(Last Updated on : 15-03-2012)
Sarajubala Devi was known as the Natyasamrajni or "Theatre Empress". She was born in the year 1912. Sarajubala Devi was probably the greatest actress of commercial Bengali theatre for about three decades beginning from the 1930s. She began her career around 1928 in the role of a singing boy, as did many actresses of her time. Nirmalendu Lahiri, soon took her under his tutorship. She also received musical training from classical masters like Bhishmadeb Chatterjee and Kazi Nazrul Islam
Saraju first attracted public notice as Krishna in Basanta Chatterjee's Mirabai in 1928 at Manomohan Theatre. Graduating to female roles in the same company, she excelled as the abducted Achala in Jaladhar Chatterjee's Praner dabi i.e. "Claim of the Heart" in 1929, the tribal heroine in Manmatha Ray's Mahuya in 1929, and Kanka in Ray's anti British Karagar or 'Prison' in 1930. Joining Natyaniketan, she created the eponymous woman astrologer of Ray's Khana in 1935, Lutfa in Sachin Sengupta's Sirajuddaula in 1938, and, for Natyabharati, Panna in Sengupta's Dhatri Panna i.e. "Panna the Nurse" in 1943. She easily handled historical as well as domestic parts and kept their features distinct. Her performance as the mother in Nirupama Devi's Shyamali at Star Theatre
in 1953, won high praise for its subdued naturalness. So did her roles in many films. She was an excellent star.
In 1962 she teamed up with the actor Jahar Roy to lead Rangmahal Theatre
into successful productions like the dramatization of Bibhuti Bhushan Bandyopadhyay's Adarsha Hindu Hotel in 1962, Sunil Sarkar's Katha Kao i.e. "Speak Up" in 1963, and Nam bibhrat i.e. "Name Muddle". This was adapted from Oscar Wilde's 'The Importance of Being Earnest' in 1964. In retired life she was the grand dame of Kolkata theatre, a mother figure for its votaries. Sarajubala Devi died in 1994 at the age of 82.
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