SOAS University of London

South Asia Section, School of Languages, Cultures & Linguistics

Eleanor Halsall

BA (Hons) German (Goldsmiths’); PGDiplHRM (Westminster); MA South Asian Languages and Cultures (SOAS)
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Eleanor Halsall
Eleanor Halsall
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Thesis title:
The Indo-German beginnings of Bombay Talkies, 1925-1939
Year of Study:
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PhD Research

When Himansu Rai and Devika Rani established The Bombay Talkies in 1934, it rapidly became one of India’s leading film studios, vying with Shantaram’s Prabhat Studios in Pune and Birendranath Sircar’s New Theatres in Calcutta.

Rai invited the German director, Franz Osten, with whom he had already made three silent films – The Light of Asia (1925), Shiraz (1928) and A Throw of Dice (1929) – to work as Bombay Talkies’ principal director with responsibility for training Indian filmmakers. Osten brought with him cameraman, Josef Wirsching, and film architect, Karl Graf von Spreti. They were subsequently joined by a laboratory technician, Wilhelm Zolle, who was already working in India.

Much of the research into the history of this particular cinematic collaboration has taken place in archives in India, Germany and London, and questions whether it is the model of the German film studio, rather than the Hollywood form, which should be considered as significant to the development of Bombay Talkies. The research explores cinematic developments during the period 1925-1939 with the transition from silent to sound cinema, setting it within the context of rising Indian nationalism and the emergence of fascism in Germany, and the dynamics of their respective relationships with Britain.


  • FCIPD (Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development)
  • MCIL (Member of the Chartered Institute of Linguists)