DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

THE ELEPHANT GOD (JOI BABA FELUNATH) (director/writer: Satyajit Ray; screenwriter: based on the novel Joi Baba Felunath by Satyajit Ray; cinematographer: Soumendu Roy; editor:  Dulal Dutta; music:  Satyajit Ray; cast: Haradham Banerjee (Umanath Ghosal), Santosh Dutta (Lalmohan Ganguly), Soumitra Chatterjee (Felu), Utpal Dutt (Maganlal Meghraj), Siddharta Chatterjee (Tapesh), Kamu Mukherjee (Arjun), Satya Bannerjee (Hotel Manager), Monu Mukherjee (Machli Baba), Biplab Chatterjee (Biklash), Moloy Roy (Bishwashree Gunamoy Bagchi); Runtime: 102; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: R. D. Bansal; Big Home Video; 1979--India-in Bengali with English subtitles)

"A detective yarn, much like a Charlie Chan vehicle, is skillfully directed by India's legendary filmmaker Satyajit Ray."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A detective yarn, much like a Charlie Chan vehicle, is skillfully directed by India's legendary filmmaker Satyajit Ray ("The Coward"/"The Holy Man"/"The Big City"), who wrote the novel that the film is based on. It's a sequel to his The Golden Fortress.

The famous private detective Feluda (Soumitra Chatterjee) is on vacation in the holy city of Benares, in northern India, to take in a puja ceremony with his always smiling assistant, his teenage cousin (Tapesh), and his comic relief pulp mystery writer friend Ganguly (Santosh Dutta). The detective is approached by failing businessman Umanath Ghosal (Haradham Banerjee), who hires him on the promise of a reward to recover his family's valuable jeweled Elephant God icon statuette, a gift to his physician grandfather from the King of Nepal, that was stolen from the bedroom safe of his 84-year-old father while he slept.

It features a colorful religious setting and many colorful characters such as the fake holy man Babajli (Monu Mukherjee) holding court on the banks of the Ganges; a cunning and ruthless Benares-based art smuggler Maganlal Meghraj (Utpal Dutt), a college friend of Umanath, who wanted to buy the gold heirloom icon but was rebuffed by Umanath and is threatening harm if the detective doesn't halt his investigation; a show-off bodybuilder Gunomoy Bagchi (Moloy Roy) in town for a show, who is rooming with the detective trio in his hotel room; Riku, the adolescent son of Umanath, who is a wide-eyed fan of pulp mystery magazine stories and its superhero Captain Spark, and because of his imagination provides important clues to the detective; a knife throwing goon for the villain; and an elderly storytelling sculptor painting the goddess Durga statue for the upcoming ceremony, who is murdered.

Feluda makes like Sherlock Holmes, and in slow-time unravels the mystery behind the crimes. The pic lacks any female leads and at times some of its subplots seem forced, otherwise it's entertaining but only ordinary

REVIEWED ON 3/19/2014       GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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