Devika Rani Chaudhuri (March 30, 1908 – March 9, 1994), popularly known by her stage as Devika Rani, was an Indian actress who worked in Hindi cinema in the 1930s and 1940s. Devika Rani was widely regarded as India’s first lady of cinema, with a ten-year career in the industry.
She was born into an affluent and well-educated zamindar family and was sent to boarding school in England at the age of nine, where she spent her childhood. She studied acting and singing at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) and the Royal Academy of Music after finishing her education, during a time when aristocratic women were not allowed to work in show business. She also did it for textile and décor design classes.
In London in 1928, she met filmmaker and actor Himanshu Rai. He was so impressed with her attractiveness that he invited her to work for his production firm. Devika Rani, the great-granddaughter of Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, helped Rai with costume design and art direction for A Throw of Dice. In 1929, the couple married and moved to Germany, where she studied filmmaking in Berlin.
Rai then starred as the hero and she as the heroine in his next picture, Karma (1933), which was shot in both English and Hindi. Karma was Devika Rani’s first and Himanshu Rai’s last film as an actor. After it bombed in India, he shifted his focus to filmmaking. She and Rai co-founded Bombay Talkies in 1934, which went on to make over a hundred films and launch dozens of stars. Bombay Talkies was the first film studio in India to be listed on the stock exchange, and it was regarded as a world-class studio by international standards.
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