Each time young Homi Wadia entered the set with his producer-director brother J.B.H. Wadia, his eyes would light up like a kid in a candy shop. His gaze was not stuck on fantastical costumes or the star-studded cast but set on the camera. This demonstrated his childhood aptitude for mechanical processes and all things technical. It was not long before he decided to dispense his studies and join his brother in the art of film making.
Wadia Movietone was established by the Wadia brothers, J.B.H. Wadia and Homi Wadia in 1933. It was one of the first studios in the 1930s to achieve success through the production of stunt films. Lal-E-Yaman was the first talkie film to be released under the banner of Wadia Movietone. Each Wadia Movietone film served a purpose and made a social statement. Be it the Fearless Nadia era that changed the portrayal of women in Indian cinema or Nav Jawan, the first Indian film without a single song. J.B.H. Wadia and Wadia Movietone constantly challenged conventional cinema in ways more than one.
A young boy's obsession with film was the cause of his secret trips to Bombay's cinematheques. Perhaps it was J.B.H. Wadia's heart thudding in anticipation that often broke the silence enveloping the dark movie theatre right before the big screen would light up. Mr. Wadia was a dedicated student of film since his high school days, growing up in an ever-present environment of cinema. Bombay's historically prominent locations dotted with stand-alone theatres were photographic landmarks etched in J.B.H's memories. These glorious theatres were not just recreational spots for the cinephile but institutions that shaped his cinematic oeuvre.
Riyad Wadia (1967 – 2003), the grandson of J.B.H. and Hilla Wadia, was a film buff right from childhood, learning all he could about his grandfather’s studio and work, along with the rich history of the Wadia family itself.
J.B.H. Wadia (1901-1986), the founder of Wadia Movietone, was the great-grandson of Lovji Nusserwanjee Wadia (1702-1774) of Surat, Gujarat, of the Wadia line of shipbuilders who founded the Wadia Group in 1736.
In the mid-1700s, the Master Shipbuilder Lowji Nusserwanji Wadia built a grand bungalow in tony Parel, which came to be known as Lowji Castle – with an imposing entrance hall and a wide oak- wood balustrade leading from it to the living area! Lighting up the entrance lobby were several colourful stained-glass panels with the family crest and motto – “Honor and Magnanimity” along with the sailing ship at the centre of the design! Several generations of the Wadia family lived in this palatial abode right up to the late 1800s. It is recounted by J.B.H. Wadia's family members that the elite of Bombay society wined and dined at the ‘castle’ including senior members of the British establishment.