indian cinema heritage foundation

Tolaram Jalan

  • Died: 28 June, 2001
  • Primary Cinema: Hindi
  • Spouse: Neena

Film financier and producer Tolaram Jalan is known for films such as Anarkali (1953), Nagin (1954), Munimji (1955) and Tumsa Nahin Dekha (1957). Hailing from an industrialist family of Calcutta, in the 1950s, his family purchased the famous Filmistan Studio which was founded by Sashadhar Mukerji in 1943. He financed approximately 72 films. 

He is best known for gaining control of Filmistan, which was established in 1943. Located in the Bombay suburb of Goregaon, it was a key producer of Hindi films for two decades after it was founded. It produced 66 films. However, from the late 1960s, it operated only as a rented film set campus. Filmistan Studios had come into being due to a fallout between two factions at Bombay Talkies, after the death of its chief, Himanshu Rai in 1940. The faction led by Sashadhar Mukerji and Ashok Kumar broke away to set up Filmistan. They were joined by Bombay Talkies stalwarts Gyan Mukherjee and Rai Bahadur Chunnilal; the latter took charge of finances. Six years after the release of Chal Chal Re Naujawan (1944), when Chunnilal passed away, the financial responsibilities for Filmistan were transferred to the company’s new owner, Tolaram Jalan. Sashadhar Mukerji remained the face of the creative content.

The company continued to make financially successful, acclaimed films throughout the 1950s, such as Jagriti (1954), Nastik (1954) and Paying Guest (1956).

In 1958, disagreements arose between Jalan and Sashadhar Mukerji, who went on to found Filmalaya. This marked the end of a 15-year era of success and also caused a shift in the company’s strategy. The films that were later produced by Filmistan lacked the quality that the studio’s films were previously known for. The last film produced by the studio was Payal Ki Jhankaar (1968). Jalan also financed Kahin Aur Chal (1968), written and directed by Vijay Anand.

Writer Anita Padhye, in her biography on filmmaker Vijay Anand titled Ek Hota Goldie, indicates that Jalan and Anand had different goals. Jalan allegedly wanted to produce a flop film to adjust his income taxes and signed the biggest names of the 1960s cinema including Dev Anand (Vijay Anand's older brother), Asha Parekh and music directors Shanker-Jaikishen. Apparently, cast and crew weren’t paid, and the film was released in a single matinée show and then pulled out of the cinema hall, leaving Anand pained by the experience. The film didn't surface again. In her memoir The Hit Girl, Asha Parekh also confirms that the project ran into financial problems, the end-result suffered, and it did not fare well at the box office. 

Jalan thereafter chose to stop producing films and concentrated on renting out the set premises for film shootings. In recent times, scenes of films such as Ra.One (2011), 2 States (2014) and Radhe (2021) have been filmed at Filmistan.

Filmistan made news again in 2011, when rumours emerged of the Goregaon studio being shut down and of its impending sale. The rumours were denied by the company. 

He apparently took personal interest in promoting the career of actress Ameeta, who starred as the female lead in Tumsa Nahin Dekha (1957). However, it was the hero Shammi Kapoor who became a popular star when the film became a hit. 

He also purchased Bombay Talkies studios. Plans were later unveiled to convert Bombay Talkies into an industrial centre; however, a prolonged and inconclusive legal battle followed. 

Comedian Mehmood would reveal that his role in Sabse Bada Rupaiya (1976) was based on Tolaram Jalan of Filmistan. “People who knew Tolaram Jalan could see that I was playing him. The dialogue – ‘The whole thing is that ke bhaiya… sabse bada rupaiya’ belonged to him. I even copied his behaviour and his style of walking,” he revealed. Jalan was known to be fastidious and operated on a tight budget. 

Tolaram Jalan passed away in Mumbai on 28 June, 2001. He was 82. He left behind his wife - former actress Neena and his children.