The studio’s secrets | mumbai | Hindustan Times
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The studio’s secrets

Nargis Dutt in a resplendent sari wearing a rather agonised expression stares down from several of Mehboob Studio’s ageing walls. Posters of Mother India abound at this half a century old film studio and iconic Bandra landmark, reports Purva Mehra.

mumbai Updated: Nov 22, 2009 01:15 IST
Purva Mehra

Nargis Dutt in a resplendent sari wearing a rather agonised expression stares down from several of Mehboob Studio’s ageing walls. Posters of Mother India abound at this half a century old film studio and iconic Bandra landmark.

The film, which was a sincere portrayal of the angst-ridden ethos of peasant India, was after all the country’s first official entry to the Academy Awards and a seminal achievement in the illustrious filmmaking career of director Mehboob Khan.

While all this is common knowledge, few know that the young Sunil Dutt had a hard time with dialogue delivery, or that a large part of the studio was submerged under several feet of water to convey the scenes of flooding in the course of making the film.

These intriguing nuggets of information can be had from one Pandurang Narayan Patankar (78), the studio’s oldest staff member who will assist ad and documentary filmmaker Anuradha Tandon in a first of its kind tour of Mehboob Studio, organised on Sunday as part of the Celebrate Bandra Festival that is being held in partnership with the Hindustan Times.

“Everyone in the city knows of the studio but save for Bollywood stars no one is privy to its many charms,” said Tandon.

One of the charms Tandon refers to is a large room shrouded in dust, where every inch of wall space is covered in a pile of old files and registers, a burial ground of administrative documents. “Khan was on the lookout for a large space for Aan, which had several sports scenes. He bought this place just for that in 1951 and by 1954 was making full fledged films here,” Tandon said.

Of the nine makeup rooms in this mahogany panelled main building, one has been indefinitely reserved for veteran actor Dev Anand, who was the only actor granted a set of keys to this room for life. The studio’s three shooting spaces, currently being utilised by Sanjay Leela Bhansali filming his upcoming Guzaarish, Katrina Kaif and for a Cinthol soap commercial are thus likely to be off limits during the tour.

Participants will, however, be regaled by Narayan, an old hand on the sets, who will gladly proffer the most charming anecdotes on the studio.

“Khan sahib was a very good, modest man. Whenever we had pooja on location he would sit with us workers on the floor outside and have his meal. Shooting Mother India was by far the studio’s most challenging project at the time,” said Narayan, who has long retired but still receives his salary.

(The tour will commence at 8.30 am at Mehboob Studio. Acclaimed filmmaker Aziz Mirza will also be present to share his experiences of shooting in Mehboob Studio and on location in Bandra for his film Yes Boss (1997), starring Shah Rukh Khan.)