It is a safe bet to say that every Indian is a movie buff and film studios have been the destination where fantasies of Indian viewers have been captured on camera. Studios have been the backbone of Bollywood providing mesmerizing serene locations for romantic scenes or magnificent forts with alluring interiors for shooting a historical drama. We all must reminisce about the immensely ornamented sets of Movie Mughal-e-Azam which was shot at Bombay Talkies film studio.
But today, these yesteryear movie studios have lost their sheen and are losing out to modern digital studios which are technically better equipped. With increased budget, directors prefer outdoor locations over a studio. Mumbai, which is house to several such studios, has seen the days of their glory and is now witnessing their silent departure into the past. With declining business, many studios have put up the shutters and sold the premises for commercial developments.
We bring to you the story of 5 film studios that were once the champions of Indian cinema but have lost out and became obsolete with the passage of time.
1) Gemini Studios
This premier studio of South India was established by S S Vasan aka Boss. The studio was founded in 1940 and became a common household name due to some of the blockbuster films it produced. The Gemini twins with Bugles in their hands were a stamp for quality, value for money and wholesome entertainment. The studio had the motto “When the bugles blow, there’s a good show”.
Gemini had a superb run in 50’s where it made its debut in Bollywood. But, after Vasan’s death in 1969, the studio lost its charm. The unionized staff and unfavorable business conditions led to an end of its purple patch. The studio was sold off to builders for real estate developments.
2) Natraj Studios
It started as a private company in 1968 with 5 partners who were also the designated directors. Ramanand Sagar and Umesh Mehra were few prominent names. With films like Amar Prem, Aandhi and The Burning Train, the studio gained popularity among the masses.
The recent sale of the studio by the 5 stakeholders saw a bitter dispute between the siblings Umesh and Parvesh Mehra.
Kamal Amrohi, the famous Indian film director and screenwriter, founded Kamalistan Film Studio in 1958. Kamal Amrohi delivered a few of the finest movies of Indian cinema like Mahal, Pakeezah and Razia Sultan but none of them fared very well on Box office. He had a dream of establishing a world class studio for Indian films and realized it with this studio. Located in Jogeshwari (East) on a sprawling campus of 15 acres, the studio once accounted for a quarter of shooting area in Mumbai.
But, with the death of this ace director, the business at the studio waned with time. Amrohi’s children fought over the inheritance and there were rumors of a sellout too. But, whatever maybe the scenario, the studio now lies deserted and forsaken away from all crowds and fanfare which it once enjoyed.
4) R K Film Studio
We all must have listened to the song “Jeena Yaha Marna Yaha” from film Mera Naam Joker. This epic saga was shot at R K Studio established by Veteran film actor and director Raj Kapoor. Headquartered at Chembur, Mumbai, the studio’s first movie Aag didn’t fare well at Box office. But, after the success of Barsaat, the studio filmed a slew of path breaking movies like Awara, Boot Polish and Shri 420 etc.
With Raj Kapoor’s demise in 1988, the responsibility of managing the studio fell on son Randhir Kapoor. The film production declined steadily with Aa Ab Laut Chalein directed by Rishi Kapoor being the last directorial venture under R K Films banner. Though, the studio is still in possession of the family and they have expressed their willingness to revive the production house but we haven’t witnessed any progress thus far.
Filmistan was founded by Shashadhar Mukherjee along with actor Ashok Kumar and director Gyan Mukherjee. Nassir Husain joined Filmistan in 1948 as a writer and thus began the golden period of the studio. Some notable movies shot here include Anarkali, Shaheed and Paying Guest. But, owing to creative differences Shashadhar left the studio in 1958 to establish his own venture which left a void never to be fulfilled.
The ownership changed hands in late 50s and since then Filmistan functions as a Film studio only. Some recent movies like Ra-One and Bodyguard have been filmed here. Rumors of sale are already doing the rounds though the owner Mr. Jalan has refuted such reports.