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Kiriti Roy, created by Dr. Nihar Ranjan Gupta

8 April, 2021 17:00:58
Kiriti Roy, created by Dr. Nihar Ranjan Gupta

Till very recently, Bengali readers were credited for being bookworms. But what made most Bengalis bookworms? The answer is easy to find. Bengalis really love detectives and adventures and there are many, many detectives and adventure characters in Bengali storytelling. Bengali readers have loved these tales since the first magazines were published in the 19th century. Even in the 21st century, detectives are still the most loved fictional heroes. A number of these characters have made a permanent place in the Bengalis’ psyche and will continue to rule the roost in the future.

One such fictional detective character is Kiriti Roy. Somewhat, a contemporary of Byomkesh Bakshi (the renowned fictional detective character created by Saradindu Bandopadhyay) but very different from him. Kiriti Roy is quite a dynamic figure with his tall stature and pipe that slightly reflects the style of Holmes. Just like Watson, he has Subrata Roy, his friend in investigation. His creator, Dr. Nihar Ranjan Gupta (6 June 1911 – 20 February 1986) was a successful dermatologist and a very popular novelist. He also wrote under the pseudonym of Banbhatta. 

Dr Gupta was successful both as a medical practitioner as well as an author. Despite his busy schedule, he was very attached to Itna village. He was deeply concerned about the horrors of genocide and the predicament of Bengalis during the Mukti Juddha (War of Liberation) in the 1970s. Later, he was invited by the Bangladesh government to visit Dhaka with his family and accept a prestigious award conferred on him for his novel, Lalu Bhulu.

Gupta hailed from Itna village in Narail district (now in Bangladesh). Madhumati River meandered through the picturesque village where he grew up in a joint family with a host of cousins and friends. His initial schooling was from the village school. He was very fond of reading books and his mother, Labongalota encouraged him to read more. His father, Satyaranjan Gupta wanted his son to become a physician and he fulfilled his father’s wish as well.   

Gupta was an imaginative child and dabbled with writing from a very early age. When he was ready to leave his village and come to Calcutta to pursue his higher study, his mother asked him to continue writing despite the pressure of academics. Gupta complied.  He came to Calcutta and took admission in Carmichael School for his ISC. He continued his medical studies from Carmichael College and came out with flying colours and later pursuing to specialize in dermatology.

Meanwhile, Gupta continued to hone his skills diligently and became a successful author.  His first work of fiction was published when he was 18 years old and was studying ISC. He mailed a children’s story to ‘Shishu Sathi’ magazine for publication. The story was published and the editor asked him to contribute more articles. What followed was a chance encounter that heralded the birth of an author. Gupta went to meet the editor in person with the manuscript of a novel he had written. The editor was impressed to meet the young lad oozing with confidence and accepted the manuscript. It was later serialized in the magazine and Gupta became a familiar name among readers. 

Dr Gupta was the creator of the famous fictional detective character Kiriti Roy. Kalo Bhromor was the first novel where the dashing sleuth was introduced thus: "Kiriti Roy is six-and-a-half feet tall, fair and stout. His curled hair is mostly combed back, and the black celluloid spectacles make his clean-shaven face highly attractive.”

His works were much sought-after by readers of all ages.  He was the creator of the famous fictional detective character Kiriti Roy. Kalo Bhromor was the first novel where the dashing sleuth was introduced thus: "Kiriti Roy is six-and-a-half feet tall, fair and stout. His curled hair is mostly combed back, and the black celluloid spectacles make his clean-shaven face highly attractive.” Kiriti’s character seems to have taken a cue or two from Holmes– he smokes a pipe, carries a magnifying glass, prefers an overcoat and tatami slippers.  Kiriti’s philosophy in life is, "In this universe, virtue and sin reside in parallel. Reward for virtue and scorn for sin is the thumb rule of the universe."

Kiriti Roy's exploits have been lapped up by readers ever since the first title was published and there is a committed fan base for the detective. As part of the Kiriti series, there are around 80 novels and stories. A number of his novels have been made into hit films in Bengali as well as Hindi. In fact, there was a time when producers approached him, seeking his permission to make films based on the adventure stories of Kiriti Roy. Dr Gupta was open to the idea but he was very particular about the personality he wanted to see in his protagonist – and he had no qualms in rejecting Uttam Kumar’s name for the lead role! Uttam Kumar was the reigning matinee idol of Bengali cinema and the audience loved his screen presence. But Dr Gupta was categorical when he said he could not envisage Uttam Kumar in the role of Kiriti Roy. The project had to be ultimately shelved. 

One such fictional detective character is Kiriti Roy. Somewhat, a contemporary of Byomkesh Bakshi (the renowned fictional detective character created by Saradindu Bandopadhyay) but very different from him. Kiriti Roy is quite a dynamic figure with his tall stature and pipe that slightly reflects the style of Holmes.

Dr Gupta was successful both as a medical practitioner as well as an author. Despite his busy schedule, he was very attached to Itna village. He was deeply concerned about the horrors of genocide and the predicament of Bengalis during the Mukti Juddha (War of Liberation) in the 1970s. Later, he was invited by the Bangladesh government to visit Dhaka with his family and accept a prestigious award conferred on him for his novel, Lalu Bhulu. He accepted the invitation and went to the newly-formed nation. By then, Banga-Bandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rehman and his family had been assassinated and Dr Gupta’s anger and frustration knew no bounds to counter the loss of an ideal. A crest-fallen Gupta was inconsolable when Sheikh Haseena related the gory details of her father’s death. An emotionally-charged Gupta is said to have shouted ‘Joy Bangla’ with tears trickling down his cheeks.  

Dr Gupta was a disciplined man but his end came abruptly at a time when he could actually concentrate on his author’s career. Some of his best works were written during this phase but a massive heart attack put an end to this physician/author’s illustrious career.

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