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The making of Wadia Movietone: A history

A sailing ship on top of which is perched an eagle ready to take flight, hinting towards an adventure is the Wadia Movietone logo. A tribute honoring and representing the Wadia family legacy. The Wadia Movietone Logo was inspired by the stained glass windows of Lovji Castle - the abode of the illustrious founder of the Wadia family. The Wadia Group has roots in shipbuilding going back to 1736. 

The Wadia name carries with it responsibility, for an ancestor was one of the founding fathers of the town of Bombay. In 1735, Lovji Nusserwanji, a foreman at the East India Company's shipyards, was given the task of building ships in Bombay and modernizing the shipyards. Under Lovji's direction, the protected east side of the urban peninsula was gradually developed into a functioning harbour area and an attractive port of call for international shipping traffic. In Lovji's wake, more and more Parsis, numerous business people among them, settled in Bombay. [1]

Lovji Nusserwanjee Wadia, a noted shipbuilder founded the Wadia Group in 1736. In the 17th century, Wadia moved to Mumbai from Gujarat to make the first Indian ship for the East India Company. The Wadia family aimed to develop Bombay as its business hub. 

Lovji Wadia progressed the Wadia shipbuilding dynasty after accepting a contract from the British East India Company to build docks and ships in Bombay (now Mumbai). The Wadia family gained fame as one of the pioneers of the Indian shipbuilding industry. By the 1840s, the Wadias had built over a hundred warships for Britain with many trading networks worldwide. The Wadia family built the oldest surviving British warship - HMS Trincomalee that stands tall even today. 

J.B.H Wadia and Homi Wadia - the great-grandchildren of Lovji Wadia set the foundation for Wadia Movietone in 1933. J.B.H. Wadia carved a name for himself in the Indian film industry towards the end of the Silent Movie Era in 1928. In 1933, J.B.H Wadia established himself as the producer-director-screenplay writer of Wadia Movietone. 

JBH as he is popularly known is a scion of the illustrious Lovji Wadia family of Master (Ship) Builders to the East India Company and then the Government of India. [2]

J.B.H. Wadia's ardent love for storytelling manifested under the banner of Wadia Movietone. His creative versatility is portrayed in the 100 screenplays he wrote encompassing genres such as thrillers, socials, devotionals, mythology, and Arabian Nights Fantasies. He also made 70 feature films, each of which had socially relevant themes such as communal unity, gender equality, political freedom, and adult literacy. He went on to make a historical visual documentation about classical music geniuses and prominent dancers from 1933 to 1940. 

A man of multiple shades, J.B.H. Wadia's films were also experimentations in various fields of art such as music. This is why he would personally look after the music used in his films. His dedication and interest in all facets of filmmaking would reflect in his movies. And even as J.B.H. Wadia had entirely devoted himself to the art of filmmaking, he always managed to make time for his social, literary, economic, intellectual, and political callings/ pursuits. The avid intellectual and writer started his career in filmmaking with silent movies. While Homi Wadia, his younger brother joined him a few years later and took up the task of directing. Jamshed had already produced Vasant Leela in 1928 followed by 11 other silent movies at the Kohinoor Studios in Dadar and also under Deware Laboratories. 

Jamshed's younger brother, Homi, followed Jamshed into films - working as his sidekick for a few years, and learning the skills necessary. Jamshed often put Homi's name in the director's slot, to give his kid brother the chance to make a name for himself. [3]

Roy Vinci Wadia

Wadia Movietone established in 1933 by the Wadia Brothers became synonymous with action-packed entertainment. This was also the time when the popular Indian aesthetic was emerging in the field of cinema. Wadia Movietone was one of the first studios in the 1930s to achieve success through the production of stunt films. In the year 1933, J.B.H Wadia produced his first Talkie movie Lal-E-Yaman,  after taking inspiration from the Orientalist fantasy world championed by the Arabian Nights with a Shakespearean touch. The film was a romantic drama that soon gained even more popularity than India's first sound picture Alam Ara. The monetary success of Lal - E - Yaman motivated the Wadia Brothers to gain acquisition of their palace-like family home Lovji Castle and refashion it into a studio. Their unique family history displayed through a sailing ship as their studio emblem. And as JBH Wadia beautifully puts the journey of the 'Wadia ship' in words, giving us a perfect segue into the blogs to follow elaborating on the cinematic oeuvre of Wadia Movietone:

Suffice it to say that we had to encounter the usual obstacles that are an inalienable part of any pioneering effort. Many of them were surmounted, in other cases, we went under. Many a time the winds veered and the currents shifted but on the whole, the Wadia ship managed to steer clear of all the storm and stress and, at last, touched harbour in fair safety, if not with full strength. [4]

References

[1] Dorothee Wenner, Family Business, Fearless Nadia

[2] Screen, 1985

[3] Mary Evans Wadia, aka Fearless Nadia, https://theory.tifr.res.in/bombay/docs/web/nadia.html

[4] Text of Producer JBH Wadia's speech at the Luncheon given at the Taj Mahal Hotel, Bombay on 2nd October 1942 on the occasion of The Court Dancer

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