Joy Baba Felunath (The Elephant God) is a 1979 Indian Bengali mystery film by director Satyajit Ray, featuring Soumitra Chatterjee, Santosh Dutta, Siddartha Chatterjee, Utpal Dutt among others. The film is based on the famous Feluda novel of the same name written by Ray himself. It is the second film of Feluda as well as the sequel of Sonar Kella directed by Satyajit Ray. After the demise of Santosh Dutta (Jatayu), Ray remarked that it was impossible to ever make a Feluda film again without Dutta.
Feluda, his cousin Topshe and the thriller writer Jatayu visit Benaras during the pujas. There they meet a Bengali family. Upon hearing that Feluda is a private investigator, the Ghosal family head entrusts him with the task of finding out the thief of the attempted theft that took place in their house. Meanwhile, the arrival of a saint by the name of 'Machhli Baba' in Benaras quivers the excitement of the local people.
A very valuable property of the Ghosals, a golden Ganesh statue, about an inch height, was the target of the thief. On the other hand, Maganlal Meghraj, a wealthy Marwari businessman, had his eyes on the Ganesh for a very long time. He comes to know about the involvement of Feluda in this case. He invites Feluda, Topshe and Jatayu to his house and offers Feluda Rs.2000 so that he leaves this case. Feluda refuses, which angers Maganlal, and he sets up a knife throwing show, using Jatayu as the bait (much to the viewer's amusement). After the thrilling adventures in Maganlal's house, Feluda takes a vow - either he will avenge Jatayu's harassment, or quit being a sleuth.
Although warned by Maganlal, Feluda did not lose interest in the case, and deduces that Machhli Baba is actually a fraud working for Maganlal. A member of the Ghosal family, Bikash, was also bribed by Maganlal to steal the Ganesh and hand it over to him. Feluda gets hold of Bikash and makes him confess his involvement in the theft. But Bikash states that when he went to steal the Ganesh, it was not there. Several questions arise in Feluda's mind. Where is the Ganesh, then? Why the innocent idol-maker of the Ghosals Shashi Babu was murdered brutally? What plan did the Ghosal family head hatch upon with his grandson to save the Ganesh?
The story has two sub plots. On the one hand, it is the story of the acquisitive instinct of a greedy Marwari businessman, who would spare no expenses or ways to get what he desires, even if it is at the cost of murdering some innocents and bribing the willing. On the other, it is also the tale of cautionary foresight exercised by the family head. The sights and sounds and the brilliant cinematography and photographic imagery takes the nostalgic viewer to a lost world of the innocence, the beauty and the freshness of a north Indian town, that is at once, far from the madding corruptibility of big cities. Subaltern texts like the caste and the communal divide do make their presence felt, but they exist as subplots, that further enrich the viewer's understanding.
Soumitra Chatterjee as Feluda, the Bengali sleuth from Calcutta
Utpal Dutt as Maganlal Meghraj, a Marwari businessman, the main antagonist of the film
Santosh Dutta as Jatayu
Siddartha Chatterjee as Topshe, Feluda's cousin and assistant
Jit Bose as Ruku
Haradhan Bandopadhyay as Umanath Ghosal, Ruku's father
Biplab Chatterjee as Bikash
Kamu Mukherjee as Arjun, the knife thrower in Maganlal's house (cameo)
Monu Mukherjee as Machhli Baba (cameo)
Satya Banerjee as Niranjan Chakrabarty, the hotel manager'
Indubhushan Gujral as Inspector Tiwari
Moloy Roy as Biswasree Gunomoy Bagchi
Santosh Sinha as Sashi Babu, the idol maker
Bimal Chatterjee as Ambika Ghosal, head of the Ghoshal family
The Academy Film Archive preserved Joy Bab Felunath in 2007.