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Chandrabati Devi: Chandramukhi of PromotheshBarua’s Devdas

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She reigned the celluloid at a time when many of the younger generation were not even born! Her sister Kankabati was quite a known face in the film industry. That had invoked an underlined desire within Chandrabati Devi to take up acting. But who would give her an opportunity? She got through in school and was admitted to Bethune College. She was also learning Rabindrasangeet from Dinendranath Tagore. This was the time when Shishir Bhaduri decided to make ‘Sita’ where he would play the role of Ram himself and Kankabati would be Sita. Kanka was the heroine of his films, theatre as well as his life. Chandra was selected as Urmila. But when it came to her sister, Kankabati was extremely protective. She was strictly against Chandra stepping into films before she completed her studies. Chandrabati was a little disappointed but did not give up on her dream entirely. 

Chandrabati completed her studies, got married and gave birth to a baby. But her fascination for acting did not perish. She could not control her urge any longer and told her husband, “I want to act in films.” Her husband was taken aback and had his own inhibitions about the film industry. He had this preconceived notion that people who were a part of this industry suffered from a distasteful quality of life. Chandrabati remained indefatigable when it came to her dreams. Her husband had to give her the final warning, “You have to choose between your family and the dream of acting.”

Chandrabati chose the second and left her family to pursue her dreams. She finally decided to let go of everything holding her back and stepped into the studio floor one fine day. She was first seen as a heroine in the film ‘Piyari’. She had opened a production house known as ‘Partnership Movie Producers with Bimal Pal. Chandrabati Devi also opened a talkie show house in Shyambazar. The partnership finally broke in 1933 as she joined New Theatre.

Her excellence did not only revolve around music and acting. She had a good grip on literature too. Her writings used to be published in a magazine called ‘Satraanga’ which created a buzz in the world of literature. Eminent authors like Tarashankar Bandopadhyay considered her writing style highly praiseworthy. After Pramathesh Barua’s ‘Devdas’ had released, a special screening was arranged where Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay was also invited. Chandrabati had played the role of Chandramukhi. 

In an interview, she said, “When Baruada had selected me for the role, I was a little saddened. I expressed my desire to play the role of Parbati. Barua da smiled at me and assured that he had framed the entire character keeping me in mind. Once I started acting, I understood what he meant”. The shooting came to an end and the day of the special screening arrived. After the film was over,everyone was in tears. Even Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay came up to her and appreciated her acting and taking the character to a whole new dimension. “He had also asked me to be his Bijoya or Shoroshi as he could not imagine anyone else in those roles. I was awestruck and that is when I saw Baruada looking at me and smiling.”