Franz Osten


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Franz Osten (1876, born Franz Ostermayr), a German director of silent movies since 1911, specialized in Indian-based stories starting with Prem Sanyas/ The Light of Asia/ Die Leuchte Asiens (1925), an adaptation of Edwin Arnold's novel in verse "The Light of Asia" (1879) about Buddha's life, a film which began a collaboration with English-based Indian actor Himansu Rai and playwright Niranjan Pal and starring Indian actors but photographed and scored by a German team. This was followed by Shiraz/ Das Grabmal einer grossen Liebe (1928), originally Pal's stage play in London, and by the epic silent movie Prapancha Pash/ A Throw of Dice/ Schicksalswuerfel (1929), shot on location in Rajasthan with a colossal cast of extras and hundreds of horses, elephants and tigers. When in 1934 Rai established the movie studio Bombay Talkies, Osten directed the studio's first blockbuster, the romantic melodrama Achhut Kanya/ Untouchable Maiden (1936), an archetypical collaboration with Rai as producer, Niranjan Pal as playwright, Devika Rani as lead actress, Saraswati Devi as composer, and also the debut of actor Ashok Kumar, destined to become the studio's superstar. The camera was held by Osten's trusted photographer Josef Wirsching. The same team made Janmabhoomi/ Land of Birth (1936), famous for a nationalistic song, Jeevan Naiya (1936), the film that turned Saraswati Devi into a famous composer, Izzat/ Honor (1937), Savitri (1937), etc. With minor variations the formula was repeated until Pal quit the studio and was replaced by Saradindu Bandyopadhyay for Vachan/ Promise (1938), Bhabhi/ Sister-in-Law (1938), Nirmala(1938) and Durga (1939).

In 1936 Osten had joined the Nazi party in Germany.

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