The Bombay Talkies Limited (commonly known as the Bombay Talkies) was a movie studio founded in 1934. During its period of operation the Bombay Talkies produced 102 movies in Malad, a suburb of the Indian city of Bombay (now known as Mumbai). Prominent Indians associated with the Bombay Talkies included filmmakers and film stars Himanshu Rai, Rajnarayan Dube and the Devika Rani. Rajnarayan Dube was the great financer and known as the pillar of Indian cinema.
As the first public limited film company in India, Bombay Talkies was registered under the Indian Companies Act. Soon after its listing on the Bombay Stock Exchange, it emerged as an organized company with well-managed financials, acquiring a reputation for public issues, dividends and bonuses. At the peak of its financial success, Bombay Talkies commanded a highly profitable status, which impressed prominent Indian businesspeople of the time including F. E. Dinhsaw, Sir Firoze Sethna and others. Funding from these sources enabled directors Franz Osten and Niranjan Pal to create some of the first Bombay Talkies productions.
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 the 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, Raj Kapoor, 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.
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 Madhubala and Dilip Kumar.
Despite Devika Rani's success as the Bombay Talkies' head producer, in 1950 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, with Rajnarayan Dube, who was bestowed with the honorific title "the pillar of the Indian film industry", interceding on Devika Rani's behalf, failed to unite the company. As a successful businessperson, Rajnarayan Dube was personally involved in fundraising efforts to cover the production costs of all of the 102 films released by the Bombay Talkies Company. Without the financial support of Rajnarayan Dube, the studio was ultimately unable to sustain itself and had no option but to cease operating. With the Bombay Talkies company in such a state of disarray, the decision to close the company was made in 1954.
The Bombay Talkies remains a well loved Indian institution which has attained an international cult status, and has launched the careers of many of India's most prolific and well known film industry personalities.
Today the Studio is completely closed and there are many small scale companies around it. It has now become just a landmark for locating the address.
Rajnarayan Dube (October 10, 1910 – December 9, 1990) was the key financial backer of the Bombay Talkies. Much of Rajnarayan Dube's personal wealth stemmed from Dube Industries, a Bombay based company established in 1929 that was primarily concerned with undertaking major construction projects. Rajnarayan Dube was also reputed to be a highly successful financier who invested in a wide variety of highly profitable industries.
Devika Rani (March 30, 1908 – March 9, 1994) was renowned for her strength of personality and great beauty. As one of India's first internationally acclaimed actresses, she was also nationally adored by millions of Indian cinema fans. As her role as head of production within the Bombay Talkies studio proved, Devika had a great range of skills which extended beyond merely acting. In recognition of her contribution to Indian cinema, Devika Rani was awarded the highly respected Padma Shri award in 1958. Devika was also the first recipient of the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke Award which she received in 1969 from the Indian Government as recognition of her lifetime contribution to Indian cinema. Before her death in 1994, Devika received a number of accolades, including being nominated to a number of highly distinguished public positions by the Central Indian Government (the National Academy of Dance, Drama, Music and Films, the Central Government Audio Visual Education Board, and the Indian Council for Cultural Relations).
Dilip Kumar (born December 4, 1922, Muhammad Yusuf Khan) was the charismatic star of a number of Bombay Talkies productions. Dilip's introduction to the elite world of Bombay Talkies is attributed to several sources, all potentially based more on legend than fact. According to one version of Dilip's career trajectory, Devika Rani and Rajnarayan Dube spotted Khan in one of Pune's Aundh military canteens, and insisted that he audition for an upcoming Bombay Talkies production. The Hindi author Bhagwati Charan Varma then insisted that Dilip be given the lead role in his film Jwar Bhata. Like several other prominent Bombay Talkies actors, Dilip was awarded the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke Award in recognition of his skills and abilities as an actor. Upon his retirement from the film industry, Dilip Kumar also spent many years as a Bombay politician.
Raj Kapoor (14 December 1924 – 2 June 1988), also known as "The Show Man", launched his highly successful career in the Bombay Talkies company. Initially Raj worked as an attendant on the sets of Bombay Talkies studios, however as a result of his dedication to the company, Devika Rani and Rajnarayan Dube recognized Raj's determination to succeed as an actor. Raj subsequently became one of India's most successful cinematic exports. In recognition of his outstanding skills as a thespian, Raj won nine Indian Filmfare Awards and was twice nominated for the Palme d'Or award at the Cannes Film Festival. Like many of his contemporaries at Bombay Talkies, Raj was awarded the Padma Bhushan award in 1971 and the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 1987 for his outstanding contributions to Indian cinematic culture.
Aghajani Kashmeri (Aka Kashmiri and Agha Jani) (16 October 1908 – 27 March 1998), who has written more than 50 highly successful film scripts, spent his youth training as a screenplay writer under Himanshu Rai and Rajnarayan Dube at the Bombay Talkies studio. The first script Aghajani wrote for the Bombay Talkies was Vachan (Vow), which was directed by Franz Osten.
- 1934: The Bombay Talkies film company is conceived and established.
- 1935: Jawani ki Hawa, a thriller starring Devika Rani is released.
- 1936: Jeevan Naiya and Achhut Kanya are released to wide acclaim.
- 1940: Himanshu Rai, a key founder of the Bombay Talkies passes away.
- 1942: The actress Madhubala makes her debut as a child artist named Baby Mumtaz in the movie Basant.
- 1943: Kismet, a successful thriller, is released.
- 1944: Dilip Kumar's first movie Jwar Bhata is released.
- 1948: Ziddi, featuring Dev Anand is released, transforming the previously unknown actor into a well known celebrity.
- 1949: Mahal, becomes a hit film.
- 1954: The Bombay Talkies company is closed down.
- 1990: Rajnarayan Dube, the "pillar of Indian cinema" and financier of all 102 films of Bombay Talkies, passes away.
- 1994: Devika Rani, a highly respected actress and former head of production for the Bombay Talkies studios dies in Bangalore on 9 March 1994.
- 2001: Ashok Kumar,a highly respected actor who appeared in a number of Bombay Talkies productions dies on 10 December 2001.
Kismet, a movie produced by the Bombay Talkies in 1943, 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. Due to the overwhelming success of the film, Rajnarayan Dube organized a great Bhoj (feast) for the people of Calcutta, which continued for over one week. More than one and half Lakh people (150,000) benefited from taking part in the feast.
- Franz Osten and the Bombay Talkies: Journey from Munich to Malad by Amrita Ganger (Max Mueller Bhavan, Bombay, 2001)
- Lalwani, Vickey (October 10, 2011). "Bombay Talkies revived". Mumbai Mirror.
- Himanshu Rai Biography Lumiaries at Upperstall.
- Devika Rani Biography Devika Rani Roerich Estate Board