Shonku to Maganlal – Ten everlasting characters created by Ray

Satyajit Ray, an extraordinary legend. The master of many arts. Revered as one of the greatest filmmakers globally. Has been honoured with the Bharat Ratna and Oscar, probably the only one to with these highest awards. Calligraphy, music, sketch, graphic design, direction, script writing – he achieved excellence at all.

But today we will talk about his avatar as the writer. He is one writer who is loved by children and adults alike. To tell the truth, his writings had taken Bengali literature to a new dimension.

It is said that a writer never dies. As long as his characters live, he lives. And the legendary Satyajit Ray still exists with us. He sees us through the eyes of his creations.
Here are some of the most memorable characters found in the writings of Satyajit Ray.

Banku Babu

Our very own Banku Babu. Innocent, well-behaved, knowledgeable but ill-treated Banku Babu. Who knew this commonplace Banku Babu would create such impact that even after fifty five years, it would still rock our world?

Banku Babu found his only friend, not on earth but from a place far, far away. But who said friendships have to be with your own kind!

Satyajit Ray banku babu bondhu

Bankubabur Bandhu is a trailblazer in many ways. In fact it is one of his most important stories ever written. First, it portrayed the bare truth of evil humans. Second, a benevolent alien, which was then quite a revolutionary act of thinking because the world remains mostly plagued with fear rather than opening the mind and see the wonder beyond our world.

Bankubabur Bandhu had been translated as The Alien and it was planned to be a Hollywood film. Later it had been the inspiration for Steven Spielberg in creating the ground breaking films, E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Since then it has been a basis for many other Hollywood and other international films.  It was also the inspiration for the Hindi film Koi..Mil Gaya.

Bankubabur Bandhu. Just one story which silently created history.


Satyajit Ray feluda sketch

The most popular character created by Satyajit Ray. People who love detective stories know that if someone comes second after Sherlock Holmes, it is Feluda. Feluda is the kind of a man who is a rare mix of wit, knowledge, guts and compassion. He is the kind of hero we would all want to be. In his epic-ness, lies a humanness so reachable. Feluda is more than a detective character, he is living Ray.

Also see: Detective films we can watch again and again

Sidhu Jyetha

Satyajit Ray feluda sidhu jyetha

Ever great man needs someone like a guru who guides and challenges him. Sidhu Jyetha is Feluda’s superior in mogojastra, brain power. Sidhu Jyetha can be best described – if he can be – as a walking encyclopaedia.  There is nothing he does not know about this world. Probably men like him are the rarest in this world.

Lalmohan Babu

Satyajit Ray feluda lal mohan ganguly sketch

Nobody cannot not love him! Lalmohan Babu, Feluda’s constant companion, is simply too adorable. In fact, Feluda’s adventures sound better with him.

Lalmohan Babu is himself the creator of a dynamic character, Prokhor Rudra who is probably everything opposite to what he is. Lalmohan Ganguly is a great friend, a loyal companion and we all love his antics.

Maganlal Meghraj

The bad, bad villain. We may forgive his smuggling and murdering but we can not let him go for he plays evil tricks on the good-natured Lalmohan Babu. Satyajit Ray’s sheer genius has created even a villain that is unparallel. Perhaps a fit opponent to Feluda, and without whom we could not discover the admiration that Ray weaves.

See the real Maganlal

Mullah Nasiruddin

It is not Ray’s creation but he did give a rebirth to this character. Mullah Nasiruddin is a fictional character from the Middle-east, much like our own Gopal Bhaar. Satyajit Ray collected Mollah’s stories and rewrote those in Bengali short stories. He proved that all around the world, people like good people and great stories.

Tarini Khuro

Satyajit Ray tarini khuro

Tarini Khuro is another scintillating character created by Ray. Uncle Tarini’s real name is Tarini Ranjan Bandopadhyay and people address him as the Tarini Khuro. There are probably no more than 15 stories of Tarini Khuro but it is worth reading over a hundred times. He is a true wanderlust, a free soul and many stories to tell. His stories of ghosts and supernatural events build up a strange curiosity. Every reader wishes that he had a true Tarini Khuro in his life!

Prof. Shonku

Satyajit Ray Prof. Shonku sketch

Professor Shonku is one of the most popular characters of Bengali fiction. His life in Giridih with Newton, his cat has spurred the imagination of many young readers. We love and understand science and scientists because of him. We look at the stars and wonder about extra-terrestrial life. We wish to invent an all-curing medicine all from Indian ingredients. We believe in many things because he has expanded our mind. Within a story, we learn that what is not taught in schools. Satyajit Ray has shown us the universe through Prof. Shonku.

Professor Hiji-bij-bij

Satyajit Ray Prof. hiji bij bij sketch

Professor Hiji-bij-bij was originally created by Ray’s father, the famous Sukumar Ray. But this Professor Hiji-bij-bij is quite different than Prof. Shonku. Unlike Shonku, Professor Hiji-bij-bij is obsessed with experimentation. He messes around genetic mutation creating monsters instead of creatures.  He pursues science without responsibility. Decades back, the Rays accurately predicted what the scientists are doing today.

Also see: Sukumar Ray’s hilarious Gofchuri by Soumitra Chattopadhyay

Sujan Harbola

Satyajit Ray sujan harbola sketch

Sujan Harbola, the boy who can mimic what he hears. He listens to birds and animals and through imitation talks to them. That is the joy and blessing of growing up amongst nature. The story and the character are so stunning that we wonder how much is fiction and how much reality. There is a happy ending in the story of Sujan Harbola. But it leaves us with a yearning – to be free and to live – again.

Perhaps the Satyajit Ray we see is not actually him. He was Sujan, Shonku, Feluda, Maganlal, Tarini – all of them. And each is him.