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Devika Rani Choudhuri

Devika Rani Choudhuri30 March 1908 – 9 March 1994

Indian actress, film costumes and set designer and film producer. Devika belonged to a privileged and progressive background and was related to Nobel Laureate and poet Rabindra Nath Tagore. She came to England to study when she was about 9 and studied drama at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London.

She met the talented fellow Bengali Himansu Rai in London and married him in India in 1929. Devika’s elegance and English diction were commented upon in Many English papers in Britain in 1933 when her first film (opposite her husband Himansu Rai), Karma (Fate), was premiered in London and Birmingham. She also appeared on BBC Radio and TV the same year.

Himansu Rai and  Devika Rani with  friends during the launch of Karma in London, May 1933

In 1934, she along with her husband co-founded Bombay Talkies, a public limited company which made many landmark films and also raised the reputation of film actors in Indian society.

After the sudden death of Himansu Rai in 1940, Devika took charge of Bombay Talkies but faced problems within the organisation and gradually lost interest in film production. In 1945, she married artist Svetoslav Roerich, son of the celebrated Russian painter Nikolai Roerich and renounced films and settled down in an estate outside Bangalore. In 1969, she became the first recipient of India’s highest film honour, The Dada Saheb Phalke Award. She died in 1994.

Filmography

  • Prem Sanyas (The Light of Asia, 1925) [Set Decorator]
  • Prapancha Pash (A Throw of Dice, 1929) [Costume design]
  • Karma (Fate 1933) in English and Nagin ki Rani (1933) in Hindustani
  • Jawani ki Hawa (1935)
  • Achhut Kanya (Untouchable Girl,1936)
  • Mamta (1936)
  • Janmabhoomi (1936)
  • Jeevan Naiya (1936)
  • Always Tell Your Wife (1936)
  • Izzat (Honour 1937)
  • Jeevan Prabhat (1937)
  • Savitri (1937)
  • Durga (1939)
  • Anjaan (1941)
  • Hamari Baat (1943)

The above findings are part of the research which ensued in the project - A Hidden Heritage: Indo-British Film Collaboration (1930-1951)


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