Feluda: 50 Years of Ray's Detective ★★

Poorly edited, poorly structured, poorly focused: If it wasn't for the recycled movie clips and great interviewees, this passionate documentary would be a monumental failure. There is no logic or organization. There were around half a dozen times when the whole film seemed to end satisfyingly, only to suddenly continue with the same redundant points, like an excited, breathless kid telling a story: "and then... and then... and then...". The overall documentary feels like a Feluda fan got a lot of money, shot a lot of footage, did a lot of interviews, then paid a lot of monkeys to mash it all together, hoping for the best.

Some of the content is great, don't be mistaken. It's well worth watching for long-time fans and newcomers alike to learn in depth about this great character and meet the minds behind his legacy. First-time directer Sagnik Chatterjee has complied some excellent, rare archival material of Satyajit Ray and his early drafts and illustrations, and Chatterjee also conducted some great interviews with current Feluda director Sandip Ray and most of the actors behind the many versions of Feluda and Topse. Chatterjee makes a great point to note how special these characters are to Bengali culture and history, and even details how the characters have evolved through the years, particularly in Satyajit Ray's own stories. Some of this material is actually really interesting, and as a fresh Feluda fan, I was really happy with what I learned.

The problem is, Chatterjee does this all this very quickly and then proceeds for another 90 minutes to reiterate the same points and show a ridiculous amount of extra footage. There's some strange recurring story of an original cast member trying to find some obscure house that was once a set location. Watching him wearily ask for directions and wander day after day, from sunrise to sunset, didn't get me excited for his search, it broke my heart. It seemed so cruel and grueling for such an old man. Why couldn't the filmmakers do the search themselves, and bring the poor guy to the house when they found it? There's also another strange moment when the filmmakers travel all the way to London, only because fictional character Sherlock Holmes inspired Feluda and happened to fictionally live in London. And if that wasn't nonsensical enough, the documentary then takes a few minutes to showcase the local street musicians. 🙃

Overall, this is an absolutely aggravating package of unorganized mindlessness with a few hidden gems of great material. I would definitely recommend watching this if you're interested in a quick Feluda crash course - but be ready to fast forward often.