The Journey of Bombay Talkies from Himanshu Rai to Megastar 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.
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.
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 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.