indian cinema heritage foundation

"Mera Sundar Sapna Beet Gaya" - Filmistan

14 Apr, 2020 | Beete Hue Din by Shishir Krishna Sharma
Filmistan Studio main gate. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

Filmistan Studio is situated in Mumbai’s Goregaon (West)’s S.V. Road. For today’s generation it is just a studio which makes place available on rent for shooting. However, lovers of films of 1940s and 50s remember it as a banner which with its wonderful musicals mesmerized its viewers leaving an indelible imprint on their minds. It was this banner which gave us ace composers like S D Burman and Hemant Kumar and well-known producer-directors like Subodh Mukherjee. The beautiful and bubbly actress of the 1950s, Shyama had also made her debut as a heroine under this banner. Hindi Cinema’s first completely western music inspired song was also made under this banner. 
 

A set inside Filmistan Studios. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

The credit for the foundation of Filmistan goes to actor Ashok Kumar’s brother-in-law (his younger sister Sati Rani’s husband) Sashadhar Mukherjee who was one of the primary shareholders of Himanshu Rai’s public limited company Bombay Talkies. In 1940, after the demise of Himanshu Rai, his actress wife Devika Rani had taken over the reins of Bombay Talkies. Due to Devika Rani’s controversial working style differences started cropping up between the shareholders of Bombay Talkies. As a result, under the leadership of Sashadhar Mukherjee, stalwarts like Ashok Kumar, Gyan Mukherjee and Rai Bahadur Chunnilal left Bombay Talkies. Together they laid the foundation of Filmistan in 1943. Sashadhar Mukherjee took care of the art and creative departments while the financial and commercial side was being handled by Rai Bahadur Chunnilal. Rai Bahadur Chunnilal’s son Madan Mohan went on to be a talented composer in the decades to come. 
 
 
Sashadhar Mukherjee. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
 
The credit for the foundation of Filmistan goes to actor Ashok Kumar’s brother-in-law (his younger sister Sati Rani’s husband) Sashadhar Mukherjee who was one of the primary shareholders of Himanshu Rai’s public limited company Bombay Talkies.
Despite separation from Bombay Talkies, they still retained an emotional connect with Bombay Talkies. Perhaps, due to this reason, Filmistan’s first movie, Chal Chal Re Naujawan’s (1944) title was inspired from a popular song from Bombay Talkies’ hit movie Bandhan which had released in 1940. This movie’s primary cast comprised of Ashok Kumar and Naseem. It was directed by Gyan Mukherjee and its composer was Ghulam Haider. Ghulam Haider had recently come to Bombay after successfully giving music to many hit Hindi and Punjabi films in Lahore. Shamshad Begum had made her playback debut under his composition only. Composer Sachin Dev Burman had entered Hindi films with Filmistan’s second movie Shikari (1946) and their next Shehnai (1947) had the first totally western style inspired composition Aana meri jaan Sunday ke Sunday. C Ramchandra had composed this and other songs of Shehnai like Jawani ki rail chali jaaye re and Maar kataari mar jaana which were massive hits at the time of release of the movie. 
 
Chal Chal Re Naujawan (1944). Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
 
Despite separation from Bombay Talkies, they still retained an emotional connect with Bombay Talkies. Perhaps, due to this reason, Filmistan’s first movie, Chal Chal Re Naujawan’s (1944) title was inspired from a popular song from Bombay Talkies’ hit movie Bandhan which had released in 1940.
Sashadhar Mukherjee’s younger brother and famous producer-director Subodh Mukherjee had started his career as the Assistant Director of Chal Chal Re Naujawan. During a meeting, He had told me that even though Ashok Kumar was with Filmistan at an emotional level, he was finding it difficult to separate himself from Bombay Talkies. At Bombay Talkies in 1943, after the movie Hamari Baat, Devika Rani had bid adieu to Hindi films after selling her shares of Bombay Talkies to producer Shiraaz Ali Hakeen. In this situation, after doing the movie Eight Days (Aath Din) in 1947, Ashok Kumar dissociated himself from Filmistan and took over the reins of Bombay Talkies himself. 
 
Dilip Kumar and Kamini Kaushla were a succesful on screen pairing for Filmistan. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
 
During the 1940s, Filmistan made 18 movies like Shaheed (1948), Nadiya Ke Paar (1948), Shabnam (1949), Samadhi (1950) and Sargam (1950), a majority of which proved to be hit on the box office.
During the 1940s, Filmistan made 18 movies like Shaheed (1948), Nadiya Ke Paar (1948), Shabnam (1949), Samadhi (1950) and Sargam (1950), a majority of which proved to be hit on the box office. According to Subodh Mukherjee, after the sudden demise of Rai Bahadur Chunnilal in 1950, the responsibility of handling the financial and commercial aspects of Filmistan had also come on the shoulders of Sashadhar Mukherjee. However, he neither had any experience of it nor did he have any interest in it. Due to this reason, Filmistan was sold to Tolaram Jalan, the wealthy owner of Mumbai’s Prakash Cotton Mills. However, films continued to be made there under the supervision of Sashadhar Mukherjee. 
 
Shyama. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
 
It was in Filmistan’s movie Shrimatiji (1952), that Shyama, who had hitherto been doing small roles, became a heroine. The same year Hemant Kumar also entered Hindi films as a composer with Anand Math.
It was in Filmistan’s movie Shrimatiji (1952), that Shyama, who had hitherto been doing small roles, became a heroine. The same year Hemant Kumar also entered Hindi films as a composer with Anand Math. Subodh Mukherjee also became an independent director with Munimji (1955). Before this in 1951, on the sets of Filmistan’s Shabistan at North Mumbai’s Ghodbandar area, it’s extremely handsome hero Shyam had in a tragic accident passed away after falling from a horse. 
 
Ashok Kumar. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

Under supervision of Sashadhar Mukherjee, Filmistan produced many music centric hit films like Anarkali (1953), Shart (1954), Nastik (1954), Nagin (1954), Jagriti (1954), Munimji (1955), Durgesh Nandini (1955), Hum Sab Chor Hain (1956), Paying Guest (1956) and Champakali (1957). However, after Tumsa Nahin Dekha (1957), Sashadhar Mukherjee separated and founded Filmalaya due to differences with Seth Tolaram Jalan. 
 
Nastik (1954). Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din
 
During a meeting, Filmistan Studio’s manager Murari Seksaria had told me that after the departure of Sashadhar Mukherjee also many movies were made there like Sanskar (1958), Saazish (1959), Baabar (1960), Picnic (1966) etc but their quality showed the value that Sashadhar Mukherjee added to Filmistan.
During a meeting, Filmistan Studio’s manager Murari Seksaria had told me that after the departure of Sashadhar Mukherjee also many movies were made there like Sanskar (1958), Saazish (1959), Baabar (1960), Picnic (1966) etc but their quality showed the value that Sashadhar Mukherjee added to Filmistan. At last, Seth Tolaram Jalan stopped film production. Director M V Raman’s Payal Ki Jhankaar was the last released movie of Filmistan in 1968. This film starred Kishore Kumar and Jyoti Lakshmi while it’s music was composed by C Ramchandra. Sadly, this film failed to get properly released and exhibited barring a few cities of South India. Later outside producers started renting the many floors of Filmistan Studio and this practice has continued till date. 
 
Payal Ki Jhankaar (1968). Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

Though Filmistan has lost its recognition as a Production center, its major contribution to Indian Cinema in the form of 56 Hindi, 5 Marathi, 3 Punjabi, 1 Gujrati and 1 English film can never be forgotten.     
 
Rai Bahadur Chunnilal. Image Courtesy: Beete Hue Din

(Special Information: Late composer Madan Mohan’s Jaipur based daughter Mrs Sangeeta Gupta shared the information that her grandfather and Filmistan’s Chief Executive Rai Bahadur Chunnilal Kohli was born on 16 June 1901. Chunnilal’s father Yograj Kohli was a famous Unani Hakeem from Chakwal area of Jhelum (now in Pakistan). Rai Bahadur Chunnilal was the accountant general of Iraqi Police and worked in Baghdad. His elder son composer Madan Mohan was also born there. When the Iraqi government asked Rai Bahadur Chunnilal to either take Iraq’s citizenship of resign, he opted to resign and return to Chakwal instead. To aid the children’s studies better, the family stayed in Lahore for some time and finally, he came to Mumbai in 1933, as a shareholder of Bombay Talkies. He passed away on 2 December 1950, due to a sudden massive heart attack at the premiere of the movie Sargam in Delhi at Odeon Cinema.)

English translation by : Shri Gajendra Khanna

Part of Shishir Krishna Sharma's Beete Hue Din blog series.
 

 

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