Before it became Natraj, it went by the name of Kamaal Studios. Managed by famous filmmaker Kamaal Amrohi, the studio ran for about three years before it shut down, only to change hands some time later and sport a new name, Natraj.
Well-known lyricist Javed Akhtar had his humble beginnings at Kamaal Studios. In this exclusive interview to HT Lives correspondent Mauli Buch, Javedsaab recalls those days:
Not knowing that I will work in the studio for three years, I first came to Kamaal Studios, later called Natraj Studios, from Lucknow when I was just 14 years old. The movie Char Dil Char Rahein was being shot on floor number one of the studio. It was for the first and last time I saw legendary actors Rajkumar and Madhubala. The beautiful Madhubala was sitting on a wooden chair under a pipul tree.
Elated to see Madhubala at such close quarters, hardly did I realise that I will be able to work with the big names of the film industry. In 1965, when I was 20, Kamaal Amrohi agreed to take me on as an apprentice for Mahal Films. During my apprenticeship, I frequently slept under the same pipul tree where I had seen Madhubala six years ago.
I was paid Rs. 50 per month as stipend. I barely used to be left with money by the end of the month.
Haroon, then assistant studio manager, helped me a lot during my days at the studio. Since the washroom for studio staff was always very dirty, he would give me the keys of the washroom meant for actors.
I remember one incident when we were asleep in the costume room. At 2 am, I saw Haroon muttering verses from Quran with clenched teeth. I realised he was scared to death. Reason?
The wooden cupboards in the costume room were making creaking sounds, as in a horror film. I realised it was an earthquake and all of us ran out.
When I became almost like a part of Kamaal Studios’ large family, I was allowed to sleep in the costume room of Mahal Films, with produc tion manager Akhtar Farooqui and production assistant Kafeel Azer.
Once, I found three Filmfare trophies belonging to Meena Kumari, in a drawer. She had left Mahal Films by then. Every night, I would hold the trophy be fore a mirror and imagine myself receiving the award. I left when Kamaal Studios turned to Natraj Studios. But those three years shaped my career.
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