While browsing through magazines at a book store at Old Bus Stand, Bhubaneswar, came across ‘Dasyu Ranjan Series” (Dacoit Ranjan series) books and was quite delighted on viewing its illustrations which has not changed with time. This cheap paperback editions, yet widely popular series by Pramod Kishor Panda, was part of my teenage years and have virtually grown up browsing through its pages, hiding this booklet inside our study books.
Most of the stories were penned during later 60s & 70s during the height of Cold War between erstwhile USSR & USA. Moscow was perceived as an Indian friendly Paradise and Peking (then Beijing) as a devil. Although, most of the stories were repeatitive, still it didn’t deter its readers from buying a copy from nearest magazine shop. We were even exchanging it with its friends or at least borrowing it. The catchy and sensational titles with the protagonist Ranjan mentioned, looked more or less like travel stories. The popular titles includes Goinda Ranjan, Sagar Pathe Ranjan, Bilata Abhijana’re Ranjan, Peking Abhimukhe Ranjan, Mahakasha’re Ranjan, Moscow’re Ranjan, Nari Trata Ranjan, Ranjan O Dasyu Karala, Ranjan ra Satru, Ranjan’ra Gupta Abhijana, Bahurupi Ranjan, Phaasi Manchare Ranjan, Ranjan’ra Pratisodha, Ranjan’ra Rudra Rupa, Ranjan’ra Naba Abhijana, Ranjan’ra Ratna Trushna, Pilot Ranjan, Ranjan’ra Mahamaya, Tantrika Ranjan, Ranjan’ra Turjyanada, Ranjan’ra Gupta Sasana, Jukta Rashtra’re Ranjan, Ranjan O Kalanaga, Biswa Samrat Ranjan, Bijayi Ranjan, Ranjan’ra Pratihinsha, Sanyasi Ranjan, Ranjan’ra Rajadroha, Ranjan’ra Shakti, Japan Pathe Ranjan, Burma Abhijana’re Ranjan, Smuggler Ranjan, Hira Kothire Ranjan, Hong Kong’re Ranjan, Debaduta Ranjan, Danaba Ranjan, Ranjan’ra Sadajantra,Ranjan’ra Shatru etc all published by Janapriya Prakashan.
Had never had seen any Limousine, Plymouth or Austin during early 80s in Bhubaneswar, but I was quite comfortable with the common lines “ରାତିର ଅନ୍ଧକାରରେ, କଳା ରାସ୍ତା ଉପରେ ଛୁଟେଇ ଚାଲିଛି, ଧୂସର ରଙ୍ଗର ଏକ ଲିମୌସିନ୍…“ (In the darkness of the night, on the black road, speeds away a grey limousine). The occupant is none other than Dasyu Ranjan – the dacoit with a golden heart and overcoat, gloves & hat, accompanied by his associate Ratan (a separate Ratan series was also tried, but it could never touch the popularity of Ranjan series), always tastes success in all his pursuits & solves numerous mysteries. He always manages to escape and gives the police, the chain smoking legendary Inspector Bijay Babu, a run for the money, before his act is discovered. Bijay Babu’s pursuit to catch Ranjan red handed never ends, yet he is rescued from the clutches of the real villain by Ranjan. And, the invariable last sentence of the novel – ଆଶ୍ଚର୍ଯ୍ୟ ! ରଞ୍ଜନ ଦସ୍ୟୁ ନା ଦେବତା ! (Wonder ! If Ranjan is a dacoit or God).
King of mystery and thriller novels – Pramod Kishor Panda also introduced James Bond 007 series in Odia with several books with same title but different illustrations. Other notable mystery novels by him was China Dragon, Bidaya Peking, Udanta Saba etc.
Durga Puja was the best time for marketing Saradiya Biseshanka, the annual edition of popular magazines. There was a craze among people to buy such magazines alongwith fresh dresses during Dussehra festival. Those detective series surprisingly never had any violence or sex content in it, rather it were filled with suspense & thriller & readers would be bewildered on guessing what would happen next while turning the pages of the novel. Nevertheless, teenagers like us were never allowed to read this series from the belief that such books brought cheap thrills to the young and lured them away from textbooks and homework. But this restriction, only made us strong & stealthily this pocket books were brought inside study rooms & we would go on unforgettable thrill ride. In fact, detective novels, which wove gripping narratives around criminals with hearts of gold, inspired fierce loyalty in us and were hugely popular. The narratives of most of these novels always centered on crime and its detection not by the police, but by the Robinhood type characters, who solve issues as private detectives . Their criminal activities concealed a noble social mission and therefore engaged the sympathies of the readers.
Among old Odia popular fiction writers of detective/mystery genre, certain authors & their creations were quite admired by its readers which includes Kanduri Charan Das’s Rakhta Golapa & Chakranta (Rajashri Publications) & Indrajala (Kahani Publishers), Bhupen Goswami’s Maya Jaala (1960) by Utkal Bani Mandira, Bijaya Kumar Rana with a self styled name – Rahasya Kumar whose popular novels includes Kathachampa, Kiye Sata Kiye Michha, Suraa Sundari, Ekutia Jhiatiye (Janapriya Prakashan), Jogendra Mohanty, Chandrasekhar Mishra’s Honeymoon in Mumbai, Mala Manisha ra Jianta Chhae (Janapriya Prakashan), Bhagirathi Das, Giridhari Maharana’s Maya Nuhein Chhaya & Maya O Chhaya Chandrika (Janapriya Prakashan), Ramakanta Mishra’s Preta Sundari ra Chhae, Chhanchana ra Tikhhana Udana, Maratmaka Khela, Nila Dhheu ra Suna Chadhei (Janapriya Prakashan) etc. All these mystery novels unintentionally: promoted the reading habit in Odia among the young and made them into potential readers of serious prose fictions of the future.
Happy to see that the series are still reprinted and available in book shops, but somehow needs proper marketing to catch new fan base who are hooked to satellite TVs, laptops & smart phones in internet age. Further, it needs to change its storyline theme since, the cold war era has been replaced by global terrorism. There is even an animation version tried by Pacad Animations lead by Ranajit Mohanty, but its yet to see the day.
Originally posted in my FB page under the title “Can Odia Detective Series Make a Comeback” dt 28.7.2016