Kanan Devi donned the role of both acting and singing in Bengali cinema. She was one of the leading singing celebrities of Indian film industry. She sang in fast tempo and it was the main reason behind the greatest hits given by New Theatres, Kolkata.
Hailing from Howrah in West Bengal, Kanan Devi saw the world first on 22nd April 1916. Kanan was adopted and after the demise of her adoptive dad she had to earn her living by herself. She indeed struggled in her initial stages of life. It is believed that she didn’t even complete schooling. Tulsi Banerji, a good friend of Kanan, referred Kanan to Madan Theatres when she was barely 10-year-old. Here she appeared in a brief role in the 1926 flick Jaidev. Later she acted in the 1927 flick Shankaracharya.
Kanan worked in around five flicks with Madan Theatres. Jorebarat, Rishir Prem, Prahlad and Vishnu Maya were some of her works. She even enacted male roles in Prahlad and Vishnu Maya. Kanan started with silent movies. She tested waters as a child artiste and later worked in talkie flicks. Her transition is indeed a commendable one. Manomoyee Girls School, Jorebarat, Maa and Khooni Kaun are some of her excellent flicks. She worked with Jyothish Banerjee and Prafulla Ghosh in some films.
Her endeavors with Radha Film Company were Kanthahar, Bishabriksha, Krishna Sudama, and Char Darvesh. Kanan was first approached to act as a lead in the 1935 flick Devdas. But owing to her contract with Radha Film Company she could not take up the role. She later repented for this act. New Theatres’ flicks made her a rocking singer and the audience embraced her flicks. In fact, she had a great fan base and was always protected.
The 1937 flick Mukti can be considered as her greatest performance. Here then she was regarded as New Theatres’ superstar. Vidyapati, Street Singer, Saathi, Sapera, Parajay, Jawani Ki Reet, Abhinetri, Lagan, Parichay and Jawab are some of the other flicks in which she acted. Kanan Devi’s association with music wizard Rai Chand Boral was a great aid to her career since she learnt the Hindi accent and also several forms of music. She got herself associated with Megaphone Gramophone Company and enhanced her music skills from Bhishmadev Chatterjee. She also imbibed Rabindra Sangeet. Her contract with New Theatres was very successful, and she quit from it in 1941.
Later she started working in Hindi and Bengali films.
, K.L.Saigal, Pramathesh Barua, Chabi Biswas,
are some of the great stars with whom she worked. The flick Jawaab is presumably her greatest success in films. Banphool, Rajlakshmi and Hospital were also successful ventures. The 1948 flick Chandrashekhar, in which Kanan shared screen space with Ashok Kumar was her last Hindi endeavor. Shrimati Pictures, which was started in 1949, is the production venture of Kanan Devi. She also started the Sabyasachi Collective. Kanan got wedded to Ashok Maitra in 1940. But their marriage could not sustain owing to certain conservative restraints.
Later Kanan tied the nuptial knot to Haridas Bhattacharjee. Her stint with Mahila Shilpi Mahal as its president was helpful in the elevation of Bengali films. Due to her reputation of being the first woman of Bengali cinema and her contribution to it, Kanan was bestowed with several honors. She received Dada Saheb Phalke Award and Padma Shree. Kanan has also adored a postage stamp. Kanan breathed her last at the age of 76.