Devika Rani Chaudhuri, also known as Devika Rani, was an actress in Indian films (active during the 1930s and 1940s) was widely acknowledged as the first lady of Indian cinema, Devika Rani had a successful film career spanning 10 years. Born on March 30, 1908, in a Bengali family, Devika’s early years were spent in London where she studied architecture, & started her career as a textile engineer.
She was born in Waltair near Visakhapatnam in presentday Andhra Pradesh.
Her father, Col. Manmatha Nath Chaudhuri, was the first Indian Surgeon-General of Madras Presidency.
In 1928 Devika Rani first met her future husband, Himanshu Rai, an Indian film-producer, who persuaded her to join his production crew. Rai, an Indian barrister-turned-film maker, was in London preparing to shoot his forthcoming film A Throw of Dice. Rai was impressed with Devika’s “exceptional skills” and invited her to join the production team of the film, although not as an actress.
She readily agreed, and traveled to India with Himanshu Rai for this assignment, assisting him in areas such as costume designing and art direction.
The two also traveled to Germany for the post-production work, where she had occasion to observe the film-making techniques of the German film industry, specifically of G. W. Pabst and Fritz Lang. Inspired by their methods of film-making, she enrolled for a film-making course at Universum Film AG studio in Berlin. Rai cast her in the 1933 talkie Karma in which her performance received critical acclaim. The couple established their production studio Bombay Talkies in 1934 after coming back to India.
They produced many women-centric films throughout the decade, with Devika Rani portraying lead roles in most of them.
Her on-screen pairing with Ashok Kumar became popular in India.
She was awarded with several awards including Padmashri (1958), Dadasaheb Phalke Award (1970) and the Soviet Land Nehru Award (1990). Her persona and roles in films were often considered socially unconventional.
Her films were mostly tragic romantic dramas that contained social themes.