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Kanan Devi in 1940s

Kanan Devi (1916 - 17 July 1992) was among the early singing stars of Indian cinema, and is credited popularly as the first star of Bengali Cinema.[1] Her singing style, usually in rapid tempo, was used instrumentally in some of the biggest hits of New Theatres, Calcutta.



Kanan Devi was born as Kanan Dassi in Howrah, West Bengal in or around 1916. In her autobiography, Kanan Devi has observed that she was born illegitimately. She belonged to a poor family and after the death of her adoptive father, she and her mother were left to earn and live on their own and had to do all sorts of work to drag on their lives.

Her name was soon changed to Kanan Bala. When she was only ten, a well wisher introduced her to Jyoti Studios where she was cast in a small role in Joydev (1926). She later worked with Radha Films, in films mainly by Jyotish Banerjee. After being noticed in Khooni Kaun and Maa (1934), she entered New Theatres, Calcutta. She came in contact of maestro Raichand Boral who coached her and familiarized her in the Hindi accent. She received her initial musical training under Ustad Alla Rakha. She was employed as a singer at the Megaphone Gramaphone Company, receiving further training under Bhishmadev Chatterjee. She later learnt Rabindra Sangeet under Anadi Dastidar. Her name was soon again changed to Kanan Devi for the purpose of films.

New Theatres's P.C. Barua wanted her to play the lead in his Devdas (1935), but, due to some reasons she could not act in the film. She later played the lead in Barua's Mukti (1937), which was perhaps her finest performance, making her the studio's top star. The films of New Theatres established her as a superhit singer. It was her association with K. C. Dey that people enjoyed the most. Kanan Devi remained the top star of New Theatres until she resigned her contract in 1941 and began to freelance in Bengali and Hindi films. M.P. Productions's Jawaab, was perhaps her biggest hit. Her song Yeh Duniya Hai Toofan Mail was well received. She repeated the same feast in Hospital (1943), Banphool (1945), and Rajlakshmi (1946).

She moved to Bombay in 1948. She was seen for the last time in Hindi cinema in Chandrashekhar (1948) with Ashok Kumar. Kanan Devi turned producer with Shrimati Pictures in 1949 and later launched the Sabyasachi Collective with the film Ananya (1949). Her own productions were mainly based on the stories of Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay. Kanan Devi married her first husband, Shri Ashok Maitra, but their marriage was short-lived and ended in a divorce. However, she did express gratitude towards him for giving her social recognition for the first time in her life. Later, she married her second husband Haridas Bhattacharya, had her first and only child, a son, Siddharta Bhattacharya, and settled down, raising her family in Calcutta. She also worked as the president of Mahila Shilpi Mahal, an organization that helps aged and needy female artistes of the yesteryears and for the upliftment of Bengali cinema. Kanan Devi, the first lady of the Bengali screen was awarded the Dadasaheb Phalke Award for her contribution to Indian cinema, in 1976. She died on 17 July 1992 in Belle View Clinic, Calcutta when she was around seventy-six years of age.




Year Film Name Director Co-star Remarks
1926 Joydev Jyotish Bannerji Actor
1931 Rishir Prem Jyotish Bannerji Actor
1931 Jore Barat Jyotish Bannerji Actor Short
1932 Bishnumaya Jyotish Bandyopadhyay Actor
1932 Prahlad Priyanath Ganguly Actor
1932 Vishnu Maya Jyotish Bannerji Actor
1933 Sree Gouranga Prafulla Ghosh Actor
1933 Char Darvesh Prafulla Ghosh Actor Fantasy
1934 Maa Prafulla Ghosh Actor
1934 Hari Bhakti Prafulla Ghosh Actor
1935 Kanthahaar Jyotish Bannerji Actor
1935 Manmoyee Girls School Jyotish Bannerji Actor
1935 Basabdatta Satish Dasgupta Actor
1936 Bishabriksha Phani Burma Actor
1936 Krishna Sudama Phani Barma Actor
1936 Khooni Kaun G. R. Sethi Actor
1936 Maa Prafulla Ghosh Actor
1937 Vidyapati Debaki Bose Actor
1937 Mukti Pramathesh Chandra Barua Actor
1937 Mukti Pramathesh Chandra Barua Actor
1937 Bidyapati Debaki Bose Actor
1938 Saathi Phani Majumdar Actor
1938 Street Singer Phani Majumdar Actor
1939 Sapera Debaki Bose Actor
1939 Jawani-Ki-Raat Hemchandra Chunder Actor
1939 Sapurey Debaki Bose Actor
1940 Parajay Hemchandra Chunder Actor
1940 Haar Jeet Amar Mullick Actor
1940 Abhinetri Amar Mullick Actor
1941 Parichay Nitin Bose Actor
1941 Lagan Nitin Bose Actor
1942 Shesh Uttar Pramathesh Chandra Barua Actor
1942 Jawab Pramathesh Chandra Barua Actor
1943 Jogajog Sushil Majumdar Actor
1943 Jogajog Sushil Majumdar Actor
1944 Bideshini Premendra Mitra Actor
1945 Path Bendhe Dilo Premendra Mitra Actor
1945 Banphool Niren Lahiri Actor
1945 Raj Lakshmi Premendra Mitra Actor
1946 Tumi Aar Aami Apurba Kumar Mitra Actor
1946 Krishna Leela Debaki Bose Actor
1946 Arabian Nights Niren Lahiri Actor
1947 Chandrasekhar Debaki Bose Actor
1947 Chandrasekhar Debaki Bose Actor
1947 Faisla Apurba Kumar Mitra Actor
1948 Bankalekha Chitta Bose Actor
1948 Anirban Soumyen Mukherjee Actor
1949 Ananya Sabyasachi Actor
1949 Anuradha Pranab Roy Actor
1950 Mejdidi Ajay Kar Actor
1952 Darpachurna Actor
1954 Nababidhan Haridas Bhattacharya Actor
1955 Debatra Haridas Bhattacharya Actor
1956 Asha Haridas Bhattacharya Actor
1959 Indranath Srikanta-O-Annadadidi Haridas Bhattacharya Actor.

Playback Singer

  1. Asha (1956) (playback singer)
  2. Debatra (1955) (playback singer)
  3. Naba Bidhan (1954) (playback singer)
  4. Darpachurna (1952) (playback singer)
  5. Mejdidi (1950) (playback singer)
  1. Ananya (1949) (playback singer)
  2. Anirban (1948) (playback singer)
  3. Bankalekha (1948) (playback singer)

... aka The Crooked Writing

  1. Faisla (1947) (playback singer)
  2. Chandrashekhar (1947) (playback singer)
  3. Arabian Nights (1946) (playback singer)
  4. Krishna Leela (1946) (playback singer)

... aka Radha Krishna Prem ... aka The Story of Lord Krishna

  1. Tum Aur Main (1946) (playback singer)
  2. Tumi Aar Aami (1946) (playback singer)
  3. Ban Phool (1945) (playback singer)
  4. Path Bendhe Dilo (1945) (playback singer)
  5. Rajlaxmi (1945) (playback singer)
  6. Bideshini (1944) (playback singer)
  7. Jogajog (1943) (playback singer)
  8. Jawab (1942) (playback singer)

... aka Shesh Uttar (India: Bengali title) ... aka The Last Reply

  1. Lagan (1941) (playback singer)
  2. Parichay (1941) (playback singer)

... aka Acquaintance ... aka Marriage

  1. Abhinetri (1940) (playback singer)
  2. Haar Jeet (1940) (playback singer)
  1. Jawani Ki Reet (1939) (playback singer)
  2. Parajay (1939) (playback singer)
  3. Sapera (1939) (playback singer)

... aka The Snake-Charmer (India: English title)

  1. Sapurey (1939) (playback singer)

... aka The Snake-Charmer (India: English title)

  1. Bidyapati (1937) (playback singer)
  2. Mukti (1937/I) (playback singer)

... aka Freedom ... aka The Liberation of the Soul

  1. Mukti (1937/II) (playback singer)
  2. Vidyapati (1937) (playback singer)
  3. Bishabriksha (1936) (playback singer)

... aka The Poison Tree

  1. Krishna Sudama (1936) (playback singer)

... aka Krishna and Sudama

  1. Manmoyee Girls School (1935) (playback singer)
  2. Maa (1934) (playback singer)
  3. Char Darvesh (1933) (playback singer)

... aka Merchant of Arabia (India: English title)

  1. Vishnumaya (1932) (playback singer)

... aka Doings of Lord Vishnu

  1. Jore Barat (1931) (playback singer)
  2. Prahlad (1931/I) (playback singer)


  1. Abhaya O Srikanta (1965) (producer)
  1. Indranath Srikanta O Annadadidi (1959) (producer)
  2. Rajlakshmi O Srikanta (1958) (producer)
  3. Andhare Alo (1957) (producer)
  4. Asha (1956) (producer)
  5. Debatra (1955) (producer)
  6. Naba Bidhan (1954) (producer)
  7. Darpachurna (1952) (producer)
  8. Mejdidi (1950) (producer)
  1. Ananya (1949) (producer)
  2. Bamuner Meye (1949) (producer)


External links


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