Discovering Devika, a documentary on The First Lady of Indian Cinema Devika Rani, Premiered in Mumbai

Mumbai, May 2023 ‘Discovering Devika’, a documentary on the prima donna of the Indian cinema Devika Rani, was screened at the Films Division auditorium in Mumbai. She was the first recipient of the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke Award.

‘Discovering Devika’ premiered along with a screening of her debut film, Karma, a 1933 Indo-British-German production directed by J Freer Hunt, perhaps the earliest international collaboration. The 68-minute documentary has been directed by Usha Deshpande and produced by the Films Division of India and traces her eventful life that was full of romance and pathos, smiles and tears. The film also includes the presence of Sharmila Tagore, Subhash Ghai and many reputed film historians and eminent journalists.

Discovering Devika, instead of creating the usual compilation of songs and scenes, endeavours to find reflections of her life in her films. It also tries to analyse factors that influenced Devika Rani in her life and career. Moreover, the film uses two on-screen anchors to impart information. The male anchor (Milind Gunaji) narrates factual information while the Female anchor (Smita Jayakar) offers supporting evidence and comments from various authentic sources. They use different styles of narration to suit the approach.

Also known as ‘The First Lady of Indian Cinema’, Devika exuded panache and was blessed with smouldering looks. She also mentored many actors who went on to become legends such as Dilip Kumar, Ashok Kumar, Dev Anand, and Madhubala, as well as many directors, writers and technicians who later went on to leave their mark on Indian cinema.

Himanshu Rai and Devika Rani together founded the legendary Bombay Talkies Studio that produced socially relevant films such as the iconic ‘Achhut Kanya’ starring Devika.

“I always wanted to make a film on Devika Rani, who was the pioneer of Indian cinema that we see today. Unfortunately, the name is somehow lost in the fog of the forgotten past and hence the film. I hope that through the documentary, people will know her contribution,” said Usha Deshpande, who has also written the script along with veteran journalist-writer Ambarish Mishra.

Deshpande is a Film and Television Institute of India, Pune, Graduate and also holds a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Arts. With an experience of more than 20 years, she has made several documentary films and TV programmes.

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