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Bombay Talkies of Devika Rani fame set to be revived

The production house will release a film directed by Johnny Walker’s son.

Mamta Chitnis Sen  Mumbai | 7th Dec 2013

ombay Talkies, the famous production house founded by Devika Rani, Himanshu Rai and Rajnarayan Dube, is all set to be revived by Dube's grandson Abhay Kumar. Bombay Talkies' first film in its latest avatar will be Chahen Koi Muje Junglee Karen, directed by the late comedian Johnny Walker's son Nasir Khan. Abhay Kumar will make his debut as hero in the film, which will be released in May 2014.

The idea to revive the production house took shape three years ago. "There have been several requests over the years by fans, well wishers and movie connoisseurs from across the country and abroad to restart what was once the largest production house in Asia," says Kumar. Bombay Talkies was founded in 1934 and made 103 films, out of which 40 were superhits.

"Achhut Kanya, Kismet and Mahal ran for four years. Bombay Talkies also launched the careers of Devika Rani, Ashok Kumar, Kishore Kumar, Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor, Madhubala, Dev Anand and Lata Mangeshkar, apart from several technicians," says Abhay.

It is not well known that Satyajit Ray worked as an assistant director in the Bombay Talkies' 1950 film Mashaal. It was directed by Ray's maternal uncle Nitin Bose.

Abhay Kumar's grandfather Rajnarayan Dube was the main financier of the production house, which employed some globally acclaimed creative resources such as Franz Osten and Niranjan Pal. It acquired the reputation of being a full-fledged studio catering to post production under one roof in those days.

Dube Industries, which was mainly into construction, was founded by Rajnarayan in 1929. It diversified into films with the opening of Bombay Talkies, India's first public limited film company. It was also listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange. The production house's first film, Jawani Ki Hawa, was released in 1935 and starred Devika Rani and Najam-ul-Hasan.

Bombay Talkies had its share of bad luck as well. In 1939, a small fire broke out at its studio in Malad, while in 1954 there was a much bigger fire during the shooting of Badban, the last film to be shot there. Till date no one knows what caused the fire. "Presently, only the façade of the studio exists, surrounded by an industrial estate," says Abhay.

Abhay, who has grown up on a diet of anecdotes told by his grandfather, says that it was in Bombay Talkies that both Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor got slapped.

Raj Kapoor, who used to assist director Kedar Sharma had the bad habit "of purposely coming in front of the camera and running his hand through his hair during shooting". Sharma warned him several times, but Kapoor refused to listen. One day Sharma lost his patience and slapped him hard in front of everyone.

"Dilip Kumar, who used to work on a monthly salary of Rs 80, was a chain smoker. His salary was slashed so that he would give up his habit, but in vain. My grandfather once found him smoking in secret and slapped him hard. Grandfather would joke whoever got slapped in Bombay Talkies became famous," Abhay laughs.

"Reviving the Malad studio will cost over Rs 100 crore over a period of five years. We have ambitious plans of getting the studio involved in film distribution, theatre and events," says Abhay.

He says the reason he chose Nasir Khan to direct the new film was because of his family relations with him. "We wanted to work with someone who understood what Bombay Talkies stood for and since his father Johnny Walker once worked under the banner it seemed right to rope him in rather than take a newcomer. The entire technical team too has been handpicked, keeping the tradition of Bombay Talkies alive of attracting the most talented technical crew and setting up high standards for every project," Abhay says.

The films that Bombay Talkies will make will have social messages.

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