The landmark R. K. Studio in Chembur — built by Raj Kapoor nearly 70 years ago — is up for sale. The legendary actor-producer-director’s wife Krishna Raj Kapoor, sons Randhir, Rishi and Rajiv, and daughters Ritu Nanda and Rima Jain, have taken a collective decision that it is no longer practical to hang on to the sprawling, two-acre studio, a major part of which was gutted in a fire on September 16 last year.
A team employed by the family has initiated the process of negotiating the sale of the hallowed studio campus with builders, developers and corporates, reports mumbaimirror.indiatimes.com.
The R K family, which strived to preserve the studio ever since the grand showman’s death at the age of 63 three decades ago, have taken the heart-wrenching call unanimously.
In an exclusive to Mumbai Mirror, Rishi Kapoor speaking on behalf of the family, said: “For a while, we did juggle with the idea of renovating the place with state-of-the-art technology. However, in reality it isn’t always possible for a phoenix to rise from the ashes. We Kapoors are very emotional lot but then…” he lapsed into silence.
Recovering his composure, he explained, “The investment in rebuilding the studio would just not have yielded sufficient revenue to keep it going. Believe me, we had to take the larger picture into account and take a level-headed decision. Even before the fire, for years R. K. Studio had become a huge white elephant, toting up losses. The few bookings we would get from films, TV serials and ad shoots would expect free parking space, air-conditioning and discounts.”
Another key reason for the closure is that Chembur, in the eastern suburbs, is no longer favoured by filmmakers who mostly build their sets at studios in Andheri and Goregaon’s Film City. It was essentially in the remote past that topline filmmakers Manmohan Desai and Dev Anand’s Navketan Films would insist on hiring the lots at the R. K. Studio. The space, barren at the outset, had been bought by Raj Kapoor after obtaining a loan. Since electricity would be supplied to Chembur during the ’40s and the early ’50s only after evenings, shoots were feasible only at nights.
The surrealist dance sequence Ghar aaya mera pardesi from Awara took over a month to be lensed. Subsequently, all the interior scenes of R K films right down to his swan song Ram Teri Ganga Maili, as well as Kal Aaj aur Kal, Prem Granth and Aa Ab Laut Chalen directed by Randhir, Rajiv and Rishi were shot at R. K.
Returning to the here and now, Rishi Kapoor elaborated, “We brothers are strongly bonded. But who knows about our children and grand-children? What if differences crop up in the next generation? The studio would only end up in litigation as so many industrial and textile estates have. There would be family differences and only lawyers would end up charging heavy sums of fee. Do you think my father would have liked to see his labour of love becoming the subject of courtroom proceedings?”
Last year’s fire on the sets of the reality show Super Dancer 2, devastated the invaluable treasure of R.K. Films memorabilia. All the costumes worn by the R.K. leading ladies from Nargis and Vyjayanthimala to Aishwarya Rai, costume jewellery, the clown mask of Mera Naam Joker, the guns used in Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai, publicity material, and the grand piano used ever so prominently in Awara, Sangam and Bobby, were burnt to cinders.
Like the administration building , the iconic R.K. cottage, where Raj Kapoor would spend hours on story and music sittings, has survived. So has the canteen, where the R.K. omelette sandwiches and ginger tea were a must-savour. “True, there are so many wonderful memories there,” Rishi Kapoor remarked,“so much film history, but that would be like clutching on to straws in the wind.”
What if his son Ranbir would want to preserve the studio, and the spontaneous answer was, “If he has the money, let him buy it from us then. But seriously, that’s a silly question. It’s Ranbir’s time to concentrate on his career, Sanju has validated him as a commercially successful actor.” Unbeknownst to many, R.K. Studio had to be mortaged after the no-show of Mera Naam Joker at the box office. The mortgage was cleared after the stupendous success of Bobby. Two lots, which were bought over from the adjoining Shreekant Studio, however, had to be sold off to clear income-tax dues.
The sale of the hallowed spot could be “in two days, two months, two years,” Rishi Kapoor conjectured. “We have no timelines.”
Any mixed feelings about the studio where there were more stars in heaven once? “Not really,” he said. “We had to place a stone on our hearts. Chhati pe patthar rakkhar, soch samajh kar decision liya hai.”
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