Santosh Dutta and Jatayu have become synonymous. They are the one and the same for all us Feluda lovers. We cannot imagine Feluda without his good old friend Lal Mohan Ganguly aka Jatayu. He is the one with the green ambassador and who brings hot kochuris.
Santosh Dutta Debuts
Many talented actors have portrayed Santosh Dutta as Jatayu and every one of them has left an unforgettable legacy. But Santosh Dutta has created the most adored character in Bengali cinema. Perhaps it was Ray himself directing him or it was his impeccable look as Lal Mohan Ganguly, Dutta became Jatayu. So much so that Satyajit Ray did not make any more Feluda films after Santosh Dutta passed away.
Born on December 2, 1925 Santosh Dutta was in profession an advocate in Kolkata High Court and he started acting more out of passion. Can you imagine our beloved Jatayu as a hard core criminal lawyer?
Dutta’s first act in cinema was Paras Pathar directed by Satyajit Ray in 1958. Thereafter he appeared many a times in Bengali classics. We see him in Headmaster, Teenkanya and Marjina Abdulla as Ali Baba. Then we see him as the brilliant scientist in Mahapurush, and the tormented Nobin Master in Shriman Prithviraj.
One of the most remembered roles of Santosh Dutta is in Ray’s Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne. He played the twin rulers of Shundi and Halla, which were quite the converse characters. The king of Shundi was a soft, benevolent and music loving king and was dedicated to the peace and welfare of his kingdom. Although his twin was actually a good man, he was drugged and brainwashed by his very own courtiers in a heinous plan that left the kingdom unhappy and malnourished.
Sonar Kella was his eleventh film and this made him a household name. Every Bengali who loves Feluda loves Jatayu. Here are some of his unforgettable scenes from Sonar Kella and Joy Baba Felunath.
Meeting Jatayu for the first time on the train
One can never not get amused by Jatayu’s classic entry in Sonar Kella. His attempt to speaking Hindi is a expert reflection of the plight of many Bengalis. Santosh Dutta would absorb himself in the character of Lal Mohan Babu so well that one feels that the character has come alive from the book.
Lal Mohan Babu instantly touches our heart by his simpleton nature and blameless talks. His astonished reactions at Feluda’s conjectures are thoroughly enjoyable. Right away he becomes a part of Team Feluda.
Sahara-e Sihoron! Another unforgettable conversation from Sonar Kella is Jatayu’s conversation with the villainish Mandar Bose, played by the wonderful Kamu Mukherjee. From kurpi to Sahara and hyena, Jatayu always keeps our imagination running.
The author multiple bestselling novels does get some facts wrong, prompting Feluda to pick out his mistakes. However his dashing hunk of a hero Prokhor Rudra makes up for the shortcomings!
The best part of his books are the rhyming and catchy names.
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Who can not be attracted to such compelling titles!
Joy Baba Jatayunath
Joy Baba felunath was the second film of the Feluda series shot in Benaras. This time Feluda, Topshe and Lal Mohan Ganguly are pitted against the cruel Maganlal Meghraj, played memorably by another legend Utpal Dutt.
Here we see Santosh Dutta display the unique blend of Jatayu’s character. He is innocent, gullible, naive, curious, timid yet up for adventure. He will not abandon Feluda or Topshe in difficulty even if he is at the end of his wits.
One of the interesting facets of Santosh Dutta in his portrayal as Jatayu is how easily he could become one with all people, be it kids or adults. In Joy Baba Felunath, it was his Captain Spark that broke the ice with the little boy.
Who can forget this scene from Joy Baba Felunath! How enamored Jatayu had been seeing the six packed body builder. Later he becomes a little disillusioned when the tough guy turns out to be tough only by body but not by guts.
At Maganlal Meghraj’s place in Benaras
It is one of the most gripping scenes of cinema in Joy Baba Felunath. Feluda, his cousin Topshe and Lal Mohan Babu visit the villainous Maganlal Meghraj to solve the case of the valuable Ganesh statue. Utpal Dutt chilled us to the bone as the cold hearted Maganlal Meghraj, another masterpiece of Indian cinema.
In the den of Maganlal Meghraj, he breaks all laws and would not think twice to kill a man if he deems fit. However, when his bribe and warnings fail to impress Feluda, he preys on the innocent. He devilishly picks the naive and nervous Jatayu to be the subject to the knife throwing game.
He calls Arjun the knife thrower to show his talent. Even though Arjun is old and bent, luckily he has not forgotten his trade. While he does hit the target points, it is unimaginable how torturous it would be to be there, every time brushing a flying knife. Equally tortured were Feluda and Topshe as they watch him helplessly.
We need more Jatayus
For many of us, Soumitra Chatterjee is our Feluda and Santosh Dutta is our Lal Mohan Ganguly aka Jatayu. Unfortunately, after Santosh Dutta passed away no more Feluda films were made by Satyajit Ray. That makes Sonar Kella and Joy Baba Felunath films for keeps. These films will never get too old for us.
If Feluda is our hero then Jatayu is our comic relief. He adds a third dimension to the team. With him around, it feels more alive. In this hard cold world of thieves, murderers and criminals, we need more Jatayus. Jatayu keeps us smiling and seeing the world through child-like eyes. When bad folks trouble us, heroes like Feluda will always be there. But we need Lal Mohan babus every day – and we find them in our good friends.