22 June 1934
13 October 1953
Devika Rani, Himanshu Rai
Motion pictures Film production
Jhoola, Bandhan, Izzat, Janmabhoomi, Prem Kahani
Bombay Talkies was a movie studio founded in 1934. During its period of operation the Bombay Talkies produced 40 movies in Malad, a suburb of the Indian city of Bombay (now known as Mumbai).
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- Early years
The Studio was established in 1934 by Himanshu Rai and the Devika Rani. After Rai's death in 1940, Rani took over the Studio. Besides the founders, Ashok Kumar was the leading actor of the Studio until 1943, when he founded another studio – Filmistan – with Shashadhar Mukherjee. After Rani's retirement, Kumar and Mukherjee took over Bombay Talkies. The last film produced by the Studio was released in June 1954.
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For the period in cinematic history it represented, the Bombay Talkies was considered to be an innovative and highly resourced movie studio. In line with international standards, the studios' facilities included sound and echo-proof stages, laboratories, editing rooms and a preview theater. The reputation of the Bombay Talkies was further enhanced by employing experienced European technicians, the most prominent of whom was Franz Osten.
The Bombay Talkies set a high technical standard for film making in India and was credited with introducing a level of professionalism to the medium of movie making and acting, reputedly higher than standards set by rival Indian film production companies. Bombay Talkies acquired a reputation for changing the aesthetic and technology traditionally associated with Indian films. It was also renowned for producing films on (then) controversial topics such as those dealing with love between an untouchable lower caste girl and a high caste Hindu Brahmin boy (Achhut Kanya).
Devika Rani, who became one of Bombay Talkies' most successful actresses, and India's first film diva, appeared in Jawani ki Hawa (1935) and Jeevan Naiya (1936), as well as a number of other highly successful productions by the company. The studio was similarly recognized as having launched the careers of several prominent Indian film industry luminaries including Devika Rani, Ashok Kumar, Leela Chitnis, Mehmood Ali, Madhubala and Dilip Kumar. Madhubala and Dilip Kumar, who co-starred in four Bombay Talkies films, engaged in a long term, highly covert love affair. Raj Kapoor worked as an assistant to Amiya Chakravarty of Bombay Talkies, before becoming a famous director.
Following the outbreak of World War II in 1939, the company faced a number of problems. The most significant change for the studio involved Himanshu Rai, the studio's founder, suffering a nervous breakdown which ultimately resulted in his demise. Following the shock caused by his demise, control of the film company passed on to Devika Rani who was appointed as the key producer of the Bombay Talkies studios. Despite, or perhaps because of, her prior experience as an actress, Devika Rani was highly successful in sustaining the production values of the company, and the studio subsequently retained its dominance over the rapidly expanding Indian film industry. The most successful Bombay Talkies films produced during this period included Kangan and Bandhan, both of which featured Leela Chitnis and Ashok Kumar. In 1943, Kismet created a local record for the longest continual showing of the same film. The movie continued to run for more than three and half years at the Roxy movie theater in Calcutta, India.
Despite Devika Rani's success as the Bombay Talkies' head producer, in 1943 a rift arose between her and her managers Sashadhar Mukherjee and Ashok Kumar. Although reasons for the rift have never been made public and largely remain unclear to film industry observers, Sashadhar Mukheerjee and Ashok Kumar allegedly attempted to begin their own production house under the guise of Bombay Talkies. Despite Devika Rani, Sashadhar Mukherjee, and Ashok Kumar attempting to create a working relationship which involved alternating production of major films between the two rival production camps, the relationship proved untenable and was fraught with allegations of sabotage, dramatic ego clashes, in-fighting, and the relentless circulation of malicious rumors.
Negotiations between Devika Rani on the one hand and Sashadhar Mukherjee and Ashok Kumar on the other failed to unite the company. Shashdhar Mukherjee, Ashok Kumar and a few others left the company in 1943 to found Filmistan. In 1945, Devika Rani marries the russian painter Svetoslav Roerich, sells her Bombay Talkies shares and leaves the industry. After several tentatives to reunite the studio, it is sold to Tolaram Jalan, a businessman, who decides to cease its operations in 1953.