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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

    

The Buccaneer of Bombay
(The Bandits of Bombay)

by
Satyajit Ray


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase The Bandits of Bombay



Title: The Buccaneer of Bombay
Author: Satyajit Ray
Genre: Novel
Written: 1976 (Eng.1988)
Length: 96 pages
Original in: Bengali
Availability: The Bandits of Bombay - US
The Bandits of Bombay - UK
The Bandits of Bombay - Canada
The Bandits of Bombay - India
in The Complete Adventures of Feluda (1) - India
Bollywood Bombay - France
in El bucanero de Bombay - España
  • A Feluda novel
  • Bengali title: বোম্বাইয়ের বোম্বেটে
  • Translated by Chitrita Banerji
  • Also published in The Adventures of Feluda (1988)
  • Also translated by Gopa Majumdar (2000), and published in The Complete Adventures of Feluda (vol. 1)
  • বোম্বাইয়ের বোম্বেটে was filmed in 2003, directed by Sandip Ray

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Our Assessment:

B : some entertaining insights into Indian film, and Bombay, but otherwise somewhat underdeveloped

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Hindu . 22/11/2003 R.Krithika
Sunday Tribune . 18/1/2004 Chetna Keer Banerjee


  From the Reviews:
  • "The Bandits of Bombay, in particular, pokes fun at the typical Bollywood film." - R.Krithika, The Hindu

  • "Thematically, The Bandits of Bombay, the eighth title in the series, is the most contemporary with its focus on the vicious underworld-filmdom nexus. For technical details it obviously draws upon Ray’s expertise as a director (.....) With a couple of kung-fu stunts thrown in, this adventure has all the elements of a reel-life drama." - Chetna Keer Banerjee, Sunday Tribune

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Buccaneer of Bombay -- now published, in a new translation, as The Bandits of Bombay -- has author Satyajit Ray take his private investigator Feluda (and Feluda's Watson, young cousin Topshe) to most familiar territory -- the Indian film-making scene. (The Buccaneer of Bombay was also made into a film -- though Ray did not direct; Sandip Ray did.)
       The novel starts by bringing pulp thriller author Lalmohan Ganguly -- who publishes as 'Jatayu' --, first introduced in The Golden Fortress, back on the scene. For all his success as an author, Jatayu hadn't made the successful leap to the big screen yet -- and has set his sights on real, rather than just local success; as Ray has Topshe note:

As Bengali films didn't make money, he had set his heart on a Hindi film.
       (Ray gets his back on the whole Bollywood scene, however: when Feluda and Topshe go see one of the earlier films Pulak Ghoshal, the man set to film Jatayu's work, they are bored out of their minds by a film that is: "nothing but a headache generator" -- and they sneak out at intermission.)
       Jatayu's dream is now to be realized: he sold 'The Buccaneer of Bombay' to one of the hottest directors in Bombay (whom he knew from when Pulak still lived in Calcutta). Retitled -- as 'Jet Bahadur', and with the novel's kung fu scenes included, it ... well, it will make the big screen. Jatayu eagerly accepts the invitation to watch some of the filming, and invites Feluda and Topshe along to Bombay.
       A local, heavily perfumed producer named Sanyal asks a favor of hapless but always eager Jatayu: that he deliver a wrapped package to someone in Bombay. Jatayu unquestioningly takes it and flies it across the country -- and hands it off at the airport. Feluda seems to sense something is not quite right and has their taxi follow the man who took the package -- which they do, all the way to the skyscraper Shivaji Castle.
       When they learn of a murder in the building the next day, in which -- it's clear to them -- the man who took the package was involved, things take a darker turn. It's clear that Jatayu was transporting something he probably shouldn't have been. But its contents, and what happened after he handed it off, remain a mystery for a while longer.
       The Calcuttan trio do some sightseeing and eventually also get to watch -- and even be part of -- the filming. But not everything is quite as it seems, and the package is still causing trouble. Feluda, of course, has some idea of what is going on -- but he lets things play out (after taking the proper precautions), and eventually all the pieces fall neatly into place.
       A nice touch is a scent that's repeatedly in the air, the sinister smell of Sanyal's perfume that Feluda and especially Jatayu keep inexplicably encountering -- giving them good reason to worry. But one of the story's crucial twists relies on Jatayu being really entirely too hapless -- an amusing mix-up, but stretching even the sort of credibility one can expect in stories like this rather far.
       The Buccaneer of Bombay is a fairly basic thriller, and could have used a bit more padding. Topshe describing their tourist-experiences in Bombay, and then on location for the filming, is entertaining, but the mystery itself certainly could have used more fleshing-out -- as could the film-industry-related parts, since Ray obviously brings a lot of insider knowledge with him (and what he does offer is good fun).
       Entertaining enough as a light, quick mystery, The Buccaneer of Bombay is a bit too thin and fast.

- M.A.Orthofer, 2 July 2019

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Links:

The Bandits of Bombay: Reviews: বোম্বাইয়ের বোম্বেটে - the film: Satyajit Ray: Other books by Satyajit Ray under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Filmmaker Satyajit Ray (সত্যজিৎ রায়; 1921-1992) also wrote a great deal of fiction.

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© 2019 the complete review

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