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Last Updated 12.07.2024 | 10:44 PM IST



“Bombay Talkies set the tone for making movies with social messages, movies that were a reflection of society,” recalls actor Anwar Ali

en Bollywood News “Bombay Talkies set the tone for making movies with social messages, movies that were a reflection of society,” recalls actor Anwar Ali

As the famed Bombay Talkies studios completes 90 years, actor Anwar Ali, who was a firsthand front-row spectator of its power and glory, spoke with great affection. “The studio was a one-stop shop. It supported the making of the entire film including every process of production. It is believed that shops were built around the perimeter of the premises so that they could source filming materials and camera equipment from traders around the city and supply to the studio without any delay. There was a convergence of artistic and technical talent from international and Indian shores. Himanshu Rai and Devika Rani had migrated to India with an international set up, strong ambitions and vast visions. The studio was the source of livelihood for about four hundred employees. We stayed close to the studio in Malad and afforded a luxurious lifestyle. Father shared an undivided loyalty to Bombay Talkies all through its existence, giving his unstinted support, leaving only, when Devika Rani decided to leave,” he said.

“Bombay Talkies set the tone for making movies with social messages, movies that were a reflection of society,” recalls actor Anwar Ali

“Bombay Talkies set the tone for making movies with social messages, movies that were a reflection of society,” recalls actor Anwar Ali

Anwar saw his elder brother Mehmood being a part of the Bombay Studios set-up. “While I was a young lad visiting the sets at the studio, elder brother Mehmood had the good fortune of bagging a role in Bombay Talkies’ Kismet…. the rest as they say is history! Many of us were fortunate down the years to share screen space with those who had been groomed to excel in the environs of Bombay Talkies. A couple of scenes with Yusuf Bhai (Dilip Kumar) in Ram Aur Shyam was a boon for me. Ashok Kumar’s brother, the great singer Kishore Kumar shared his days of hunting for work with his best friend, my brother Mehmood, both visiting studios together, sharing a camaraderie that lasted as long as they lived.”

He added, “That Kishore da would be the playback singer in all the films I produced when I grew up was set in stone way back then! His rendition ‘Mach Gaya Shor Saree Nagree Re’ from my film Khud-Daar has played all over the city pandals every Janmashtami since the past forty years!!! Many of us in the industry, in some shape or form are thus reaping the rewards of the toil and vision of a genius syndicate called Bombay Talkies.”

Anwar Ali relives the era the magic and grandeur of the Bombay Talkies. “It may seem today that brick, mortar and memory are buried under the rubble and with it the magnificent work of some of the greatest artistic thinkers, philosophers and visionaries namely the founders and crew of Bombay Talkies. However, one can see the elements of Roman architecture from the remaining arches of the studio, one can sense the sights of frantic film activity from the mere expanse of the compound, one can almost hear the sounds of foot tapping melody, dance and more. Fortunately, what was housed in that magical realm called Bombay Talkies can still be experienced through the many films made at the time and preserved through the years. Bombay Talkies has undoubtedly been the pride and prestige of Indian cinema,” he said.

Anwar’s strongest most unbreakable bond with Bombay Talkies would undoubtedly be through his father Mumtaz Ali. “The renowned editor of the newspaper Bombay Chronicle B.G. Horniman was my father’s local guardian and extremely fond of my father. He once invited Himanshu Rai, co-founder of Bombay Talkies, to one of my father’s stage musicals. Rai remarked that he was highly impressed by the performance of a particular girl in the musical and expressed a desire to meet her. Horniman took him backstage and introduced the girl who was none other than my father Mumtaz Ali in a wig!”

He added, “Father was instantly offered the responsibility of ‘dance director’ of Bombay Talkies on a handsome monthly stipend of 1000 rupees, at the nascent stage itself when the foundation stone of the studio was being laid. Not only was he solely instrumental in how song and dance was enhanced to entertain by his signature steps with classic Kathak undertones, choreographing every Bombay Talkies song, he also went on to become an actor and enact many a dance in almost all their films, his songs being roaring hits, the enthralled audience demanding to halt the film to replay the said songs ‘Aana Meri Jaan Meri Jaan Sunday Ke Sunday’, ‘Main to Dilli Se Dulhan Laaya Re’, ‘Jawaani ki Rail Chali Jaaye Re’ and many more… Father made history by being the first male dancer of Hindi cinema!”

According to Anwar Ali, Bombay Talkies has a reverberating influence on Hindi cinema. “It most certainly set the tone for making movies with social messages, movies that were a reflection of society. Achhut Kanya made in the early years highlighted the issue of untouchability, a malady depicted on screen often in the years that followed. Entertainment was the core element of every Bombay Talkies film, evident from the fact that they boasted silver and golden jubilees, an essential requirement of every film to date. The first film to achieve a golden jubilee was a Bombay Talkies film! Films were the nucleus of entertainment for the Indian audience and continue to be, even today.”

“Needless to say, music and dance as my dear father conceived it, evolved and became the backbone of every film through the decades,” he added. “Bombay Talkies was a unique, one of a kind concept. It gave impetus to the formation of other studios but as the world became more accessible, films were shot in varied locations, outsourcing and complex collaborations took centre stage and reaching out to a wider audience meant stepping out of the four walls. So, studios have evolved, and production houses seem to be the new norm.”

Also Read: Anwar Ali on 111 years of Indian cinema, “We Indians emerge out of a truly rich and beautiful cultural ethos to be able to tell an equally compelling story time and again”


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