Renowned as much for her beauty, elegance and dialogue delivery as well as for her sensitive acting abilities she created a niche a place where there was none to compete her. Named after Bankimchandra Chatterjee she was born in Visakhapattnam in the year 1908, in a distinguished Bramho family. The grandniece of Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, Devika Rani was born in Andhra Pradesh. Her father was Col. M. N. Chaudhuri, the first Indian Surgeon-General of Madras. Her mother's name was Leela. Her uncles were famous personalities like, Justice Sir Ashutosh Chaudhuri, Barrister Jogesh Chandra Chaudhuri, and author Pramatha Chaudhuri. She studied at London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and the Royal Academy of Music. She also specialised in architecture, art design, and textiles under Elizabeth Arden. While in London, she joined director Himansu Rai's production team and in 1929, married him.
Film Career of Devika Rani
Devika Rani's film debut was as costume designer for her husband's film Prapancha Pash. During the film's post-production work in Germany, she interacted with such luminaries as director Fritz Lang, actress Marlene Dietrich and the theatre personality Max Reinhardt. These encounters were to stand Devika Rani in great stead in her career as an actress and later in running Bombay Talkies. Her first film as an actress was opposite husband Himanshu Rai in the English feature Karma. The film was remade in Hindi as Nagan Ki Ragini and won Devika Rani rave reviews from the British press. The couple founded Bombay Talkies in 1934; almost all its early productions featured Devika Rani in the lead. In 1936, came arguably her most famous film, Achhut Kanya, where she excelled as the low-caste village girl in love with a Brahmin boy. She also sang in the film. Incidentally, Achhut Kanya marked the beginning of a productive screen teaming between Devika Rani and the young actor Ashok Kumar.
After Himanshu Rai's death in 1940, Devika Rani took over the reins of Bombay Talkies and made such hit films as Bandhan, Basant, and Kismet. It was Devika Rani who introduced fresh talents such as Dilip Kumar. She retired from the industry and subsequently married noted Russian painter Svetoslav Roerich.
Devika Rani was awarded the Padma Shri in 1958. In 1970, she became the first-ever recipient of India's highest film honour, the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke Award. Devika Rani passed away in 1994 at her estate near Bangalore.
Filmography of Devika Rani