Chhaya Devi – one of the greatest actresses to have ever graced the cinema screen. At a time when women were few in acting, this lady dedicated herself wholeheartedly to the art of cinema and music.
Quite less is known of Chhaya Devi about her early life. She was born in 1914. In her early years of marriage, she suffered domestic violence from her husband who was the head master at the Zila School in Ranchi. In an effort to escape the torture and lead a more independent life, she came to Kolkata. She made her debut in Debaki Bose’s Sonar Sansar in 1936.
Chhaya Devi was a woman of steel. Not only did she gain mastery over acting but she also practiced her singing skills. A lone and independent woman, her strong spirit gets reflected in her roles. As a pure and independent personality, she acted in hundreds of films in various languages. She stayed active for over five decades, singing and acting.
A master like no other, here is a humble effort to celebrate her ten best roles. Out of the hundreds of films where each act is perfection, it is truly not possible to say these are only her best. In other words, here are ten roles of Chhaya Devi which we like the most.
Bidyapati is the touching tale of Shiva Singha and his wife Laxmi, the ruling couple of Mithila. Bidyapati is a poet in the king’s court and Queen Laxmi starts to fall for him.
Released in 1937 it was Bidyapati that put Chhaya Devi to the focus. This super hit film was full of stars like Pahadi Sanyal, Kanan Devi, Gurudas Banerjee and Prithviraj Kapoor (in the Hindi version) but it was Chhaya Devi’s role as queen Laxmi that stole the show.
A writer has taken the train to Puri to spend a few days away from Kolkata. On the train, fate acquaints him with four widows (Chhaya Devi, Ruma Guha Thakurta, Renuka Devi, Bharati Devi). They are accompanying their niece (Sharmila Tagore) so that she can spend a few days by the shore and get over her lost love.
An excellent story and film, Nirjan Saikate is a film that stays in one’s memory. Tapan Sinha made an outstanding film out of Samaresh Basu’s story. Equally appreciable was Chhaya Devi as Sejdi.
One of the most memorable films of Bengali cinema, Chhaya Devi played the role of the mother to Hensman Antony (Uttam Kumar). Needless to say, the mother son duo of Chhaya Devi and Uttam Kumar in Bengali films is one of the best on screen.
Saat Pake Bandha
Quite different than the affectionate mother roles to Uttam Kumar, her role in Saat Pake Bandha hits us hard. She is hard, indifferent and heartless in her role as Suchitra Sen’s mother opposing her marriage to Soumitra. Chhaya Devi’s negative role to destroy her daughter’s marriage is one of her most watchable screen performances ever.
Some call Apanjan the zenith of Chhaya Devi’s acting prowess. This 1968 Tapan Sinha film won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film.
Apanjan is the story of Anandamoyee, a widow played by Chhaya Devi. A sad marriage and then a widow without any children, she is left alone when a couple claiming to be relatives take her to Kolkata. She is tricked to be a payless maid. Anandamoyee instead settles in a slum and finds meaning to her life there. She starts to nurture two kids that are left uncared for in the midst of the chaos of the city.
Atal Jwaler Ahaban
This time Chhaya Devi won our hearts as the mother figure to Soumitra Chatterjee in this film. Chhabi Biswas played the role of the father. A beautiful film with memorable songs, Atal Jwaler Ahwan is a must watch. The film was directed by Ajay Kar and was released in 1962.
Podi Pishir Barmi Baksha
Arundhati Devi directed Podi Pishir Barmi Baksha based on Leela Majumdar’s famous story. One of the most entertaining and memorable acts of Chhaya Devi, it is however difficult to find the copy of the film now. Chhaya Devi was the brave, funny and intelligent Podi Pisi, just like herself in real life.