Originally written in Bengali, the stories/novels of Byomkesh were published in the form of a collection titled ‘Byomkesh Samagra’ in 1995. Most of these stories have been translated into English recently. The author’s sudden demise left the last story ‘Bishupal Badh’ in the Byomkesh series incomplete.
About the detective –
Byomkesh was introduced to the literary world as a private investigator on a mission to bust a drug racquet in colonial India. He appeared in disguise under the pseudo-name of Atul Chandra Sen in the novel ‘Satyaneshwi’. The plot was set in 1924-25. This is where he is shown to meet his future housemate, friend, and novelist, Ajit who eventually decides to pen down Byomkesh’s cases in the form of stories. This dhoti-kurta clad resident of Harrison road in Kolkata has his man Friday named Putiram and abhors the term private investigator or detective. Instead, he prefers to call himself as Satyanweshi (the one in search of the truth). Byomkesh belongs to that rare breed of detectives in literature who gets married and starts a family. He meets his future wife Satyaboti during one of the investigations where her brother is considered a suspect. Eventually, they get married and have a kid who’s known to the world as Khokha.
The case of the Man Who Died Laughing (Vish Puri 2)
The case of the Deadly Butter Chicken (Vish Puri 3)
The case of the Love Commandoes (Vish Puri 4)
About the detective –
Vishwas Puri, more popular as the 51-year-old Vish Puri is the founder and managing director of Most Private Investigators Ltd. (that goes by the catchline ‘Confidentiality is my Watchword’). A detective based out of Defence colony, Delhi, this Punjabi loves food as much his curious cases. He is often found to devise ways to defy the family physician Dr. Mohan’s cautionary advice related to his high blood pressure and diabetes. His investigation methodology follows the age-old practices of observation and detection using disguise and undercover aliases. He has a unique and funny way of addressing his employees, relatives and close friends. He has a nickname for all like for instance his wife is called Rumpi, his driver, Handbrake; the lazy office-boy, Door Stop; his assistant – the one who takes time to flicker to life, Tubelight; the guy who was the first one to have a flush toilet at his home in his village, Flush and the Nepali woman employee, Facecream. The detective is also referred to as Chubby by his near ones though, for his employees, he prefers to be known as Boss only. A few more interesting characters in Hall’s books are the matriarch in Puri’s family, his mighty Mummyji; his secretary, Elizabeth Rani, and his archrival Hari Kumar.
Mehrunisa, created from the author’s research on the Mughal history and renaissance art is a Mughal scholar researching Indo-Persian linkages. Born to a Punjabi father (Harinder Singh Khosa -an undercover spy) and a Persian mother, her half Sikh-half muslim NRI status often evokes great curiosity among her countrymen. She often spends her time at the house of her Godfather, a highly reputed historian, the 70-year-old Professor Kaul in Delhi. It was while assisting Prof. Kaul for a project on the heritage monument Taj Mahal that Mehrunissa eventually discovers what the Taj Mahal is meant to depict. In the second book, The Hunt for Kohinoor, her journey becomes more personal as she chases a deadline of 96 hours while also encountering some startling discoveries from her past.
Mehrusina has become a much more relevant character in today’s world where communal agendas seem to erode humanity every single day. Quoting the author from one of her interviews, “I wrote The Taj Conspiracy, Book 1 of the Mehrunisa trilogy, to rescue Taj Mahal from ignorant guides and benighted rumors and show it for what it really is — as the color white contains all colors within it, this monument of white comprises multiple, diverse threads of a pluralistic India. I created Mehrunisa as a human metaphor for the Taj — strong yet vulnerable and of mixed heritage.” The plot of the novels has a mix of history and politics set against the backdrop of India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
Originally written in Bengali, a large number of Ray’s detective books have been translated to English and are available for purchase on various e-commerce platforms.
About the detective –
Prodosh Chandra Mitra or Prodosh C Mitter is a private investigator based out of 21, Rajani Sen Road, Kolkata. He is assisted by his cousin Tapesh Ranjan Mitra aka Topshe in all the cases. They befriend a writer Lalmohan Ganguly aka Jatayu during their adventure in Jaipur (in the book Sonar Kella) and the trio remains inseparable until the last book.
It is believed that Ray was highly influenced by the writing style of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his famous detective character Sherlock Holmes. In multiple instances, Feluda is heard calling Sherlock his ‘guru’. Topshe is similar to the character of Dr. Watson. Even the character of Sidhu Jetha is said to be inspired by Sherlock’s elder brother Mycroft Holmes. Feluda is 6ft 2inches, fond of exercise and is often choosy about the cases he accepts. He loves his pack of Charminar cigarettes, prefers to have his evening tea with a snack made from Bengal gram called dalmut and keeps a 0.32 colt revolver for security. Feluda manages to solve most of his cases through his analytical abilities using his brains that he refers to as magajashtra and thus the books rarely have unnecessary action-packed sequences. While most of his initial cases are set in Kolkata and other parts of Bengal, we see him move to Bombay in Bombaiyyer Bombete, Kashmir in Bhuswarga Bhayankar, Hong Kong in Tintorettor Jishu and London in Golapi Mukto rahasya. The climax in this series usually involved a scene where Feluda gathered all the characters and revealed the modus operandi and thoughts of the killer before revealing the identity of the antagonist.
From books to screens –
Two of the books had been adapted to Bengali movies by Ray himself. Sonar Kellaand Joy Baba Felunathstarring the Bengali veteran actor Soumitro Chatterjee. His son, the renowned filmmaker, Sandip Ray directed a few more of his stories like Royal Bengal rahasya, Bombaiyyer Bombette starring Sabyasachi Chakroborty in the lead role. Recently, he adapted one of the earlier works of Ray titled Hirer angticasting actor Abir Chatterjee (who rose to fame portraying the character Byomkesh Bakshy in movies). Very recently a web series has also made. This goes to prove that the appeal of this sharp-minded detective is evergreen.