Mumbai: What will happen to the RK Studios, which has just wrapped up what may be its last Ganpati celebrations? Nobody knows, but it’s worth debating whether suggestions that the government must buy it and turn it into a film school for posterity, are viable. In August, when Rishi Kapoor revealed the family’s collective decision to sell the 70-year-old studio, which was gutted in a fire last year, the news sent several Indian cinephiles on a nostalgia trip. But then came another question — is heritage all about a building?
“For movie lovers, RK Studios was a temple of cinema and one never imagines that the temple will go away from the map. But it is happening... It is saddening. It’s a place that captured an important time of Indian cinema, documented the changing times through storytelling on celluloid... It’s a place that came from the vision of a man like Raj Kapoor, and it will not be there for the future cinema lovers. This is a big loss of heritage,” Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, Director, Film Heritage Foundation, told IANS.
On the contrary, film industry veteran Amit Khanna says, “Raj Kapoor’s heritage is his cinema, his talented family, his music and creativity, and not merely a building.” The studio, with its red logo flanking the white gates, sprawls across two acres. The headquarters of the film production company R.K. Films, was founded and named after the “Great Showman”, Raj Kapoor, in 1948. “I am sure the sale of the property is a well-thought and painful decision for the family. But it will be great if what is known by the name of RK, continues to have the RK stamp in some way or another,” Bazmee told IANS. For film historian S.M.M. Ausaja, however, the decision was “heartbreaking”.
“The studio has been an iconic landmark of the film industry. So many classics were shot there besides R.K. Films’ own ventures and it represented the labour of love associated with Raj Saab, inherited from his talented father Prithviraj Kapoor,” he told IANS. The family’s legacy in the Hindi film industry can’t be ignored. Prithviraj’s sons Raj, Shammi and Shashi had flourishing careers in showbiz. Raj’s sons Randhir and Rishi became well-known actors, while his third son Rajiv couldn’t make it as big. Shashi’s daughter Sanjana contributed to the theatre scene. Rishi, on behalf of the family, had in August said they initially wanted to renovate the studio with state-of-the-art technology, but the investment in rebuilding the studio would just not have yielded sufficient revenue to keep it going. Its condition worsened after the fire incident, which caused a huge loss in terms of costumes and memorabilia. Dungarpur, who recently visited the studio, said “almost nothing was left”. “Economically, it is really tough to rebuild it... It was not in the right condition and many historical documents of the films that the studio has given to Indian cinema, are gone,” he said, adding that it is wrong to expect the government to protect the studio as cinema heritage because it it was private property and a commercial institution.
Filmmaker Rahul Dholakia said: “Wouldn’t it be a great idea for the government to buy R.K. Studio and convert it into a film school? In a letter to Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, Mumbai Congress President Sanjay Nirupam too urged the government to convert it into a full-fledged museum. (IANS)