So, the first lady of Indian Cinema was –
Devika Rani (1908-1994)
The Indian Film Industry’s First Lady. Devika Rani was one of the most well-known female performers of the 1930s and 1940s. ‘The first woman of Indian film,’ as she is affectionately called. Her debut picture, ‘Karma,’ was released in 1933 and was an Indian talkie with the English language.
Did you know? She caused quite a stir in conservative India, with her 4-minute long kissing sequence in the film ‘Karma’ (Fate) in 1933. It had to be accepted that Devika Rani broke a lot of stereotypes in so many ways and represented the western culture in the Indian film industry, with her debut film. Himanshu Rai, her husband and producer, was instrumental in bringing German filmmaker Franz Osten to India in the 1920s and the rest is history.
Devika Rani was born into a rich, anglicised Indian family and was moved to an English boarding school at the age of nine, where she grew up. She married Indian cinema producer Himanshu Rai the next year after meeting him in 1928. For Rai’s experimental silent film A Throw of Dice (1929), she helped with costume design and art direction. After that, they both travelled to UFA Studios in Berlin to acquire filmmaking instruction. Rai next starred as the hero and she as the heroine in his next picture, Karma (1933), which was produced in both English and Hindi.
In 1933, the film opened in England, generating attention because to a lengthy kissing sequence depicting the real-life couple, but it bombed in India. In 1934, the couple moved to India, when Himanshu Rai founded Bombay Talkies, a production business he co-founded with a few others. Devika Rani starred in a number of the studio’s popular films during the next 5–6 years. In India, her on-screen relationship with Ashok Kumar was a hit.
After Rai’s death in 1940, Devika Rani took over the studio and worked with her late husband’s friends, Sashadhar Mukherjee and Ashok Kumar, to create a few more films.
Padma Shri (1958), the Dadasaheb Phalke Award (1970), and the Soviet Land Nehru Award are among her honours (1990).