The legacy of the storied Wadia Movietone banner is often equated with the 41 films it produced with the actor Fearless Nadia. Introduced by the studio in Lal-e-Yaman in 1933, the stunt film legend (real name Mary Ann Evans) and Wadia Movietone were synonymous long after her final film, Khiladi, in 1968.
An upcoming online auction seeks to remind cinephiles that there is more to Wadia Movietone than Fearless Nadia. The Prinseps Auction House and Gallery is offering original posters, lobby cards and song booklets from films that go beyond its whip-wielding heroine. These include artwork related to the productions Balam (1949), Captain Kishore (1957), Madhosh (1951), and Tasveer (1966).
Wadia Movietone was set up by JBH Wadia and his brother Homi Wadia in 1933. Its productions included stunt and fantasy films, mythologicals and dramas about social issues. The siblings directed films as well as hired outside talent to helm their productions.
In 1942, Homi Wadia set up Basant Pictures, under which he produced and directed his own films. The brothers continued to collaborate under a third banner, Wadia Brothers.
“The individual films might not be remembered, but their collective imprint is still there,” Roy Wadia, JBH Wadia’s grandson, told Scroll.in. “Rightly or wrongly, stunt films continue to define Wadia Movietone because of Nadia’s outsized personality. But there is much more, and we hope these films will be of interest to connoisseurs and casual moviegoers.”
The 50-odd items are from the estate of Riyad Wadia, Roy Wadia’s younger brother. Riyad Wadia, who directed the documentary Fearless – The Hunterwali Story in 1993, died in 2003. His collection includes carefully preserved and assiduously sourced memorabilia from Wadia Movietone, Basant Pictures and Wadia Brothers.
The auction will include a couple of Nadia films, including Miss Frontier Mail (1936) and Diamond Queen (1940). Indrajit Chatterjee, Director at Prinseps, pointed to previous estate sales, including from the collections of Rathindranath Tagore,Bhanu Athaiya and Atul Bose.
“Film history and archives are extremely important especially given how influential Bollywood is in each of our daily lives,” Chatterjee said. “Be it for fashion, entertainment or even cultural festivals, we take an eager interest in anything that has an interesting story to tell, which deserves to be documented and shared with the people.”
Another upcoming auction will focus on textile pieces that were worn by Bhanu Athaiya, the renowned Oscar-winning costume designer who died on October 15, 2020, and her family members.
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