She was a performer who defined ‘bold’ when Indian cinema was taking it’s baby steps. Her presence lit up the screen when very few women thought of acting as a career. At a time when women venturing out of their comfort zones to pursue jobs was frowned upon and acting was unimaginable as a career, she stepped into the word of cinema and excelled in it. Devika Rani Chaudhuri was truly a legend of the black and white era.
She was the first actor to ever have a four-minute long liplock onscreen. The record was unbroken for a long time until 2014. Her popularity rose to such levels that it altered peoples’ perspective towards actresses. Today on Devika Rani’s birthday, we familiarise you with her life and her brave decisions:
- Rani was born in Vishakhapatnam to an illustrious Bengali family. Her father, Manmatha Nath Chaudhuri was the first Indian Surgeon-General of Madras Presidency. Her paternal uncles were also famous lawyers in Kolkata High Court and one of them, a very famous Bengali writer. She was also related to the renowned poet and Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore.
- A major part of Devika’s childhood was spent in London, where she first studied acting and music then did a course in architecture. She began her career as a textile engineer, but life had something else in store for her. The turning point came when during an event she met Himanshu Rai, a barrister-turned-filmmaker, who insisted that she work with him in production.
- They worked on a movie (A Throw of Dice) together where Devika assisted Rai in costume designing and art direction. They got married soon after and Devika left for Berlin to learn film-making. Once she came back, Rai casted Devika in his first film Karma where he himself was playing the lead.
- The movie set many precedents in the ever-evolving Indian cinema. It had the first and the longest liplock on the Indian screen. Interestingly, it was a woman-centric film as it was majorly based on Devika. It was the first English language movie by an Indian producer. Devika also sang a bilingual Indo-English song in the movie, which became the first India English song.
- Devika’s performance in the movie garnered a lot of praise and critical acclamation. She then went on to do many more women-centric movies. One of them was Acchut Kanya which became a landmark in Indian Cinema as it questioned the caste system, depicting an untouchable girl falling in love with a Brahmin boy. She was paired with Ashok Kumar in this movie, and the pair then went on to do ten films together. Their pairing was a great success and it was said that she completely overpowered Kumar with her persona.
- Being the independent rebellious and hardworking woman that she was, after her husband’s death in 1940, she took over the production house and looked after it’s functioning by herself. She was one of the pioneer women of the times before independence.
- Never one to shy away from expressing her romantic side, Devika was an empowered woman where she chose her life-partner without anybody’s interference in her life. She re-married Russian painter Svetoslav Roerich after her husband’s death at the very height of her career and chose to live in solitude.
Picture Credit- Trendy Feeds