THE JOURNEY OF BOMBAY TALKIES FROM HIMANSHU RAI TO MEGASTAR MAHARISHI AAZAAD
The Bombay Talkies Studios story is full of magic and colour. In the ’30s, the movie business was supposed to be a ‘dirty business’. People would talk about movies, but many wouldn’t even consider going to watch one. This would be similar to people talking about gold prices but seldom buying it. Even though movies did make people curious, its reputation as a professional field was bad. There seemed to be a lack of respect for the profession because it was being considered the domain of undesirable sections of the then Indian society. Due to this lack of respect and understanding for the profession, financiers during those times would face an impossible challenge when it came to getting returns on their investment.
It was during this hunt for financiers that Himanshu Rai came in contact with Abhimanyu Prasad Singh, a close friend of Seth Badriprasad Dube, who was a well-known financier. He introduced Himanshu Rai, a London return actor/ theatre artist to Seth Badriprasad Dube with a dream of making a cinema company but Seth Badriprasad declined the proposal of funding Himanshu Rai because Seth Badriprasad had once financed the first Indian Talkie film Alam Ara which don't earn him any profit and he made an opinion that only actors and directors get fame but the financier doesn’t get profits. During that era, the film business was not considered as money earning business. It was more about the passion for cinema and getting fame. Because of this fact, Seth Badriprasad Dube declined the proposal of financing Himanshu Rai.
Abhimanyu Singh spoke next to Seth Badriprasad’s son Shri. Rajnarayan Dube. He was a young and dynamic businessman who operated a successful company called Dube Industries, which he had founded in 1929. Shri. Dube was born on 10th October 1910 at Kalighat in Kolkata and was an ardent devotee of Maa Kali. He was influenced by the power of art and creativity at a young age. Both men met at the Taj Mahal Hotel in Colaba, Mumbai (Bombay) and discussed an initial investment amount of Rs. 25 lakhs. However, Himanshu Rai couldn’t not convince Rajnarayan Dube to invest the amount because of the dismal returns on investment that the Indian movie industry offered. At this point, it would seem that Bombay Talkies would never come to be, but things have a way of working out in unexpected ways.
A few months passed by and Himanshu Rai had grown increasingly despondent because it was becoming impossible to raise investment for his movie company. In his depression, the man attempted suicide but was unsuccessful. Shri. Rajnarayan Dube got wind of this through Abhimanyu Prasad Singh and wondered about this man, one who so completely and wholeheartedly believed in the power of cinema and talking pictures that he did not see it fit to continue living if he couldn’t follow his dreams. Rajnarayan Dube decided that Himanshu Rai was onto something here and finalised the investment with him soon after. In doing this, Shri. Rajnarayan Dube went deliberately against the advice of his father, Seth Badriprasad Dube, who felt that this would not be a good investment choice. In doing this, Shri. Rajnarayan Dube gave birth to the Indian Film Industry, which has now gone on to become a huge cultural and financial force in the country.
At the very nascent age of the cinema Rajnarayan Dube’s Bombay Talkies was born in India when other contemporary film companies of the world such as Warner Bros. Entertainment, Universal Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures were born and brought up to create cinematic magic for the world audience, but Bombay Talkies (under the command of Girish Ghanshyam Dube), is the only premier film company which has made charismatic comeback and repeating its old pride and glory after sixty-three years of utter darkness.
Cinematic Giant and Pillar of Indian Cinema, Rajnarayan Dube founded the Legendary Film Company, The Bombay Talkies Studios along with its associate companies Bombay Talkies Laboratories and Bombay Talkies Pictures as individual proprietorship companies. At the same time to add more people he established the first public limited film company of India The Bombay Talkies Limited (ltd.) in 1934, although all companies were commonly known as Bombay Talkies. As Himanshu Rai and Devika Rani were actors they were given some shares of the company as their remuneration. Some films were produced under the banner of The Bombay Talkies Limited also, but most of the films were produced under The Bombay Talkies Studios and Bombay Talkies Pictures. The Bombay Talkies Studios also successfully Distributed, Processed and Promoted films of other producers and banners other than their own films. All the films were financed by Rajnarayan Dube in his individual capacity as the owner of his proprietorship finance company Dube Industries (Estd. 1929).
On 15 April, 1934, Bombay Talkies began operations. The movie company was named by Shri. Dube’s mother, Smt. Gayatri Devi. Though Light of Asia and Karma a concept which Himanshu Rai built during his days in Europe, it was released in 1925 and 1933 respectively. As the release went unnoticed, Rajnarayan Dube re-released them and the first films to come out of the stables were Light of Asia (Prem Sanyas) and Karma in 1934. It was followed by Jawani ki Hawa, Achhut Kanya and Jeevan Naiya. The movie company-operated along with the principle of keeping the creative aspects and business aspects separate. Shri. Rajnarayan Dube would look into the business end of things and both Himanshu Rai and Devika Rani would immerse themselves in the creative pursuit. This approach gave rise to some of the most technically impressive films seen this side of the planet. The technical prowess was due to the movie studio employing German and other European technicians, prominent among them being Franz Osten.
Rajnarayan Dube’s Bombay Talkies was single-handedly responsible for making the careers of some of the leading talent in the golden age of Indian cinema. Besides Himanshu Rai and Devika Rani, the company gave the world Ashok Kumar, Leela Chitnis, Madhubala (who began as a child artist and was given her stage name by Rajnarayan Dube himself, Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand, Leela Chitnis, David Abraham Cheulkar, Phani Majumdar, Gyan Mukherjee, K.A. Abbas, Saadat Hasan Manto, Nabendu Ghosh, Hansa Wadkar, Uttam Kumar, Kedar Sharma, Gemini Ganesan, P.L. Santoshi, Shakti Samanta, Niranjan Pal, Pt. Narendra Sharma, Kishor Sahu, P. Jairaj, Asit Sen, Mumtaj Ali, Nalini Jaywant, Kamini Kaushal, Snehprabha, Joseph Wirsching, Kanan Devi, Famous Bengali Novelist Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay, Shaheed Lateef, Sita Devi, Abhi Bhattacharya, R.D. Mathur, Aghajani Kashmiri, Kamal Bose, Pran, Usha Kiran, Renuka Devi, Great Writer Munshi Premchand (Written 2 Films for Bombay Talkies), Mukri, Bhagwati Charan Verma, Mehmood, Kishore Kumar, Kamal Amrohi, Guru Dutt, Suraiya, Bimal Roy, Nitin Bose, Salil Chowdhary, Kavi Pradeep, Franz Osten, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Sashadhar Mukherjee, Asha Bhonsle, Lata Mangeshkar, Satyajit Ray, Amiya Chakravarti, S. D. Burman, Manna Dey, Saraswati Devi (who was the first woman music director of Asia) and now Megastar Aazaad. All in all, Bombay Talkies gave the world 280 of the most talented movie professionals in the last century.
Under the command of Rajnarayan Dube, Bombay Talkies had Produced 115 films like Achhut Kannya, Kismet, Bandhan, Mahal, Jhoola, Jeevan Naiya, Neel Kamal, Baadbaan, Daag, Majboor, Drishtidan (Bengali), Izzat, Prem Kahani, Punarmilan, Aawaz, Pratima, Raj Mahal, Apnapan, Anyaya, Roti, Farar, Ziddi, Mashal, Azad, Jwar Bhata, Basant, Sangram, Patita, Bhabi (1938), Durga, Kala Patthar, Indian Lady, Jeevan Prabhat, HamariBaat, Anand, Aurangzeb, Bemisaal, Mamta, Sipahi, Milan, Naya Sansar, Anjaan, Adalat, Aandolan, Zindagi, Zamindar, Kanjoos, Ravan, Raja Rani, Phaansi, Kasam, Parakh, Dhobi Doctor, Deewana, Darpan, Dr. Kumar, Maa, Khamosh, Nauka Doobi, Talaq, Zakhmi, Maharaja, Nirmala, Vilayati Babu, Dushman, Khandani, Puraskar, Tawaif, Asha, Aandhi, Sadma, Anaath, Loafer, Muqaddar, Prem Kahani, Vachan, Lahore to Calcutta, Navjeevan, Ramdhari B.A., Saudagar, Ghajini, Hero, Sawa Lakh, Pratima, Bulandi, Char Aankhen, Chanakya, Nakli Heera, Lahore, Rail Ka Dibba, Dost, Chhoti Si Duniya, Cinema and many more.
While Himanshu Rai's original vision for a movie production house sowed the seeds for the formation of Indian cinema as an industry, Shri. Rajnarayan Dube single-handedly architected the business angle of the entire industry which was yet to come. He supported various new theatres such as BN Sircar’s New Theatres in Calcutta, V Shantaram’s Prabhat Pictures, Homi Wadia’s Wadia Movietone, Sohrab Modi’s Minerva Movietone, LV Prasad’s Prasad Labs and Pictures (Prasad was an ex-technician from Bombay Talkies), SS Vasan’s Gemini Pictures and Mehboob Khan’s theatres, Tarachand Barjatya’s Rajshri Productions (Barjatya served as a distribution manager for Bombay Talkies for a period of seven years), Sashadhar Mukherjee’s (Filmalaya Studio). Shri. Dube financed these fledgling companies and made them stronger. In essence, he builds the entire movie ecosystem in the country. Everyone whom Shri. Dube supported went to build a name for themselves in the industry.
Shri. Rajnarayan Dube had a big vision for Indian Cinema. He wanted Indian film making to be a respectable profession. He thus stipulated that Bombay Talkies would only hire graduates. He hoped this move would legitimise the Indian film industry of the thirties and forties, and it certainly did. Besides this, Shri. Dube also wanted the Indian film industry to be inclusive of Indians from all states and sectors of life. Even though the movie company worked with European technicians, Shri. Dube would bring on Indian technicians and make sure that they learned the art of movie-making. He also brought a lot of Indian writers on-board so that movies could have an Indian cultural sensitivity and thus could appeal to a large amount of people. This move gave rise to a whole new Indian profession, movie making! This seemed to be a good move in the light of circumstances that were yet to arrive.
During one scene in the movie Karma, there was a minute-long kissing scene between Himanshu Rai & Devika Rani onscreen. During re-release, the film some extra controversial scenes were shot at that time for the sake of sensational purpose. This caused quite a stir in Indian society then Seth Badriprasad Dube's father of Shri. Rajnarayan Dube was furious about the scene. Himanshu Rai apologised and held his ears’ and said that it would not happen again. After that incident, Shri. Dube however, resolved to screen all films by himself before they could be released. He was a Brahmin and a conservative and strictly discouraged smoking, drinking and other vices in the studio premises. He was also a very caring employer for those pioneering people who worked at Bombay Talkies. He made sure that Education, Rent, Food, and other daily necessities were provided free of cost to employees of Bombay Talkies. He also championed the rights of the movie industry by setting up Unions and Associations such as IMPPA (of which Bombay Talkies was the first member). He also helped grow the regional film industry. He staunchly supported Marathi, Hindi, Bengali, Assamese, Oriya, Gujarati and Southern cinema. If it wasn’t for Shri. Dube, the Indian movie industry would have resembled other Southeast Asian movie industries from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal. Bollywood today is big enough to compete with Hollywood movies.
During the Second World War, Bombay Talkies was struggling. The war had made things very difficult in many ways. The company had several movies on the floor but they could not get them finished because the crucial German technicians had been arrested and detained by the British Government. At this point, 15-20 films were on the production floor and were stalled pretty badly. Himanshu Rai suffered a nervous breakdown as a result of this and passed away in 1940. Bombay Talkies had just lost its crucial co-founder on whose vision the entire company stood to be successful. Shri. Rajnarayan Dube decided that Rai’s vision for Indian cinema would continue and he again invested four lakh ten thousand rupees into the venture. This injected some much-needed blood into the company and a new era of Indian film making began. Shri. Dube decided that from that moment on, Bombay Talkies would only hire Indian technicians and production professionals.
In this second phase, the company boomed and went on to a very productive cinematic run. 1943 hit Kismet was getting rave reviews everywhere and managed to run in theaters for 3 and a half years in over 90% of the Indian theaters! By comparing the value of gold and land by today’s standards, the movie made the equivalent of Rs. 40000 crores. Not one movie has broken this record in terms of business. By 1954, Bombay Talkies had put its name to a huge amount of work. It had produced 115 films, had introduced over 280 new talents, built 400 theaters across the country. With the historical grand success of Bombay Talkies, the legendary film company under the influence of Rajnarayan Dube had now processed more than 450 films of outside and like minded producers and made more than 250 film projects for the new and needy producers. As the success of Bombay Talkies was going sky-high the clash of ego between the giants also started roaring high? The three companies which solely belongs to Rajnarayan Dube, The Bombay Talkies Studios, Bombay Talkies Laboratories and Bombay Talkies Pictures were doing fine but the fourth company The Bombay Talkies Limited, which was established by him to include more people and more talents was becoming a platform to project nasty ego clashes of the directors and management of the company. Instead of being devoted to filmmaking and cinema they devoted their energy and talent for spreading rumours and objectionable stories. At this time Shri. Rajnarayan Dube decided that he and his company had arrived at the goal that they had set out to complete two decades earlier.
Indian films were now a major force in terms of communication and entertainment in post-independence India. Shri. Dube shut down his sole proprietorship companies The Bombay Talkies Studios, Bombay Talkies Laboratories and Bombay Talkies Pictures in 1954 so that he could pay more attention to other aspects of his business and continued to distribute and finance in films. The fate of the limited company, The Bombay Talkies Limited, which was established to include more people and more talents, got entrapped in selfish motives and litigations. Since 1953, complicated legal battles are going on in different courts till date. Among all odds and misfortune, of the passed time Bombay Talkies became a dream only to be in memories, the artists and technicians, whom Bombay Talkies made living legends in their own lives, who became national and international personalities by virtue of their own right, became world famous. But there was no one to take notice of Bombay Talkies.