A Reddit post has just shed light on what happened to the much publicized revival of the iconic Bombay Talkies film studio.
Reports of the studio’s revival have been doing the rounds since 2011. The reports credited one Abhay Kumar for bringing back the iconic studio, originally founded by Himansu Rai and Devika Rani in 1934.
Himansu Rai and Devika Rani in a publicity still from Karma (1933). Peter Dietze
It was reported that Kumar is the grandson of a certain Raj Narayan Dube (or Rajnarayan Dube by some accounts), a construction magnet believed to be one of the “founders” of Bombay Talkies.
But according to the Redditor ut42, Kumar created “an entire fake history of his grandfather’s association with Bombay Talkies”.
The new company is called ‘Bombay Talkies Studio’, which is an entity completely distinct from the erstwhile ‘Bombay Talkies Limited’, a registered company listed with the BSE.
It was an elaborate PR exercise that began in 2011 which successfully trapped the media.
On October 10, 2011 the TOI first reported on the revival of the historic Indian film studio. That led to the flow of a palpable sense of nostalgia and excitement among many. In subsequent interviews published in 2012 and 2013, Kumar claimed that his grandfather was associated with Bombay Talkies and that his attempt at reviving the studio was not just because of that connect but also because “people from all over the world wanted its revival”.
The crumbling facade of the Bombay Talkies building. Debashree Mukherjee
Various publications described Kumar’s grandfather as the main financier of the Talkies. That all of them simply parroted what Kumar told them is noteworthy.
In lengthy interviews given to the press, Kumar cited anecdotes as to how his grandfather once slapped Dilip Kumar when the latter was caught smoking further raising the anticipation and interest of the people. In May 2012, he had said that the first film to be made under a revived banner of Bombay Talkies will be titled ‘Zakhmi’, with himself in the lead. In Dec 2013, it was claimed that the first film from the stables of the film studio will be ‘Chahen Koi Muje Junglee Karen’, directed by the late comedian Johnny Walker’s son Nasir Khan.
Left: A fake logo of Bombay Talkies with Raj Narayan Dube’s image on it. Right: Abhay Kumar.
For two years, there was no sign of any of the films and neither were there any talks about the same in the media. Now, a report published on February 4, 2016 claims that the “first film” to be launched by a “revived” Bombay Talkies will be an “anti-Gandhi film titled ‘Gandhi vs Aazaad’”. Of course, Abhay Kumar will again be playing the lead, this time in the role of Chandra Shekhar Azad. So there have been talks of three “first films” but we do not know what happened to the first two. It is after the publication of the February 4 report that the Redditor came up with the post.
In the post the Redditor claims that the PR team working for Kumar meticulously created a ‘back story’ that included two websites – “one about his grandfather and one about his new company (which he presented as the continuation of the historic Bombay Talkies)”.
The original logo of the Bombay Talkies was changed and several social media accounts were created to support the story. All of this came to light when a French Wikipedia editor
found discrepancies in the information on Raj Narayan Dube and the original Bombay Talkies.
Referring to how the Indian media was fooled into believing that an Indian had bought the East India Company, the editor, MelAntipam, wrote that the original Bombay Talkies Limited “is still under liquidation and has not been sold”.
MelAntipam has proposed the deletion of pages on Raj Narayan Dube, Abhay Kumar (director), and ‘Gandhi vs Aazaad’. So, even if we get to see the “first film” from the stables of Kumar’s Bombay Talkies, it is clear that the revival of the historic Bombay Talkies “is a hoax”.