Inspiring tale of the first lady of Indian Cinema, Devika Rani

Before Nargis, Meena Kumari, Madhubala dazzled the screen with their presence, Devika Rani ruled the box office like a boss.

Devika Rani is better known as the “First lady of Indian Cinema” because she was one of the most loved and influential actresses to grace the silver screen. She ruled the industry primarily dominated by male not only by acting but also single-handedly managing a film studio. It won’t be wrong to say that she was instrumental in bringing Indian cinema on the global map. So, let’s remember the life and times of Devika Rani, a rebel who shattered the glass ceiling.

Early life

Devika Rani was born in an affluent Bengali family. Her father was the first surgeon-general of Madras presidency. She was Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore’s grandniece from the maternal side. She did her schooling from England and studied in The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts & Royal Academy of Music to study the nuances of acting and music. During this time, she was an apprentice under the famous Elizabeth Arden.

Himanshu Rai and foray into Indian cinema

She met Himanshu Rai, a passionate filmmaker and an actor and fell in love despite the age difference. Both of them came to Bombay and established the famous “Bombay Talkies”. Bombay Talkies was known as a pioneer in terms of equipment and talent. Himanshu Rai launched Bombay Talkies movie “Jawani Ki Hawa” with Devika Rani. It was during this time, a lab technician named Kumud Lal Ganguly was given his first big break in the movie Jeevan Naiya. This was the start of stellar career of Kumud Lal Ganguly aka Ashok Kumar. Devika Rani and Ashok Kumar went on to give many hits. Apparently, Devika Rani overshadowed Ashok Kumar in many of these movies.

Boss lady of Bombay Talkies

Himanshu Rai, unfortunately, passed away in the year 1940, and Devika Rani became the boss lady of Bombay Talkies. This was a golden period for this studio. She managed and soon Bombay Talkies, produced the blockbusters of that era. She handpicked a shy young man with a mop of unkempt hair in Jwar Bhata and a star named Dilip Kumar was born. Interestingly, because of the influence of Bombay Talkies Raj Kapoor started his career as Clapper boy in the studio.

Devika Rani left Bombay Talkies and bid adieu to film industry in the year 1945. Her legacy as a woman who broke the conventions of society will inspire us always!

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