will commence an acting role in Kaushik Ganguly’s social satire “Asukh Bishukh.”

In 2013, Chattopadhyay had directed and starred in hit comedy film “Hawa Bodol” and is planning to start shooting a sequel in August or September. Season 2 of hit Netflix thriller series “Aranyak” is due to start production at the end of the year. “Matsa Sudha,” a series for ZEE5 Global is on the cards, as are two more indie films as a director.

“Shabash Feluda” is streaming now on ZEE5 Global.

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