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Satyajit Ray’s Prof. Shonku is ready for the big screen

When Sandip Ray read the first draft of his father’s stories based on fictional scientist Professor Shonku in 1961, he was not even 10 years old. The character appeared to him a “bit eccentric and over the top.”

Soon after the stories on the old scientist created by Satyajit Ray were published in a Bengali periodical, accolades in the form of letters and phone calls started coming in.

Five decades later, Professor Trilokeshwar Shonku retains undiminished appeal, prompting Sandip Ray to bring the character to life on the big screen.

The film, Professor Shonku O El Dorado, produced by SVF Entertainment, one of eastern India’s largest production houses, is likely to hit the screens by the end of 2018.

Serious scientist: A bald and bearded Professor Shonku appears in these illustrations made by Satyajit Ray for his stories.

Serious scientist: A bald and bearded Professor Shonku appears in these illustrations made by Satyajit Ray for his stories.  

 

“I have been thinking about making a film on Professor Shonku for a long time. With so many developments in the visual effects field, I think this is the right time,” Mr. Ray said. The film is based on one of the spell-binding stories in the Professor Shonku series, called ‘Nakur Babu O El Dorado’.

The main character, Professor Shonku, is a scientist-inventor, and along with the visual effects, the plot takes the audience to the forests of South America. The bilingual production in Bengali and English will be shot in both West Bengal and Brazil.

The director has made a number of films on Feluda, the iconic detective, and another of Satyajit Ray’s creations. The new venture will be both a “challenge and a nice change of pace after so many Feluda films,” he says.

Ray created Feluda, inspired by Sherlock Holmes, giving the character a resemblance to everything about the muse: physical features, methods and the chronicling of his adventures. But Professor Shonku is different. He is inspired by George Edward Challenger, better known as Professor Challenger, also created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Professor Shonku is an eccentric inventor, living in Giridih with his servant Prahlad and cat Newton.

Interestingly, Satyajit Ray published the Shonku stories in Sandesh magazine in 1961, much before he published the Feluda stories in 1965.

Satyajit Ray’s Prof. Shonku is ready for the big screen
 

The professor is a polyglot, conversant with 69 languages. He becomes a professor at Kolkata’s Scottish Church College at age 20, has scores of inventions from his Giridih laboratory to flaunt, and is ever ready for adventure. Such is the legend of the fantasy character that the West Bengal Board has plans to include a few stories on Professor Shonku in school text books.

“He is a scientist and an inventor. He is short, not tall like Feluda, and in his late sixties. He is serious, and so the characterisation was a lot different,” Mr. Ray said.

Soon after deciding on the film, the search for the actor to play the part was launched. It started and ended with veteran Dhritiman Chatterjee. The 72-year-old actor says this is an icon not just for Bengali audiences, but one that has an international appeal.

The producers, however, are banking on Bengali audiences.

“Professor Shonku has been close to the hearts of millions who love Bengali fiction. We are certain that audiences will enjoy watching this incredible scientist,” said Mahendra Soni, SVF co-founder and director.

Mr. Ray plans to keep the narrative simple but visually engaging, with flesh and blood characters. “My father never believed in anything complicated,” he said.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2021 4:30:34 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/satyajit-rays-prof-shonku-is-ready-for-the-big-screen/article21382154.ece

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