Established in 1934 by Himansu Rai and Devika Rani, The Bombay Talkies quickly became one of India’s most successful film studios during the early period of sound cinema in India. Creating a cosmopolitan workplace, the studio engaged employees from across India's communities, configuring one of India's first female film stars in Devika Rani and launching the careers of composer Saraswati Devi, sound engineer Savak Vacha, and actor Ashok Kumar, among others. It also employed several Europeans including the German film director, Franz Osten, and cinematographer, Josef Wirsching, both originally from Munich. 


With an emphasis on the importance of education and professionalism, Rai's intention was to raise the standing of cinema production in India. The studio produced popular feature films such as Achhut Kanya (1936), Janmabhoomi (1936) and Jeevan Naiya (1936) with narratives, many of them written by Niranjan Pal, taking on aspects of Indian life, such as social status, the position of women and the desire for Indian independence.

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Eleanor Halsall traces the first six years of The Bombay Talkies from its foundation in 1934 to the early death of Himansu Rai in April 1940. 


The Dada Saheb Phalke Memorial Lecture has been an annual event at the South Asian Cinema Foundation since 2003. The British Film Institute has kindly provided the venue.  Eleanor  is part of the DAAD-funded Circulating Cinema project at King's College, London. 


Attendance is free, but space is limited and booking via the BFI's website is recommended. 


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Devika Rani