The Swar Kokila Kanan Devi

April 22, 2016

A tribute to Kanan Devi (22 April 1916 to 17 July 1992) on her birth centenary

Kanan DeviThe most important female pillar of the New Theatres, an enormously popular actor-singer of Bengali and Hindi films at the dawn of the film industry, having received the best actress awards a number of times, Padmashree, Gold Disc from the Gramophone Company of India, and finally Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 1977 – Kanan Devi couldn’t have asked for more. Yet her life was one of pain and inner-conflict about her legitimacy and acceptance in the ‘respectable’ Bengali society. Those were the days when cultured ladies from ‘good’ families did not join the film profession. She herself was from the fringes of society. But a time came when at an award function the Governor stood up to greet her. She was now a respected cultural icon of Bengal. Her greatest achievement was earning respectability for women in the film industry.

Her early life is shrouded in mystery. Born on 22 April 1916, she lost her adoptive father Ratanchandra Das when she was ten. After his untimely death, Kanan Devi and her ‘mother’ Rajobala were left to fend for themselves. Who groomed her in her early days would not probably be known. As per names of Ascharyamoyee Das and one Bholada are mentioned as her earliest mentors. She was brought to films by Tulsi Banerjee, her first film being Jyotish Banerjee’s silent film Joydeb (1926) as a child artiste, followed by Shankaracharya (1927).

This site further says that Hiren Bose can be perhaps credited as her first trainer. After shifting between HMV, Columbia and Megaphone, she was finally given shelter at Megaphone by JN Ghosh, the only person in the film and the music world whom she called Baba. She was given a separate room for living and singing and maestros like Kazi Najrul Islam, Gyan Datta and Binod Bihari Ganguly became her regular trainers. Music lessons apart, JN Ghosh engaged one Mrs. Gabbey to teach her English.

In the very first year of talkies, 1931, she got lead roles in Shishir Prem and Jore Barat, and a star was born. She entered New Theatres with the bilingual Mukti (1937). This was followed by several landmark films such as Vidyapati (1937), Street Singer (1938), Jawani Ki Reet, Sapera (1939), Haar Jeet (1940) and Lagan (1941). After leaving the New Theatres, she figured in several films which became superhits on the strength of her acting and singing, such as Jawab (1942) and Hospital (1943). She acted in 65-70 56 Hindi/Bengali films (per N Venkataraman), and sang about 90 songs in Hindi films.

Her marriage in a respectable family to Ashok Moitra created uproar in the elite society and finally it broke up. His second marriage, too, with Haridas Bhattachrya was none too successful. Her inner conflict at the ‘noble’ class’s prejudices is poignantly brought out in this interview. Her name would forever go down in history as the first lady who sang Rabindrasangeet in films. Yet, when a signed portrait of Gurudeb was presented to her, the uproar was as if he had been defiled by his portrait adorning Kanan Devi’s house. When Gurudeb blessed her at a function she describes her feeling of purging of guilt and redemption in these words, “Witnessing the affectionate glance of the poet and sensing his divine touch I felt as if I was bathing in the ocean of light. After this, I had had no sign of pain in my heart. I felt, Tagore was the sky – so high, that no cloud of narrow-mindedness could reach him. Since then whenever I sang a Rabindra-Sangeet, I felt – I felt as if He was my listener.

She quit films in 1959 but continued to be associated with the film industry with Mahila Shilpi Mandal, an NGO she formed to help actresses out of work. She passed away on 17 July 1992 at Calcutta.

The name Kanan Devi conjures up two images in my mind: An innocent beauty, and a purest sweet voice. The Vintage Era female singers of Bombay were known for their full-throated, theatrical, courtesan style singing. Kanan Devi’s voice was as sweet as her as name. There was none other than her in her generation who could be called a Swar Kokila. I pay my tribute to one of my greatest favourite actors-singers on her birth centenary with a selection of my favourite songs.

1. Ami bono phool go from Sesh Uttar (Bengali, 1942), Nazrul Geeti, music Kamal Dasgupta

We greeted the New Year with birds, courtesy Shalan Lal. Here is Kanan Devi, a flower from the wild, spreading joy all around. The fairies of the sky come to play with her, the birds sing when they see her, the bee is amazed by her and asks her what is her name. At nights she talks to the moon, and spends hours staring at him, and time passes by without anyone knowing it. Let us go to this fairy land with the Kokil Kanthi Kanan Devi. I start my centenary tribute to her with this absolutely mesmerizing song from Sesh Uttar which is the Bengali version of Jawab made in the same year.  Kamal Dasgupta achieved greater fame as composer of the famous geets and ghazals of Jagmohan and Talat Mahmood. He married the singer Firoza Begum, converted to Islam adopting the name Kamal Ali and settled in Bangladesh.

2. Tum manmohan tum sakhiyan sang from Haar Jeet (1940), music RC Boral

You don’t get a song any sweeter than this. This is quintessential New Theatres with the Master RC Boral composing for the Swar Kokila.

Tum manmohan tum sakhiyan sang

3. Zara nainon se naina milaye jao re from Hospital (1943), lyrics Pt Bhushan, music Kamal Dasgupta

This is the closest Kanan Devi gets to the familiar vintage female singing style. Probably a mujra song, it was enormously popular on the radio which became kind of her signature song for most of us.

4. Prabhuji prabhuji tum raakho laaj hamari from Hospital

But this one from the same film is more in her sweet, soft and mellifluous style.

5. More angana mein aye aali from Vidyapati (1937), lyrics Kidar Sharma, music RC Boral

Vidyapati was a showcase of Kanan Devi’s pristine beauty, innocence and wonderful singing. When it was telecast on Doordarshan long back, even poor quality video did not come in the way of my falling absolutely in love with the film, Kanan Devi and KC Dey.

6. Dole hriday ki naiya from Vidyapati

It is difficult to resist another beautiful song from Vidyapati. I don’t remember the scene now, but you can imagine a beautiful lady swinging on a swing by the poolside by herself.

7. Sanwariya prem ki bansi sunaye from Street Singer (1938), lyrics Arzoo Lakhanavi, music RC Boral

Street Singer was the first of the two films in which she acted with KL Saigal. This film was far ahead of its times, Rangeela (1995) was loosely based on this film. It had the iconic Babul mora naihar chhutal jaye. A ‘musical’ throughout it had a good number of Kanan Devi’s full songs and songlets.

8. Sanwariya man bhaya from Mukti (1937), music Pankaj Mullick

In her first film for the New Theatres, she gives a soft, melodious song – a style which would become her identity.

9. Loot liyo mandheer from Jawani Ki Reet (1939), lyrics Arzoo Lakhanavi, music RC Boral

She shows diversity in this song which also became quite popular.

10. Madbhari madbhari matwari from Lagan (1941), lyrics Arzoo Lakhanavi, music RC Boral

Before parting with the New Theatres, she gives an outstanding song in her second and last film with KL Saigal. Saigal fans would know this film also had his Kaahe ko raar machayi.

11. Lachhmi moorat daras dikhaye from Street Singer (1938), lyrics Arzoo Lakhanavi, music RC Boral

Since I have posted two songs from Vidyapati, I felt compelled to post another from Street Singer. These two films had cast a spell on me.

12. Ae chaand chhup na jana from Jawab (1942), lyrics Pt Madhur, music Kamal Dasgupta

Toofan Mail ye duniyaToofan Mail from this film has acquired an iconic status as a train song. Since everyone knows that song, I end my tribute with a comparatively less known song from the film, but which has all the charm of Kanan Devi.

{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Shekhar April 22, 2016 at 10:50 am

May I mention my favourite of the Swar Kokila, please? It is “Meri majboorion ne mera Daaman chaak kar daala” from Hospital (1943) which is on YouTube at

2 AK April 22, 2016 at 3:20 pm

This is a beautiful song. Thanks for mentioning it.

3 N Venkataraman April 22, 2016 at 4:34 pm

Kanan Devi belonged to a generation that was much before my time, although I came to hear her songs from childhood. The mesmerizing quality of her voice continues to haunt me even now. I share your passion for the vintage singers, especially Kanan Devi and K L Saigal. A timely post and a great tribute to the first super star (actress-singer) of Indian Films. I join you in paying my tributes to the legendary star.
It was a pleasure to listen to the selection of songs posted by you and I was not surprised to find three songs Ami bonophool go, Zara nainon se naina milaye jao re, More anganaa mein aye aali here, since these three are among your favourites . You have mentioned this in one of your earlier posts. The last two songs (11 and 12) are among my favourites particularly the song Lachhmi moorat daras dikhaye.
Let me add a song from one of her early films.

Reh Reh Uthhati Tees, film Maa (1936), lyrics B N Gupta, music S P Rane

4 AK April 22, 2016 at 5:26 pm

Thanks for adding the song from Ma. It seems she matured post-1937.

I don’t remember if I mentioned Ami bonophoo etc on SoY. I do remember I posted it and some other songs on Richard’s blog. But, wherever, you are indeed a Kanan Devi fan.

5 Ashwin Bhandarkar April 22, 2016 at 8:47 pm

Besides ‘Loot liyo man dheer’, ‘Toofan Mail’ is the other song that comes immediately to my mind when mention is made of Kanan Devi.

My Google search for the Hindi version resulted in my discovering the Bangla version:

6 Ashwin Bhandarkar April 22, 2016 at 8:49 pm

Just saw your comment on Toofan Mail, AK ….

7 N Venkataraman April 22, 2016 at 9:15 pm

Very true, indeed I am a Kanan Devi fan and I sincerely respect her. A great human being, she attained great eminence by sheer hard work, steel resolve and strong character. I had the opportunity to meet her twice in late 80s. Long back she had moved away from her residence at Kabir Road, which was very near from my place. She did not stay here for long. Even today that house is referred to as Kanan Devi’s house. I often pass this house on my way to weekend ‘adda’ sessions. This was the first house she owned in Calcutta. She had to face a lot of hardship during the making of this house and had to undergo financial difficulties midway.
Soon she left New Theatres and after remaining jobless for some time, she signed a contract with M P Productions for the double version film Shesh Uttar/Jawab directed by Pramatesh Barua. She was offered Rs 25000/- which mitigated her financial problems and she was able to complete the construction of her house at Kabir Road. That was sometime in 1940-41. Most probably she was staying at this place during the tumultuous period after her first marriage.

Given an opportunity I would love to share some more anecdotes that I have read from her autobiography, written in Bengali, ‘Sabare Aami Nami’.

8 arvindersharma April 23, 2016 at 1:06 am

AK Ji,
Another excellent post as a tribute to the lady, who shined amongst the galaxy of bright stars of New Theaters. I am not very well versed with her singing career, but nevertheless have great respect for her, both as a singer and a person.
I happened to hear one of her songs from Lagan, a few days ago, and was mesmerized by her singing.
I recall someone commenting about the Andaz song as the earliest piano song in Hindi films.

Here’s one by Kanan Devi from Lagan, composed by RC Boral.

Will be back after going through this post

9 gaddeswarup April 23, 2016 at 5:39 am

Some of the Bengali versions seem to be better preserved and also have subtitles. I will link to one which I found in Richard Singer’s blog

10 AK April 23, 2016 at 7:32 am

Bengali version of Toofan Mail is very nice. Not all songs in the two versions were identical. But why has the uploader mentioned the name of the Hindi film?

11 AK April 23, 2016 at 7:34 am

Thanks for the anecdotes. Looking forward to some more, especially your personal experiences.

12 AK April 23, 2016 at 7:43 am

Arvinder Sharmaji,
Thanks a lot for your appreciation. The video quality of Tum bin kal na aave is too good. Kanan Devi does sit at the piano for a while, though not for the entire song. There may be even earlier piano songs. Since most of the early films are lost, it is not prudent to make such claims of the ‘earliest’. I have also seen claims of Naushad being the first to use classical or UP folk, which is clearly off the mark.

13 AK April 23, 2016 at 7:56 am

Thanks for sharing the link of Shesh Uttar. The video is indeed better than the Hindi version available on the YT.

14 Dinesh K Jain April 23, 2016 at 10:03 am

Thanks, AK, for now introducing Kanan Devi to me, just as you have many other sweet flowers of yore unknown to me hitherto. I had only heard her name, and knew that she was a star of yesteryear, but I have come to know her, a little, only now through your blog. And an excellently researched and crafted your article is. Kudos again to you.

We two are contemporaries in almost every sense, but it is truly amazing how you know, understand and appreciate so much more from years well before you and I descended on earth. I am indeed glad that I did join your website and learn so much besides discovering some gems of old Bollywood music.

Kanan’s only song that I was aware of till now was Toofan mail, that too only because of Lata’s tribute to her. It is a captivating song, besides several others.

15 gaddeswarup April 23, 2016 at 11:34 am

AKJi, I too would like to know about some of the stars of yesteryears like Shanta Apte, Snehaprabha Pradhan. Enakshi Rama Rao (Bhavnani)…Shanta Apteis of course well-known but much of the writings about her seem to be in Marathi. Snehaprabha probably is not so well-known now but there seem to be some parallels with Kanan Devi’s life. She seems to have come from a family of social workers, fairly successful for some time (Dev Anand’s dream girl), then faded but spent several of her later years in social work like Kanan Devi. Enakshi is from earlier times was a dancer, actress, writer,… but I do not think that she was a singer. Her husband Mohan Bhavnani was also a very talented person.

16 ksbhatia April 23, 2016 at 12:40 pm

AK ji ;
Thanks for introducing to us one of the most talented singer/ actress of her times . Like many others I too knew Kanan Devi thru her magical rendered song …..toofan mail yeh duniya… .

Now listening to the uploaded songs and enjoying her crystal clear , crisp, sharp and melodious songs and will come back again .

17 N Venkataraman April 23, 2016 at 12:42 pm

I do not have much to share from my personal experiences. The first time I met her was at Sukhendu Goswami’s place. My father was his disciple for few years. That must be during early 80’s. I could not interact with her and I knew very little about her then. The second time I met her was during late eighties, when I accompanied Shantiranjan Banerjee, a disciple of Sukhendu Goswami and Subinoy Roy, to a place near Bansdroni Fire Brigade at South Calcutta. She was there for about 15 minutes or so. By this time I had read her autobiography. I asked her about her classical guru Ustad Allahraka. She confirmed that whatever she had said in her autobiography about Ustad Allahraka was correct. Although the two meetings were short, I still consider myself very fortunate to have met her and pay my obeisance.

18 Richard S. April 23, 2016 at 1:32 pm

AK, very nice post and a beautiful collection of songs. Of course, I am a Kanan Devi fan, too.

Swarup, thanks for mentioning that I linked to Shesh Uttar. I also wrote a post about Mukti, which I enjoyed more. I wanted to provide a link here to a search that would bring in all the parts at once, but for some reason, it took a few tries, using different key words (maybe because of Angel’s strange labeling?). Anyway, the link below should work. (The parts are out of order, but I think they’re all there… And then there are other treats below this film.)

19 AK April 23, 2016 at 2:45 pm

Thanks a lot for your appreciation. I am happy that I am instrumental in introducing the vintage singers to my friends and contemporaries who for some reason did not warm up to that sound. My own discovery is through the public broadcasting – radio first, later DD had a wonderful 4-part programme called ‘Gata Jaaye Banjara’. This was anchored by Poonam Dhillon (I think made by Siddharth Kak). Once the sound captivated me, one thing led to another. Another major source of discovery was

20 AK April 23, 2016 at 3:05 pm

Your have a fairly deep knowledge of these stars. Surprisingly, my recollection of radio era is that these Marathi singers hardly figured. My introduction to them came much later through DD’s ‘Gata Jaaye Banjara’ and later HMV’s 3 volumes, each of 4 CDs. Therefore, I do not relate to them as much as I do to Kanan Devi or Khursheed or Amirbai etc.

Snehprabha Pradhan’s one dance song which is absolutely mesmerising is Naacho naacho pyare man ke mor from Punarmilan (1940). I understand she married Kishore Sahu. The image of Shanta Apte I have is of a rebel and a bold person who would not hesitate to give it to men as good as she got.

21 AK April 23, 2016 at 3:06 pm

KS Bhatiaji,
I am happy you enjoyed the post.

22 AK April 23, 2016 at 3:11 pm

Thanks for your appreciation and the link. Your name figured in the comments section. There are some more who cannot be discussed without your name popping up – I am thinking of Noorjehan, Padmini, Azurie, Cuckoo etc.

23 AK April 23, 2016 at 3:13 pm

You are lucky. This Alla Rakha, I believe, is not the tabla wizard.

24 N Venkataraman April 23, 2016 at 7:48 pm

Kanan Devi’s teacher Ustad Allahraka and the great table maestro Ustad Allahraka were different persons. Your poser was actually a prodder. Thank you.

As per Kanan Devi, Allahraka was a Ustad from Lucknow. Kanan Devi repeatedly refers to Ustad Allahraka with great reverence. He used to train her with utmost care. It was during her Madan Theatre days, prior to 1932. He taught her voice training, Palta Sargams and other basic nuances of Hindusthani classical music, which stood good in her future professional life. She learnt Yaman, Purvi, Bhairav, Bihag and many more Raags from him. She used to practice for two hours every day. Kanan Devi says, Ustadji had foreseen in her a great career in classical music and wanted her to do more Riaz, but her busy schedule did not give her the scope. Frustrated, Ustadji bid farewell with the parting comment that you do not realize what you are forsaking, one day you will regret, Kanan Devi adds remorsefully.

Kanandevi had to face a lot of hardship, exploitation and humiliation in her life. Certain incidences and the influence of some exceptional characters in early life had a long lasting impact in her life and helped her to develop a steel resolve to faceand overcome all adversities and succeed in her profession and personal life. Bholada was one such person and a few words about him will not be inappropriate here.

Kanan Devi in her biography remembers Bhola da with great respect. This was during her early turbulent days. This unfortunate middle-aged gentleman, named Bholada had lost his wife and two children within a period of three days.He used to reside alone near Kanan Devi’s house. Every day during sunset, he would bring out his broken harmonium and sing heart-rending melodies one after another – Bhajans, RabindraSangeet, Atulprasad’s songs, Bangla Kirtan, Bhatiyali etc. In Kanan Devi’s words, an ordinary person in day-to-day life, he was an extraordinary and gifted singer, who sang for himself.Whenever she was free, Kanan Devi used to visit him and earned his blessings and love. She learnt a few songs from him. But that short experience left a long lasting impact on her. She learnt from him how to face the ups and downs in life. Whenever somebody sympathized him, Bholada used to say ‘to lament is to defy almighty’s wishes; I consider almighty’s decision as supreme and final.’ Kanan Devi rues that one fine day he left the place without telling anybody.

25 AK April 23, 2016 at 9:42 pm

I wish I had thought about you to write this post. Thanks a lot for so much interesting information.

26 mumbaikar8 April 24, 2016 at 10:33 am

Thanks for introducing me to Kanan Bala I did not know.
Song # 1 Ami bono phool go is absolutely mesmerizing. I am completely bowled by her singing, beauty and grace. Ay chand chup na jana is my other favourite.
Thanks once again.
I want to thank Venkataramanji as well for added information.
I am lured into reading her biography.
(Only if I can gather enough patience)

27 AK April 24, 2016 at 2:45 pm

You are welcome. I am happy you enjoyed the post.

28 Shalan Lal April 24, 2016 at 5:48 pm

The Head Teacher in one of the school I attended in my childhood was called “Kananbala” because he had hair growing out of his ears.

From being silly to solicitous “Kanan made Hindi and Bengali films sweet as singings of the birds in the dawn chorus.
Her “Toofan Mail” is sweeter than the chirping of the Koyal bird!

The article is apt in time and well written.


29 AK April 24, 2016 at 7:15 pm

Shalan Lal,
‘Kananbala’ is a nice one. Another silly one could be ‘bala’ for earrings. But, seriously, to my mind, ‘Toofan Mail’ is overpowered by the train effect. ‘Ae chaand chhup na jana’ brings out her sweetness more.

Thanks for your appreciation.

30 N Venkataraman April 24, 2016 at 7:42 pm

Kanan Devi was the ‘Ganda Bandh’ disciple of Pt. Bhismadev Chattopadhyay. Kanan Devi in her biography states that during her Megaphone days she became the disciple of Pt. Bhismadev Chattopadhyay. He was an introvert person. When in mood he used produce various taans, toras , vistars and the training session used to be long. She had many songs recorded under his guidance. I could not locate any of those songs. Here I am presenting another song (most probably a NFS). Lovely singing.
Bholi Bhali Banki Sundar Panharin…

31 Ashok M Vaishnav April 25, 2016 at 7:52 am

My initiation to Kanan Devi and other vintage era singers happened when we entered college. Elder brother of our friend had bought a record player and he would records of these singers on the recommendation of their parents. When we would go to listen to the records of 1950s songs, we would take a ‘course’ in listening to these singers too to earn a plate of refreshments from my friend’s mother.

Today’s post has taken me to those days of plateful tasty snacks and listening to at least one record – we would choose to listen an EP to restrict our training to (just) four songs .

32 AK April 25, 2016 at 3:42 pm

This is a wonderful song. Kanan Devi singing UP folk (kajri?) in a heavy Bengali accent! But, later there is a heavy aalap. Thanks for adding it.

33 Dinesh K Jain April 25, 2016 at 4:02 pm

AK, What about Juthika Roy sometime down the line? We know even less about her.

34 Shalan Lal April 25, 2016 at 5:20 pm

AK 29

I agree your comment. Kanan Devi or Kananbala was an iconic singer of forties and our family had her most of the songs. Her voice is divine. Toofanmail song got high publicity tho as you said dominated by rails effect but they toowere iconic and later songs of naushad of horse trots and other railway songs were done in the image of Toofan Mail. Even the sound effects were domanting kanan kept her voice even and powerful.

Besides the the “Ae Chand Chhup na Jaana which was also iconic Iremeber and enjoy the following songs of her when they are played on the Radio here

Kuchh Yaad Rahe To Sunata Ja Jawab 1942
Door Desh Ka Rahenawala ditto
Prabhuji Tum Rakha Laaj Hamari Hospital
Piaya Milan Ko Jaat Huu Vidyapati 1937


35 AK April 25, 2016 at 5:22 pm

Juthika Roy featured in SoY’s 4th anniversary post.

36 N Venkataraman April 25, 2016 at 8:18 pm

I am glad that you liked the song Bholi Bhali Banki Sundar Panhari. I am not sure whether the song is a Kajri, knowledgeable readers may confirm.
You have mentioned that Kanan Devi acted in about 65-70 Hindi/Bengali films, and sang about 90 songs in Hindi films. As far as the number of Hindi film songs she sang, I would, more or less, go with your figure. But the total number of films in which she acted is 56. Even if I have missed a few films (the chances are remote), it will not exceed 60. This includes the seven (Bengali) films she produced. Besides the seven films, she produced four more Bengali films, in which she did not act.
I will try to give here the break up soon.

BTW the two films she got the lead roles in 1931 were Jore Barat and Rishir Prem/Hrishir Prem and not Shishir Prem.

Out of the seven Hindi films she acted under the New Theatres banner, songs from 6 films have appeared here. I am posting a song from Sapera (1939), lyrics Kidar Sharma, music R C Boral
Man Mere Aandhi Ban Ja Jal Barsa
And one more
Mai Sharmayi Kyu Sharmayi , film Rajlakshmi (1945), lyrics Suresh Chaudhari, music Robin Chatterjee and Dhiren Ghosh

37 AK April 25, 2016 at 11:04 pm

Thanks for the two songs you have added. As for her number of films, I have taken it from Anil Bhargav’s ‘Swaron ki Yatra’. But, at times they are off. I would trust your figures more. I would make the correction once you confirm.

38 Gaddeswarup April 26, 2016 at 7:38 am

Apparently this new biography covers some areas not discussed in Kanan Devi’s autobiography but the kindle edition is not available in Australia. A few pages here

39 D P Rangan April 26, 2016 at 5:26 pm

You are indeed a painstaking genius. I know how much you would have toiled to put together such precious material from very scant resosurces. As a nation we are very poor in matters of history and do not maintain heritage material. Today I heard that 5 floors of National Museum got burnt.
Here is a song of Kanan Devi and unidentified male from the film Kamla Jaria. Very nice duet. Trawled through but could not get any you tube link. I created a link myself just now and it is posted below:

40 Shekhar April 26, 2016 at 9:04 pm

D P Ranganji (39),

Kindly check the details of the song “Preet Sikhaane Waale Gaale”. She doesn’t sound like Kanan Bala to me. Also, there doesn’t seem to any film by name “Kamla Jaria”.

It is a duet by Kum. Jharna and Binoy Kumar under the baton of Zafar Khursheed according to one Internet source .

41 N Venkataraman April 26, 2016 at 10:26 pm

As far as I know, this song was not rendered by Kanan Devi.

Kamal Jharia was a singer. Her actual name was Kamala Singha/ Sinha. If I am not mistaken she belonged to the Jharia royal family. At a very young age she was taken to Calcutta and recorded four songs. After recording the songs she left for Jharia. Since the record company personnel did not know her actual title and they put her name in the label as Kamala Jharia. Since then she was known as Kamal Jharia. Another favourite singer of mine from the vintage era, I would love do a post on her sometime.

42 N Venkataraman April 26, 2016 at 10:34 pm

Kanan Devi acted in 2 silent films, 36 Bengali Films and 18 Hindi films, 56 in all.

Her two silent films, were Jaydev (1926) and Shankaracharya (1927), both under the Madan Theatres’ banner. She acted in four more Bengali films under the Madan Theatres’ banner, all talkies, in 1931-32. Jore Barat and Hrishir Prem, in both the films she played the leading female role, Prahlad in which she played the role of Narad and in the film Bishnumaya she enacted the role of Sri Krishna and Narayan.

In December 1932 she joined the Radha Film Co. Thereafter, between 1933 and 1934 she did three films (Bengali) – Sri Gouranga, Hari Bhakti and Maa. Both Maa and Sri Gouranga fetched her fame and recognition. Manmoyee Girls School (1935), released in May 1935, ran for 10 consecutive weeks at Rupabani Theatre, for another six weeks at Cornwallis Theatre and then for some more weeks at Purna Theatre. This was her first box office hit film. In 1936 she had three more releases under the Radha Film Co. banner- Krishna Sudama, Kanthahaar and Bisbriksha. Incidentally she received the best actress award for her performance in Bisbiriksha. Her first Hindi film was under this banner, Khooni Kaun, which was the Hindi version of Bisbriksha, which was based on Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay’s novel. She also acted in the Hindi version of the film Maa. Her last film with the Radha films was Chaar Darbesh. Thus she acted in 8 Bengali films and 2 Hindi films under the Radha Film Co.

Under the Keshab films’ banner she acted in Basabdutta in 1935.

Before joining the New Theatres in 1936, she had acted in 2 silent films, 2 Hindi Films and 13 Bengali Films. Between 1937 and 1941 she acted in 7 double version films under this banner, in all 14 films. Mukti( B & H), Vidyapati (B & H), Saathi (B), Street Singer (H), Sapure (B), Sapera (H), Parajay (B), Jawani ki Raat (H), Abhinetri (B), Haar Jeet (H), Parichay (B) and Lagan (H). She won the inaugural BFJA best actress award for her role in Parichay.

After leaving New Theatres she joined M P Productions in 1942. She acted in 2 double version films and one Bengali film under this banner, in all 5 films. Sesh Uttar (B), Jawaab (H), Jogajog (B), Hospital (H) and Bideshini (B). She received BFJA for the second time for her role in Shesh Uttar.

Between 1945and 1949 she acted 13 films, 7 Hindi films and 6 Bengali films under different banners. Most probably three of them were double version films. Path Bendhe Dilo (B) and Rajlakshmi (H), Tumi aar Aami (B) and Tum aur Main (H) and Chandrasekhar (B & H) were double version films. Her other films being Anuradha (B), Bankalekha (B), Anirbaan (B), Banphool (H), Krishnaleela (H), Arabian Nights (H) and Faisala (H). For her role in Krishnaleela, the producer from Bombay, Lakshmidas Anand offered her Rs.1 lakh which was unheard of in Bengal film industry in those days (1945-46).

In 1949, Kanan Devi set up her own production unit, Srimati Pictures. In all she produced 11 Bengali films, out of which she acted in 7 films. Ananya (1949), Mejhdidi(1950), Darpachurna (1952), Nababidhan (1954), Debatra (1955), Aasha (1956), and Annadadidi Srikanta Indranath (1959) were the films in which she acted. The other four films were Bamuner Mei (1949), Aandhare Aalo (1957), Rajlakshmi o Srikanta (1958), Abhaya o Srikanta (1965).

That was quite a head-spinning statistics. So let us listen to a couple of songs.
Koi hamien bata de, film Banphool (1945), lyrics Pt. Madhur, music Dhiren Mitra

Koi Chaley Ey Kaanton Pe, Arabian Nights (1946), lyrics Faiyaz Hashmi, music Kamal Dasgupta

43 gaddeswarup April 27, 2016 at 5:48 am
I may have missed the discussion on this duet. Who is the male singer?

44 D P Rangan April 27, 2016 at 8:14 am

@40 and 41

Sorry for the goof up. I downloaded Kanandevi songs from more than ten years ago and hence this error. I do not know how to correct this. I have imprinted the title on the video itself and it cannot be erased. I think I should withdraw the you tube posting and carry out correction. Thanks for the vigilance of the blog followers. If any other song of this lady is not available in you tube, please tell me. I can compile a video and post it immediately. I have three pictures of Kanan Devi which can be put to use.

Had an operation for hernia a week back and came home yesterday only. Saw the new blog and immediately responded with this blunder. Once again I apologist to the community.

45 AK April 27, 2016 at 10:47 am

This is massive information. Thanks a lot. As per your information, I have corrected the figure of her films to 56.

Thanks a lot for the book extract. It is very useful.
Apropos your comment #43, I guess the male voice could be Asit Baran. I had known Tu haan kar ja ya na kar ja only as a Kanan Devi solo. Thanks for the clip. It is beautiful.

46 KB May 24, 2016 at 8:39 am


A wonderful post!

May I add “Dil mein mere aake” by Kanan Devi, a very soulful bhajan composed by Kamal Dasgupta.

47 AK May 26, 2016 at 3:07 pm

Dear readers,
Mekhala Sengupta has contacted me to inform that she has written a biography of Kanan Devi titled Kanan Devi: The First Superstar of Indian Cinema, published in November 2015 by HarperCollins Publishers India.

The book details are as under:

She has also given me her contact details from which I presume she would welcome any queries and contacts.

Mekhala Sengupta
135 Pocket 40 CR Park
New Delhi 110019
8130 120333

48 Kunwarani Snehalata Kumari Devi April 6, 2017 at 11:22 am

No kamla JHARIA did not belong to the JHARIA Royal Family..She sang on the darbar of JHARIA Raja Durga Prasad Singh..She belonged to JHARIA that’s the reason she kept her name Kamla JHARIA…

49 AK April 6, 2017 at 12:03 pm

Kunwarani Snehlata Kumar,
Welcome to SoY and thanks a lot for the clarification.

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