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* BOLLYWOOD'S PAST VANISHES AS STUDIO TURNS TO DUST - 1 messages, 1 author
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TOPIC: BOLLYWOOD'S PAST VANISHES AS STUDIO TURNS TO DUST
Bollywood's past vanishes as studio turns to dust
By Shail Kumar Singh
Saturday, May 7, 2011
Mumbai - Tears roll down the face of 79-year-old Ismail Mohammad
Gauri as he recalls the glory days of Bombay Talkies, once one of
Bollywood's greatest studios but which has now faded into cinema
He remembers the big cars that parked outside the house where he grew
up, the mango trees in the studio compound where he and his friends
used to play and how they were awestruck by the actors who ate in the
"It all sounds like those days never existed when I look at this
place now," he says, gesturing towards the crumbling ruin of rubble
and rubbish opposite his home in the northern Mumbai suburb of Malad.
"I just can't believe that it has turned into dust," he told AFP.
"With my death nobody in this area will be able to recall those
In two years' time, it will be 100 years since the first Indian
feature film was made, giving birth to an industry that is now worth
$1.85 billion a year.
"Raja Harishchandra" -- a silent film about a king in Hindu mythology
-- was released in 1913. A film about its making, "Harishchandrachi
Factory", was India's official entry for the Best Foreign Language
Film Oscar in 2010.
But while the maker of "Raja Harishchandra" has been revered, many
like Gauri are disappointed that Bombay Talkies and other landmark
sites are largely forgotten despite their role in the industry's
"The old things that do not generate wealth are junked into the
warehouse by us," producer-director Mahesh Bhatt told the Times of
India newspaper recently.
"As we journey towards the centenary year of Indian cinema, we need
to confront the blunt fact that neither the state nor the film
industry gives a damn about our cinematic heritage."
The Bombay Talkies Limited was the first corporate Hindi-language
film studio and helped launch the careers of legendary actors like
Dilip Kumar, Ashok Kumar, Dev Anand, Raj Kapoor and Devika Rani.
Film score singers Lata Mangeshkar and Kishore Kumar were also
Set up in 1934, at its height it employed about 5,000 people and was
considered to be Asia's largest film-producing studio in the 1940s
using state-of-the-art techniques.
The studio's decline began after the death of joint founder Devika
Rani's husband, Himanshu Rai, and differences with her business
partners. It started running up losses and was sold.
Since its closure in 1954, it has become home to carpenters and
mechanics or used as a dumping ground and an open-air urinal.
Three fires in recent years gutted many of the businesses and nothing
now remains of the studio except one dilapidated set from the 1949
film "Mahal" (The Palace), which was Bollywood's first horror film.
Nowadays, Malad is more known for its gleaming call centres and
upmarket shopping malls than its once-famous film studio.
"Nobody comes here from the film world and nobody knows that this
structure even exists," said Kamlesh Pandey, one of the factory
workers working in the former studio compound.
"This place is the forgotten past of the film industry and we don't
think too much about it as we are more busy with our daily chores."
The fate of the Bombay Talkies is not an uncommon one.
Many of India's historic buildings are crumbling through neglect,
lack of funding for repairs or the pressure for space in the
country's overcrowded cities.
They include the old Watson's Hotel, once Mumbai's most exclusive
hotel, where France's Lumiere Brothers first showed their newfangled
invention of cinematography in India in 1896, kickstarting a nation's
obsession with film.
Years of neglect have resulted in the building -- thought to be the
world's oldest inhabited cast-iron structure -- being placed on the
local authority's "most dilapidated" list.
Fears have also been raised about the future of the Filmistan Studio,
another vintage Bollywood studio, amid reports that it could be sold
off for redevelopment, although the owners insist they are staying
Film historian Amrit Gangar, though, is hopeful that the authorities
in India's entertainment capital will recognise the place that Bombay
Talkies has in the history of Bollywood.
"I have written to Heritage Committee members that they need to do
something," he said. "It stinks and I feel ashamed to see such an
important historical place reduced to a dustbin. The government has
to take action."
Jai Maharaj, Jyotishi
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