Saturday, March 14, 2009

Badiya Pakshi: 8 Favourite Jatayu Scenes

Bowing to overwhelming popular demand (2 comments on the previous post!), a piece on the greatest thriller writer in Bengali is now mandated.

Creator of a detective with superhuman abilities (Prakhar Rudro), his works like Durdhorsho Dushman (Awesome Adversary), Saharai Shihoron (Sahara Shivers), Honduras-ey Hahakar (Honduras Horrors), Vancouver-er Vampire (needs no translation!) have not only topped bestseller lists in multiple editions, at least two of them have also been made into films.
The later one – Karakoramey Rokto Kar? (the alliteration getting lost in translation as Whose Blood in Karakoram) – had the author himself in a bit part. The title of the first one – Bombaiyer Bombetey (Buccaneer of Bombay) – was used by renowned film director, Satyajit Ray, for his own novel recounting the adventures of this author as he tagged along with Pradosh C Mitter and Tapesh Ranjan Mitter in Bollywood.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is Calcutta Chromosome’s honour and privilege to present Lalmohan Gangopadhyay a.k.a Jatayu.

Essentially, a good soul who is not very fluent in English and gets intimidated very easily – despite writing aggressive thrillers – Jatayu’s malapropisms are legendary. To report a tiger missing from a circus, he says “The circus which escaped from the Great Majestic Tiger…
When a Marathi police officer asks if he is indeed Mr Ganguly, he exclaims – “Hnayes!
And when a rude client enquires about his credentials, he self-effacingly mumbles, “Ami… maney… keu na!

Satyajit Ray wrote his Feluda novels like a screenplay, complete with notes for art direction and sometimes even for would-be actors!
In Joto Kando Kathmandu-tey, Lalmohanbabu enters the Casino for the first time looking rather dapper in his newly acquired corduroy trousers and green jerkin. After collecting his tokens, he starts down the stairs inspecting them closely. A Japanese lady is walking up, counting her winnings. A collision is avoided when Topshe tugs him away at the last minute. Lalmohanbabu looks up and apologises with a nervous giggle – “He-he-hexcuse-me-hi-hi-hi”. You have to stand up and applaud this element of detail.

In Gorosthaney Shabdhan, the trio attempts to enter a suspect’s house (to spy on his séance session). The watchman stops them. Feluda ad-libs, “Tomar maliker ek bondhur opor shondeho, bhai. Amra pulisher lok.” Points to Lalmohan-babu and says, “Ini daroga.Lalmohanbabu payer buro anguley dnariye height-takey tuk korey 2 inchi bariye nilen!

Lalmohanbabu’s bete noire is obviously the dreaded Maganlal Meghraj. The first time (Joi Baba Felunath), Jatayu was a knife-thrower’s target. The second time (Joto Kando Kathmandu-tey), Jatayu was given a dose of LSD.
They met for a lesser known third time – again in Benaras – during the Golapi Mukto Rahasya. In a hilariously described scene, Maganlal gets Lalmohanbabu to sing a song! For a full five minutes, Jatayu sings ‘Aloker ei jharnadharai’ while Maganlal reclines on his bolsters and keeps rhythm on his cash box.

His love for knowledge and trivia is well-known but of course, he is not beyond a few aptly placed errors, even when he is saving the day. In Dr Munshi-r Diary, the missing link is a manuscript (the titular diary, by the eponymous Doctor!), which is supposed to be published by Penguin. Feluda manages to identify the killers but the diary had been destroyed by then. “Spotlight!”, screams Jatayu. He had photocopied the manuscript since he could not finish it in one day and even spells out the life-saving invention – “X.E.R.O.X.” and exhorts the dead man’s secretary to hand it over to the publisher. “Nin, typing shuru korey din. Shesh holei shoja North Pole.” Nice. Except that Penguins are not there in the North Pole, only South!

Lalmohanbabu’s moment of glory comes during Bombaiyer Bombetey, when he reaches Bollywood as the story-writer for a (eventually) Chuni Pancholi production – Jet Bahadur! Ray’s poor regard for the masala filmmaker comes through repeatedly in the motif of Codopyrine (a strong headache reliever) and Jatayu reveals a rather aggressive side of his personality when he reviews the earlier film of director Pulak Ghoshal, who is making Jet Bahadur.
The name of the film is Tirandaaz. And in the interval, Jatayu sighs – “Gadpar-er chheley, tui eto din ei korey chul pakali? Proti bochhor pujor shomoi parai ekta korey theatre korto… Joddur money porchhey B Com fail… tar kachh thekey aar ki asha kora jai, bolo?” And finally, decides to keep a brave face – “Keu jiggesh korley boley debo first class! Poketey korkorey takagulo na thakley shottii bhengey portam, Topesh!

Lalmohanbabu has a penchant for dedicating his books to famous people connected – however tenuously – to the plot!
His Meru Mahatanka was dedicated to the ‘Memory of Robert Scott’, Gorilla-r Gogrash to the ‘Memory of David Livingstone and Anabik Danob (maximum gnaja, according to Feluda!) to the ‘Memory of Albert Einstein’. He goofed up big time when he dedicated his Himalay-ey Hritkompo to the ‘Memory of Sherpa Shiromoni Tenzing Norgay’.
Feluda was livid. “Apni jolo-jyanto loktakey merey fellen?” Lalmohanbabu mumbled, “Onekdin kagojey naam taam dekhini. Ora to shob shomoi paharey taharey chorchhen. Bhablam, hoito paa-taa horkey giye…

The absolute best Jatayu scene – in my humble opinion – is not from any of the books but from the film, Shonar Kella. It is the introduction scene of Jatayu and with the entry of Santosh Dutta, the character was redefined forever. From then on, Ray even changed the illustrations in his novels to make the paper character resemble the celluloid one.
Lalmohan-babu enters Feluda’s compartment in Kanpur Junction, waves off his coolie in an imperious manner, introduces himself in classical Bong-Hindi and attaches himself to the problem-solving duo. No amount of description can bring alive this landmark scene but I have to try.
He reveals himself as a hugely prolific writer: “Up to date 27 kahani likkhi (sic) hain…
And popular too: “All published. Bahut janapriya…
Tries to place Feluda from memory: “Apni ki shnataru? English Channel?
Gets put in his place by Feluda: “Dhakuria Lake!
Asks Feluda’s physical dimensions: “Apnar chhati koto, moshai?
Then quotes popular literature: “26? Apni ki shuor?
Brags about his novel: “6-ta edition!
But is told: “Saat-ey shudhrey deben…
And you know the best part about this list? Everybody can have his/her own set of eight!

UPDATED TO ADD: Completely forgot to put in one more favourite - from Joi Baba Felunath (the film). Apart from a brilliant sequence with Gunomoy Bagchi (a bodybuilder!), there is a cute exchange in which the hotel manager speaks about a new holy man, who has arrived in Benares. "Machhli baba. Shobaikey uni ekta montroputo sholko den...". Jatayu is stumped. "Sholko?" Feluda butts in. "Apnar Gyanpith foshkey gelo..."


March Hare said...

the tenzing norgay scene finds mention! :D

but of course, the film scene has to be the favourite. but i think that has more to do with santosh dutta than the character of jatayu himself.

Remember 'zyaada ho gaya, kaafi ho gaya...?' :D

And also, when Topshe is recounting the names of books he has read, Jatayu repeats the last word in each case. The overall effect is HILARIOUS. :D

Avishek said...

Thanks for this lovely post Diptakirti. I enjoyed it immensely.

Can't say enough about the absolute brilliance of Santosh Dutta in portraying Jatayu. Am sure I have scene his introduction scene in Shonar Kella more than 50 times 'up to date' and it is still as funny and endearing. Most definitely the scene I wait for on every viewing of the movie.

Mystic Margarita said...

Santosh Dutta WAS Jatayu - it's one of those rare cases when the artiste becomes the character.

Love all the Jatayo scenes you mentioned. Would also add those scenes in which he insists on reciting poems of dubious merit, penned by his erswhile teacher at Athenium Institution, Baikuntha Mallick! :)

Rimi said...

Oh yes, Baikuntha Mallik! It brought out the only instance of sternness in "Uncle" that I can remember. In Gorosthan e Shabdhaan Topshe dismisses Mallik's poem for using "chhelo" instead of "chhilo". Lalmohonbabu retorts, "Poet er background na jene verse criticise korar bodobhyesh kothaye pele, Tawpesh?"

Reading through this list made me realise just how much of Feluda I have internalised. Aekkebarey gule kheyechhi, jaake bole. For instance, I bet you a small cup of JU coffee that Lalmohonbabu niijer height "jhot" kore bariye niyechhilen, tuk kore na. In "Dr. Munshir Diary", he shouts "Attention! Spotlight!". And I think after watching the B. Com. fail's film, Laluda says "...korkore notegulo na thakle monta shotti bhenge jeto, Tawpesh".

This shows me in a terrible and obsessive light. I shall stop. Thank you very much for an utterly delightful post, Dipta. Arektu frequently post korle hoy na?

Rimi said...

Btw, my single most 'unexpected' Jatayu moment is from that book set in Kedar-Bodri/Hrishikesh. At the climax, after the philanthrophic Hindi-speaking shonnyashi's Bengali name has been disclosed, Lalmohonbabu goes "Chho..chho...chho...". Feluda asks, "Aapni kake dhikkar dichhen, Lalmohonbabu?" And Lalmohonbabu goes, "Chhotokaka!".

My one favourite piece of non-Jatayu wit from Feluda, though, is from Joy Baba Felunath:
--...running hot and cold water achhe toh?
--hyaan hyaan, chakor achhe, bollei doure giye ene debe.

Ke bole Bangali byabsha chalate jaane na? :D

March Hare said...

@ rimi - okay. erm, even though this will sound obsessive, the 'Joy Baba Felunath' quote isn't quite what you wrote.

-..errr..running hot and cold water?.
- aggey na. tobey running servant paben. chailei doure giye ene debe.

The mention of the 'running servant' is what the pun hinges on, you see. :P

Okay. Shall stop now before embarrassing myself further.

The Marauder's Map said...

Umm, much as I love Feluda -- the man and the series -- re-reading the books now I feel like kicking Feluda sometimes for his high-brow, condescending attitude towards Jatayu, and love J even more for being so nice-spirited about it. Does anyone else feel this way?

Rimi said...

Off and on, yes. I also feel Byomkesh is a misogynistic prat and Holmes a supercilious git.

We're been far too democratised, MM. Excellence and assertion of it does not impress us any more.

Diptakirti Chaudhuri said...

@ All: Very satisfying. All additions are gratefully acknowledged.
And a separate post on Baikuntha Mallik is being planned!

@ Rimi: You would be right on most of those counts. I was too lazy to bring out my Feluda books and so I wrote from memory.
And the 'chhelo' poem is from Hatyapuri. The subject was the temple art of Bhubaneswar.

silhouetted by the sea said...


loved your post on Jatayu - and enjoyed the comments thoroughly. Thought I would mention one gem, from the film 'Jai Baba Felunath'...

The scene - Upon entering their room at the guest house, they discover a fourth bed... Feluda at the body-builder's mirror...Jatayu puts forward his theory of the 'Shoukhin lok', who shaves his chest ("buker chul-tul...", he trails off)... much before the likes of Salman Khan and SRK...

Keep writing...