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 Home > City Resources > Arts & Antiques> Bombay Talkies
Arts & Antique

Rise & Fall of Bombay Talkies: Vinayak Prabhu rediscovers this forgotten treasure

Two boys enjoy the tranquility Bombay Talkies was set up in 1934 by Himanshu Rai with an authorised capital of Rs 25 lakhs. It was built on the site of F E Dinshaw's summer mansion in suburban Malad.

Designed and equipped on modern lines with sound and echo-proof stages, automatic laboratory, editing rooms, preview theatre, and manned by a highly skilled staff (many of German origin), Bombay Talkies set a standard of technical excellence unsurpassed by any other studio.

Bombay Talkies' first film, Jawani Ki Hawa (1935) starring Devika Rani, was a regular whodunit with shades of Agatha Christie. With Jeevan Naiya (1936), another romantic drama which featured Devika Rani and Ashok Kumar, Bombay Talkies was off to a good start.

Industries abound around Bombay TalkiesBombay Talkies also became a training ground for a large number of directors/technicians of the stature of N R Acharya, Najam Naqvi, R D Mathur, S Mukherji, S Vacha, M I Dharamsey, and artistes like Devika Rani, Renuka Devi, Snehaprabha Pradhan, Leela Chitnis, Ashok Kumar, Kishore Sahu, and Rama Shakul. Himanshu Rai attracted real talent into the company's orbit, generating confidence in and giving dignity to the medium.

Remnants of the glorious past.The Bombay Talkies was all order and efficiency. Perhaps Himanshu Rai's long association with the German Film industry had something to do with this. With a Board of Directors comprising half a dozen baronets, Bombay Talkies had an elitist aura about it. Its films, though supervised by foreign technicians, were rooted in the real India. They were marked by naturalness of acting, colloquial speech and technical competence.

 Top view of the remnants of the spiral stairwaysAfter Rai's death in 1940, the control of the company passed on to his wife, Devika Rani. Bombay Talkies went into decline when differences arose between Devika Rani and her partners.

A dilapidated relic today, the Bombay Talkies once showcased some of the best acting talent in the country.

Today, the proud walls of the Bombay Talkies have been reduced to rubble, and the talent lost and forgotten.

Article & Photographs:
Vinayak Prabhu


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