Historic Mehboob Studio ticks away in anonymity
Once a hub of activity as the most sought-after destination of yesteryear Bollywood bigwigs, the historic edifice in Mumbai today stands deserted.Updated: Aug 13, 2007 20:17 IST
It used to be a hub of activity as the most sought after destination of yesteryear Bollywood bigwigs like Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor and Nargis. Today Mehboob Studio looks haunted and deserted. Who would believe now that it is the same place where Hindi cinema's landmark film Mother India was shot.
Nestled in the suburbs, it was built by the legendary Mehboob Khan in 1954. Khan made masterpieces like Aurat, Amar and Andaaz. In fact, Andaaz gave Dilip Kumar his first blockbuster.
But the studio has seen its fortunes slip away.<b1>
Mehboob Khan's children still live within its premises and rent out the space to other production houses. Khan's sons - Ayub, Iqbal and Shaukat - sank into anonymity after his death, unable to make a single film due to paucity of funds.
"When my father died, he left a huge debt. It took us more than 12 years to pay it off. At that time, thinking about making a film was not practical. Now we don't want to produce films because we don't have surplus money to invest," Iqbal told IANS.
"The last film produced by us was 40 years ago. It was The Son of India that my father directed. It flopped and led to a financial crunch.
"As a young boy I wanted to make films but nobody financed me. I went through a lot of trouble - I mean the frustration of not making a movie. Now I don't have any hope that I will be able make a film."
The family rents out the six stages - some halls, some uncovered spaces - in the studio to different filmmakers. The hit song Khaike Paan Banaraswala was shot there. Currently set designer Munish Sappel has erected a huge Portuguese Bungalow for Ravi Chopra's Bhootnath.<b2>
The Khans have no intention of adding any new wing to the studio or completing the half-built structure that his father started building before his death in 1964.
Recently, Chopra released the coloured version of his father B R Chopra's black and white classic Naya Daur, but Iqbal says that he or his brothers don't have any plans to remake their father's films in colour.
"You need a lot of money to colour the classics and we don't have that kind of money. I would prefer to see the classics in black and white. But some classics like Naya Daur should be coloured because its music is modern and it has drama.
"But my father's film Andaaz music will not be appreciated today. Modern youngsters may not be able to enjoy Andaaz."
Iqbal, who is married to Dilip Kumar's sister, prefers the old ways of the studio culture to the star system.
"The studio culture was better because everything was organised and disciplined. Today stars may come and may not come. Films of that era were much better because they had story, music and script and the main thing is that they were Indian. Nowadays people are influenced by Western culture. They go abroad and shoot there."
He believes the best cinema came from his father as well as Raj Kapoor, Bimal Roy and Guru Dutt.
Among the current lot, he likes Nagesh Kukunoor's work. "I don't see too may films. But from whatever I have seen, I found Dor the best. It is a good film."
Throwing light on Mehboob Khan's persona, Iqbal said his father did not have much of formal education, was a devout Muslim and used to pray five times a day. But he gave his children good education.<b3>
Iqbal feels his children might become the torchbearers of the family's link with films. "My son Saquib is working as a movie executive with Kamal Sadana. And my daughter Ilaham is into scriptwriting."
There are others too who lament the passing away of an era as reflected in the fortunes of Mehboob Studio.
Pandurang Narayan, who was a worker in Mehboob Studio for 57 years and is in his 70s, calls him a messiah of workers.
"We used to do pooja and he used to sit with us and eat prasad. He used raise funds for his workers' children's weddings," said Narayan.
"Saab (Mehboob Khan) was a king. Nobody was unhappy when he was happy. He never fired any worker. He came from a humble background and was aware of the problems of poor people."<b4>
In fact, the filmmaker chose the hammer and the sickle as an emblem for Mehboob Productions.
Sharing some anecdotes on the making of Mother India, Narayan said: "It was shot in studio number one. To show the drowning houses in the film we had to go underwater and cut the wooden panels to make them sink."
He says today's set designers put too much emphasis on small details.
"We made the fort in Aan with mud and cow-dung. In those days, they never stressed on small details. We used to ready the sets in two-three days but now it takes months to make a set."
First Published: Aug 13, 2007 15:19 IST