Satyajit Ray's Feluda flick, Sonar Kella takes me back to one humid morning during summer recess when my father announced, "Let's just quickly finish today's quota and in the afternoon we will watch Sonar Kella!" My eyes lit up. I quickly made him a cup of tea (I was 15 then) and got him his specs. He sat down, brandished his red pen over the scripts, and started deciding the 'fates' of the helpless children. Intermittently, he asked me to cross check the calculations so that there were no errors later in the tally sheet. Sharp at 12 noon, he wrapped up, we both finished our ablutions, gobbled our lunch and sat down to watch the film. For the 16th time. Ignoring my mother's high-pitched, "God! How many times more..."
The film is as perfect as perfect can get. It is simple, straightforward, adventurous and a lot of fun, if
So, Feluda, whose mind is a maze and who is an ocean of knowledge (as remarked by his elder brother, and Topshe's father), hears Mukul's father out and decides that he would bring Mukul back safely, in case danger ensues. Feluda and Topshe leave for Jodhpur in an exciting train journey in which they meet the comical Lalmohum Babu, a writer of detective novels.
Meanwhile, Mukul meets the two fiends and goes with them after they get rid off the kind parapsychologist, Dr Hemanga Hajra, who had promised to take Mukul to his golden fort. He knows that once Mukul sees the structure, his mental haze will disappear and he will resume normal life.
But it's not that simple because the rogues are fast on the heels of the tot and the doctor. They want the jewels and they will have no one foil their plan. They nose the kid out like hungry hyenas and scoot off with him,
But they do not know the power of Feluda and his bullish mind. With the power of reasoning, his keen perception and eyes and telepathy he just makes it so difficult for the odious plan to be successful. Through desserts and roads, accompanied by peacocks and atop camels, Feluda and his merry men just make this film so, so fantastic. Oh! by the way, in case you were wondering... Sonar Kella isn't a children's film. It is a film that you will love if you want to travel back in time when cinema used to be simple, adventurous and super fun. It's a joy to watch this film, to see how Feluda unravels every mystery, decodes every puzzle.
What can be said about Satyajit Ray that hasn't been said before. He just makes things looks so effortlessly impeccable in this film. The music is rustic Rajasthani, to enhance the folk feel of the film, he makes train journeys look decadent and romantic, he lends a goofiness to his criminals so that while you hate them you also feel bad for them for being so vain and stupid. He makes Topshe so earnest and willing to learn and he finds the perfect comic timing in Lalmohun Babu. He paints the film in a stunning sepia that makes me nostalgic every time I watch this film. The sound design and the background score highlights the drama and tension in the plot on one hand and the delightful adventures that unfurl with time. For instance, there is a spine-chilling laughter from Mandar Bose when he pushes Dr Hajra down from Nahargarh Fort. That laughter is still ringing in my ear. Then there is the unnerving quiet preempting the scorpion scene in the film. It's fantastic. The clever dialogues, the secretive glances, everything is in tandem with the script. The background score is immaculately matched with the tenure and topography of the film. For instance, in the camel ride scene, the director, who was also behind the music for the film, throws his signature tune (something that you'll find in Gopi Gayen Bagha Bayen) that is laden with the notes of thrill and exploration. It just makes things so riveting.
I tried making Malhar watch the film with me a few days back. He got disinterested after some time. But it's okay. The tot is all of five and still too innocent to understand the deft intricacies of the plot. With time, and our efforts to feed his imagination, soon he will want to go on this desert safari. Sonar Kella, we will get there...