Durgabai was married to Anand Nanoskar, a history teacher at the JJ School of Arts in Mumbai. Their marriage didn't work out and the two separated in 1903. After they parted ways, she decided to raise her then three-year-old daughter Kamlabai on her own, an incredibly brave decision for the time. However, life after separation wasn't easy for Durgabai. She was desperate to find a job and earn a living to support her daughter. In society then, there was very little a single woman, worse, a single mother, could do - she could become a domestic help, a prostitute or an actress. She chose the supposedly dissolute profession of acting, changing Indian cinema forever.
A time when severe social restrictions were imposed on women in the country. Cinema was about to break into India, theatre was thriving - but it was a space reserved exclusively for men. For women to be a part of theatre and cinema was considered a taboo, the lowest of low professions. Due to this, no woman, from homemakers to prostitutes, wanted to be a part of it. It's around this time, Dadasaheb Phalke, popularly known as the father of Indian cinema, was compelled to cast a male actor Anna Salunke as the heroine in his first (and India's first) film Raja Harishchandra. But, Dadasaheb was not one of those who gave up easily. It was this determination of his that helped him find not one but two female actresses for his second film, Mohini Bhasmasur. He found a single mother Durgabai Kamat and her daughter Kamlabai Gokhale. While Durgabai made history being the first female actress of Indian cinema, her daughter consequently became the first female child actress in the industry. Largely forgotten today, Durgabai's first ever movie role was that of goddess Parvati, the wife of Lord Shiva.
Unfortunately, despite her legacy, very little is known about the artist's early life. From an interview with her daughter, we know that she was reportedly born in 1879 and studied up to the seventh standard - which then was the equivalent of today's 10th standard. Durgabai was married to Anand Nanoskar, a history teacher at the JJ School of Arts in Mumbai. Their marriage didn't work out and the two separated in 1903. After they parted ways, she decided to raise her then three-year-old daughter Kamlabai on her own, an incredibly brave decision for the time. She joined a travelling theatre company, because of which her daughter and she lived a nomadic life. however with its success, female actress were encouraged, thus he introduced Kamat in his 1913 second movie Mohini Bhasmasur as a leading lady Parvati, while her daughter Kamlabai Gokhale (born Kamlabai Kamat), played the role of as Mohini, thus becoming the first female child actress of Indian cinema. After Kamat other actress started working in cinema Interestingly though, Durgabai faced the fiercest threats to her career not from other women, but from men in the profession, not very different from cinema today.