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.," Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, Director, Film Heritage Foundation, says.
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.
Its inaugural banner film "Aag" that year crashed at the box office. But its production "Barsaat" (1949) was a super hit, following which the studio rolled out a string of successful black-and-white releases like "Awaara" (1951), "Boot Polish" (1954), "Shri 420" (1955) and "Jaagte Raho" (1956).
Later, several other big ticket films like "Jis Desh Me Ganga Behti Hain", "Mera Naam Joker", "Bobby", "Satyam Shivam Sundaram", "Prem Rog" and "Ram Teri Ganga Maili", which was the founder-actor’s last film before his death in June 1988, were shot at RK Studios.
Popular filmmaker Anees Bazmee, who assisted Raj Kapoor on "Prem Rog", has fond memories of spending four years of his life in and out of RK Studios.
"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 says.
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 says.
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.>