The Bombay Talkies Studios
Pillar Of Indian Cinema
Shri. Rajnarayan Dube had a big vision for Indian Cinema. He wanted Indian filmmaking to be a respectable profession. He single handedly transformed Indian Cinema.
Himanshu Rai, an ambitious film maker who’s dream was to bring this new cultural phenomena to the Indian people and Indian Cinema.
Devika Rani would immerse herself in the creative pursuit. This approach gave rise to some of the most technically impressive films seen this side of the planet.
“Produced 115 films, Distributed 259 films, Launched over 280 Legends, Constructed over 400 Cinema Halls and Financed more than 700 Films”
The Bombay Talkies story is full of magic and color. By 1932, Himanshu Rai was back in India after having been exposed to filmmaking in Europe. His ambition was to bring this new cultural phenomena to the Indian people. This must have been harder than you think, because Himanshu Rai struggled to get this idea off the ground, primarily because of the money involved. He was meeting many people and trying to convince them about the magic of cinema but the effort was proving unsuccessful. He had the complete support of people such as F.E Dinshaw, Sir Feroze Sethna among others but they could not help him when it came to the crucial aspect of financing.
In the 30’s, 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 be 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 Shri. Abhimanyu Prasad Singh, a close friend of Seth Badriprasad Dube, who was a well known financier. Seth Badriprasad refused to finance Himanshu Rai due to the dirty background of the profession. Shri. Abhimanyu spoke next to Seth Badri Prasad’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 Shri 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.
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 June 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, Bombay Talkies Laboratories 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.
On 15 April, 1934, Bombay Talkies began operations. The movie company was named by Shri. Dube’s mother, Shrimati 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 was 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 a 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.
Bombay Talkies was single handedly responsible of 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, Mehmood, Kishore Kumar, Kamal Amrohi, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Sashadhar Mukherjee, Lata Mangeshkar, Satyajit Ray, Amiya Chakravarti, S. D. Burman, Manna Dey, Saraswati Devi (who was the first woman music director in Asia) and many more. All in all, Bombay Talkies gave the world 280 of the most talented movie professionals in the last century.
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), SM Vasan’s Gemini Pictures and Mehboob Khan’s theatres. Shri. Dube financed these fledgling companies and made them stronger. In essence, he build the entire movie ecosystem in the country. Everyone whom Shri. Dube supported went to on build a name for themselves in the industry.
Shri. Rajnarayan Dube had a big vision for Indian Cinema. He wanted Indian filmmaking 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 learnt the art of moviemaking. He also brought a lot of Indian writers onboard 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 and Devika Rani onscreen. This caused quite a stir in Indian society then. Shri. Rajnarayan Dube was furious about him not being informed about this scene. Himanshu Rai, reportedly held his ears’ and said that it would not happen again. 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 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 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 and Sri Lanka. 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 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. The 1943 hit Kismet was getting rave reviews everywhere and managed to run in theatres for 3 and a half years in over 90% of the Indian theatres!! By comparing the value of gold and land by today’s standards, the movie made the equivalent of Rs. 34000 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 theatres 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 likeminded 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 belonged to Rajnarayan Dube, The Bombay Talkies Studios, Bombay Talkies Laboratories and Bombay Talkies Pictures were doing fine but the fourth company The Bombay Talkies Ltd., 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 film making 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 Ltd., 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.
Time cycle never stops. It is said that the third generation repeats itself. During the time, Destiny chose to do justice with history and Shri Rajnarayan Dube’s grandson, was born as Girish Ghanshyam Dube. After a long interval of six decades, the historic task of removing Bombay Talkies from the darkness of history was on the shoulders of Girish Ghanshyam Dube. Due to his extraordinary creative energy and will, Girish Ghanshyam Dube dreamed of reviving his grandfather’s dream and decorate it with old dignity. Not only did he dream, but to embrace the modern art, science and commerce of the modern age. Rajnarayan Dube’s vision is restored by restoring the base pillar Bombay Talkies and fitting it with golden peaks. Girish Ghanshyam Dube, as his grandfather, it seems like Shri Rajnarayan Dube has reincarnated in the new avatar with the new spring, with new energy, the new face, with eternal love for Bombay Talkies in the name of Girish Ghanshyam Dube. The team of Bombay Talkies proudly expresses their views for Girish Ghanshyam Dube that says that come, come o’ Brahman son! You will earn imperishable glory and one day you will bring Bombay Talkies to the top of the peak. By mind-words and act, the purely Sanatani Girish Ghanshyam Dube, like his grandfather he has the supreme interest of the revival of Bombay Talkies for repaying the debt of blood. He has signed on the face of today to give justice to the dust shadowed golden past. He has started his new battle to reestablish and enrich his great legacy for the present and future generations of meaningful, thought provoking cinema people.
Shri Rajnarayan Dube had forwarded Himanshu rai as Arjuna. Now the search of new age Arjuna had ended with the discovery of Aazaad.
Today six decades later, on massive demand from millions of Indian cinema lovers, The Bombay Talkies Studios, Bombay Talkies Laboratories and Bombay Talkies Pictures in association with the nationalistic organization Azad Army are making a splendid comeback under the command of Aazaad. Aazaad, who is a Military school student, Researcher and Thinker is gearing up with his upcoming film “Rashtraputra”. The film is written, directed and acted by Aazaad and is based on the greatest revolutionary and Indian freedom fighter Chandrasekhar Azad – in 26 Indian and Foreign Languages which is a first time global phenomenon in the history of cinema. The sole reason behind this ideology is to create the truthful awareness of the greatest revolutionary in the world. Bombay Talkies, the film company is financially backed by Dube Industries and Dube Company that started it all is now back and a new chapter of creation is been written on the silver screen. A golden chapter of Music is going to start with the great history and legacy of Bombay Talkies. The incomplete dream of Shri Rajnarayan Dube to establish Bombay Talkies Music Company is transforming into reality by Girish Ghanshyam Dube.
Bombay Talkies, Azad Army, Dube Indutsries & Girish Ghanshyam Dube are here to create thought provoking meaningful cinema and soulful eternal music for the future generations.