Business Standard

Revamping a legacy

Dev Anand?s Pali Hill property, which housed a recording studio and a library of his films, has given way to a multi-storeyed tower. But what will happen to the actor's estate?

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Like many low houses giving way to high rises, this one in in suburban Mumbai is under construction and is closed to visitors. Piles of debris surround it. The marble plaque says “Anand, 42, Pali Hill”. This was Anand Recording Studio, the brainchild of the legendary who died in London on December 4 last year. Under construction here is a 12-storey building which will perhaps house the iconic recording studio and the late actor’s family in the penthouse. At the moment, Dev Anand’s family — wife and former actor Kalpana Kartik, son Suneil and daughter Devina — stays in their bungalow in Juhu.

Ever since Dev Anand died, there has been speculation about his legacy and estate. What will happen to his studio? What about production house Navketan Films, which he had formed with his brother, Chetan Anand, in 1949? Will his family still make films? Will some of his old films be re-released? There are, after all, legions of Dev Anand fans still around, none bigger than Pakistan’s Nawaz Sharif.

Some of the answers are now emerging. Dev Anand had bought the 19,000 sq ft Pali Hill property in the early ‘50s and established Anand Recording Studio in 1986 to mix and dub all the films produced by Navketan Films. When it was running, the studio specialised in voiceovers, dubbing and surround mixes in all formats. The studio also houses a library of over 40-odd movies, including classics such as Guide (1965) and Jewel Thief (1967). In 2009, it was decided that the studio will make way for a 12-storeyed swanky tower. At the time, Dev Anand wished for a penthouse to be built for him and his family in the plot and continued to work out of a transit office in Khar Danda in Mumbai. Three years later, the studio is still under construction.

“I am determined to proceed at breakneck speed because that is the only way to stay ahead of the curve,” says the late actor’s son, an enthusiastic Suneil Anand. “After all, the show must go on!” Anand, who has been shuttling between meetings and appointments all day, is a tough man to get hold of. The heir apparent to his father’s legacy and Navketan Films says that he is busy giving Anand Recording Studio a much-needed “revamp”. “Over 10,000 films such as (2007) and Ghajini (2008) have been mixed here,” he says. “And more will follow as soon as the work is finished.”

Mohan Churiwala, a close aide of Dev Anand, says: “It is perhaps the most technically advanced studio in the country, with great expertise in all fields.” He attributes the studio’s popularity with filmmakers to its location in Pali Hill, a stone’s throw away from various actors’ homes as well as the availability of ample parking space. “Producer-director came to Anand (Recording) Studio to mix his Munna Bhai franchise,” recalls Churiwala. The Khans too — Shah Rukh, and — , he adds, visited the studio regularly to dub their films. “Filmmakers tend to be superstitious you see,” confesses Churiwala. “So they stuck to Anand (Recording) Studio for most of their films.”

If Anand is to be believed, the makeover of the studio will be substantial. “The studio possesses state-of-the-art equipment and is being renovated to compete with international standards. We have brought in engineers and acoustic experts from overseas to work on the studio.” While it has been shut for the last three years or so, the studio will be “as good as new or maybe even better” in about six to eight months, he assures. “The ground floor is going to be a studio and the Anand family will take the penthouse in the building I think,” says Reliance Big Entertainment Chairman Amit Khanna who worked with Dev Anand in the ‘70s.

So what is the budget of this massive renovation being undertaken at Anand Recording Studios? “I can’t tell you that,” says Anand. “If Coca-Cola gave away its trade secrets, it wouldn’t be a successful company now, would it?”

* * *

One of the oldest production houses of Indian cinema, Navketan Films produced several hit films such as Kaala Pani (1958), Hum Dono (1961) and Hare Rama Hare Krishna (1971). “The Anands were modern filmmakers, way ahead of their times,” says journalist and author Sidharth Bhatia. “While the rest of the country was obsessed with making films about rural issues, the Anands tackled urban issues.” In his book, Cinema Modern: The Navketan Story, Bhatia traces the journey of the 60-year old production company (Navketan means a new banner, named after Chetan Anand’s son, Ketan) as well as its anchor, Dev Anand. “I spent three years researching the book and interviewed Dev Saab extensively for a year,” he adds. The author doesn’t say much about the series of flops which Navketan produced in the ‘80s and there on: Swami Dada (1982), Sacche Ka Bol Bala (1989), and, more recently, Mr Prime Minister (2005) and Chargesheet (2011).

“Unlike R K Film Studio or Mehboob Studio, Navketan does not possess a shooting floor. So all of his (Dev Anand’s) films were shot in Mehboob Studio,” says Bhatia. “There was a heavy influence of Hollywood at Navketan. Taxi Driver (1954) was the first Hindi film to be shot completely outdoors in Mumbai,” he says. “A camera was strapped to the bonnet of a car to shoot the film!” He isn’t certain about what’s happening at the production company currently.

So how is Navketan managing its affairs at the moment? “The DVDs (of its films) are sold everywhere and the music is still very popular,” says Bhatia. The production company has signed a five-year deal with Shemaroo Entertainment for the overseas and online sales of its home videos and DVDs. Refusing to divulge figures, Shemaroo Entertainment Director Hiren Gada says: “The production house monetises (its investments) through distribution tie-ups with television networks and music companies.” Navketan has sold the satellite rights of all its films to television network 9X Media for a period of three to four years, informs Anand. The music rights — be it lyrics, music composition, performance or sound recording — are with Saregama.

* * *

The international projects, on the other hand, seem to be mired in confusion since Dev Anand’s death. Song of Life — a musical rumoured to be shot in the USA with a completely international cast — never saw the light of day. Kenny Muir, whose Facebook profile mentions him as the UK representative of Navketan International Films, did not respond to queries sent by Business Standard. When asked if Muir is currently handling any international operations, Anand (Suneil) replies, “No, he is just a friend.”

While his own acting career didn’t get off to a great start — he was launched in 1989 by his father in Anand aur Anand; his directorial venture, Master, too sank without a trace — , Anand is optimistic about the future of Navketan and Anand Recording Studio. Dismissing all rumours about the studio being sold to a developer with a blunt “No”, he declares: “I’m beginning work on a new film. Shooting will begin in the next eight months.” Not willing to discuss the story or budget, Anand promises, “My film will have an international cast and believe you me, we will give Hollywood a run for its money!” Anand will not only direct the movie, but also act in it.

Also, informs Anand, “Guide has been restored by an American company, remixed in Dolby-digital sound and converted to a wide screen view with a fresher soundtrack.” This is how Dev Anand, the evergreen hero, would have liked it.

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