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Devi, Kanan


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Kanan Devi

Devi, Kanan (1914-1992) an outstanding actress and singer of the early 20th century. She was born in a very poor family in Howrah. When Kanan was eleven, her father died and her mother had to take shelter, along with her two daughters, in the house of a distant relation, where all three worked as domestic servants. They continued working as servants until forced to leave the house.

Kanan was very pretty and smart. Her beauty and qualities helped her one day to reach the Madan Movie Studio in 1926. Although immature, she was given a role in the film Jayadeva and remuneration of only five rupees. However, her life as a regular actress began in 1930. The first talkie she took part in was Jor Barat in 1931. It was four years later that she got an opportunity to play significant role in filming. She appeared in the film Manmayi Girls' School in which she got the name Kanan Bala. Later she took a new name-Kanan Devi. Aged 21, she became so renowned for her beauty and performance that her photographs started to be sold in roadside shops, and her dress style, ornaments, her movements and hair style-all became points of imitation by women of all ranks and status. Later when she played the role of the heroine with Pramathesh Barua, the most popular actor of the time, in such movies as Mukti, she came to be known as the best Bengali actress. Even critics today consider her movies such as Vidyapati, Sathi, Parichay, Shesh Uttar and Mejdidi to be among the best in the history of Bengali cinema. Apart from acting main-character, she started producing film from 1948, and alongside she continued an archetypal role-model for mothers. In 1964, she resigned from acting.'

As a singer, she enriched Bengali music with her contributions to Tagore songs, Nazrul songs and modern songs. She had the opportunity to meet Rabindranath and take music lessons from Nazrul Islam. She took lessons from Raichand Baral, Viswadev Chattopadhyay, Allahrakha, Pankaj Mallik, Anadi Kumar Dastidar and Dheerendra Chandra Mitra.

After quitting acting, she devoted herself to social work. She was awarded the prize for best actress more than once and the prestigious Dada Saheb Phalke Prize. She died on 17 July in 1992. [Ghulam Murshid]