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Tilak Rishi, born in India, has been working as a career corporate executive, after doing his MBA. Passionately pursuing his hobby for writing, he also remained a regular contributor to newspapers in India and the U.S. Many true happenings and characters he came across in life, including interaction with former president Bill Clinton, inspired Paradise Lost and Found, his first novel. A family saga, it starts from Kashmir, when this paradise on earth is lost for the tourists who thronged in thousands every year to enjoy its scenic splendor. Terrorists have turned it into one of the most dangerous places in the world. The family is not only a witness to the loss of this paradise, but also to another tragedy of much bigger magnitude. In the aftermath of the partition of India, along with millions uprooted from their homes in Pakistan, the family leaves behind all that it has in Lahore. Starting from a scratch on the difficult path to progress, it still has many joyful moments when along the way it makes a difference in many a life. The survival-to-success story climaxes in California where the family finds the paradise that was lost in Kashmir.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Bombay Talkies

“Watched 'Bombay Talkies' last night and found it fascinating.” - Amitabh Bachchan in his blog.

The very title brings back nostalgic memories of the excitement of going to a theater as a toddler for the first time in life, with my mother to watch “Achhut Kanya' (1936), a Bombay Talkies film of the thirties. She was fond of films, almost all films, but if it was a Bombay Talkies' film, nothing in her world mattered more than watching the movie on the very first Wednessday “Ladies Only' Show with her close friends and me, of course, her youngest and ,therefore, the dearest child. I was too young then to enjoy watching this most famous movie of its time as much as I enjoyed my ice-cream in the interval that the hawkers would sell right on your seat inside the hall. Though later, I remember receiving a big applaud when I sang a very popular Ashok Kumar song - “Na jaane kidhar aaj meri nav chali re, koi kahe idhar chali koi kahe udhar, man ne kaha piya ke gaon chali re”. Even after several decades I still hum this song, seems it is stuck for ever in my mind.

The first film of Bombay Talkies that I really enjoyed watching and fully remember is “Basant”(1942). It was then beyond any imagination that the child artist, Baby Mumtaz, I loved so much in the movie, would one day become Madhubala, the immortal venus of Hindi cinema.

Then came “Kismet” (1943), Bombay Talkies' super duper hit that turned Ashok Kumar of Achhut Kanya fame into the first ever super star of Hindi cinema, and me into his die-hard fan till his death in 2001. Even as a school going kid I must have seen this movie many times and spent much of my pocket money on it. Ashok Kumar, with his inimitable smile and stylish cigaret smoking became a trend setter and unfortunately, though inadvertently, made even youngsters in schools and colleges (not me!) light their first cigaret stealthily from their elders. He was perhaps the first to play anti-hero in this picture, much before the Angry Young Man played by you in cult movies of the 70s and 80s.

Another Bombay Talkies' film that I can never forget is “Jwar Bhata” (1944), not so much for its content as for introducing Dilip Kumar, the living legend, who was my next most favorite actor. I don't think I have missed any of his movies on the first weekend of its release.

Bombay Talkies' next big film was “Ziddi” (1948), not only because it is a beautiful film but more importantly, it was the first big hit of another great star, Devanand, who remained not only my favorite but later on my son's too. Such was his appeal and no wonder he was known as the 'Ever Green' hero.

Bombay Talkies' next “Mahal” (1949), had two biggest surprises for the film fans – Madhubala emerging as the most beautiful actress of Hindi cinema and Lata Mangeshkar crowned the melody queen with her immortal rendering of “Ayega, ayega aanewala...”. Saying Madhubala became my most favorite actress and Lata Mangeshkar my most favorite singer, is like echoing the voice of India's world of cinema.

Bombay Talkies was closed down in 1954, and thats the reason why it remains a non-entity for new generations of film fans. However, the good news for them is that to mark the completion of 100 years of Indian cinema, Bombay Talkies Studio is being reopened. “Last year we took a conscious decision to restart the company because of the 100 years of cinema celebrations”, says Satish Mahajan, who now manages the studio. “We have waited 58 years for this moment”, he added. Let us wish and hope the revival of Bombay Talkies brings back its glorious period when the studio, founded by Himanshu Rai and Devika Rani was the most advanced and prestigious studio that produced over 100 movies, most of them successful and introduced several new faces, some later becoming legends of their time, including Ashok Kumar and Raj Kapoor. Here are interesting anecdotes relating to these two legends that turned their destiny at Bombay Talkies:

Ashok Kumar: As a young assistant to filmmaker Himanshu Rai, Ashok Kumar got his break in acting career by accident when he was offered to substitute for the lead actor who fell ill before production of Achut Kanya started. Initially he was reluctant to play the lead opposite Devika Rani who was not only his boss but also a very strict one at that. However, when he relented, Bollywood discovered one of its biggest stars ever. Ashok Kumar’s unique easy-style acting, quite a contrast to theatrical acting common then, was highly acclaimed. The film was a big hit at the box-office and Himanshu Rai repeated the successful team of Devika Rani and Ashok Kumar in several of his movies. Even when Devika Rani retired from acting after her husband’s untimely demise, Ashok Kumar remained in great demand throughout his entire career as a legendary actor.

Raj Kapoor: In 1944, Prithviraj Kapoor requested Devika Rani for his son (Ranbir) Raj Kapoor when he failed in his matriculation, to give a chance to work in Bombay Talkies. Raj Kapoor's career was carved at the studio, first as attendant on the sets and later with director Kedar Sharma as a clapper boy. Once Kedar Sharma, while shooting in the studios, found that young Raj Kapoor did not obey his orders and slapped him. The slap on his face changed the fate of Raj Kapoor. This was like a turning point of his life. Devika Rani saw young man's determination to make it big some day. Later he became the greatest showman of Bollywood.

Best of luck, Bombay Talkies!


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