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Author: Mekhala Sengupta
Publisher: Harper Collins
ISBN/UPC (if available): 9789351365365
Kanan Devi was the unlikeliest superstar. Working as a maid to pay for her meals at the age of six and living in a notorious neighborhood known for its brothels, she had no lineage, no godfather and no resources to draw upon. Yet, beginning as a child artiste at the age of ten, she rose to become one of the biggest screen divas of her time, commanding a fee of Rs 1,00,000 for a song and Rs 5,00,000 for a film. She was eventually given the Dadasaheb Phalke Award.
Kanan Devi: The First Superstar of Indian Cinema is the incredible story of Kanan Devi's ascent as she went on to star and sing with stalwarts of the era like K.L. Saigal and Ashok Kumar. She became the voice of the musical works of Rabindranath Tagore, Kazi Nazrul Islam, R.C. Boral, Pankaj Mullick, Kamal Dasgupta and many others, and must be credited with bringing Tagore and Nazrul directly to the public arena much before their works had evolved into what is now called Rabindra Sangeet and Nazrul Geeti. Kanan Devi was one of the few stars to have been successful both in silent films and the talkies, and she was also one of the few artistes to be internationally recognized in Hollywood magazines as a gifted singer and actor, hobnobbing with the likes of Vivien Leigh.
But it is not only her cinematic achievements that set her apart. She was a woman of many dimensions: a fashionista, a producer who made several successful films in the fifties and sixties, a philanthropist who took up the causes of women in theatre and film-centered welfare projects, and a feminist before the word gained currency. Remarkably for a woman of her time, she managed her own investments and income.
Mekhala Sengupta's well-researched account brings to life a fearless pioneer who fought stereotypes to live life on her own terms, and is a loving ode to a lost era of Indian cinema.
Author’s Note and Acknowledgements
The Haze of a Lost Childhood
Breaking into the Sounds of Silence
The Making of a Superstar
A Tempestuous Tryst
At New Theatres: From Kanan Bala to Kanan Devi
The Independent Yerars (1941-48)
Shrimati Pictures and Life with Haridas (1949-65)
Life After Films