My father often talked about the phenomenal success of a film of his times. The title of the film was Achhut Kanya. It was perhaps the first movie of legend actor Ashok Kumar with an actress Devika Rani in the lead.
Once a song of this film, Main ban ki chidiya banke ban ban bolun re was being telecast. I had stopped by the TV to watch it. The set-up, the song and the acting looked so funny to me. Above all, the heroine, Devika Rani, looked so rustic, pastoral and illiterate to me that I broke into a laugh. What in the movie had impressed people to make it succeed like success, I wondered.
In the day, I had a discussion with a colleague. ‘Girls from good families didn’t join the film industry those days’, he said. ‘Film makers had to fetch them from the lower class or brothels. Your guess about the heroine of this film is no wrong’, he further said. I brushed my thoughts aside. Why to unnecessarily think about someone not of interest and of such old times?
One day, I was flicking through the paper when a news item caught my attention. I had almost left it unread after reading Devika Rani’s name in it when certain words like paintings, German painter etc cought my eye. The news told me that Devika Rani had a 450 acre estate in Bangalore. It looked obvious as actors always made lots of money. The news further told that Devika Rani had a German husband who was a wonderful painter. This raised my curiosity. How could a good painter marry an illiterate actress like Devika Rani?
On an instinct, I started searching about her on the net. What I discovered was a revelation. Devika Rani had gone to London to study Architecture, my favorite subject, I found. There, she was asked by an Indian movie maker to design a set for him. The film maker, named Himanshu Rai got attracted towards her and married her. All this was indeed astounding. I searched more.
Devika Rani was from Rabindra Nath Tagore’s family, I found. She was the grand daughter of Tagore’s sister. This bit of news stunned me. Bombay Talkies were founded by her. She was an actor of high caliber and refused to act in sensual movies. The German painter was her second husband as Hiamnshu Rai saw an untimely end. Devika Rani won Dada Saheb Phalke Award also.
As I discovered more and more about Devika Rani, the myth that I had grown about her in my mind stood completely shattered. She was much ahead of her times!
As respect for Devika Rani rose in me, I decided not to make an opinion about a person without knowing him or her fully well.