Lights! Camera!! Action!!! These are the trademark lines a film director before he embarks a film shoot. The ‘Director’ is regarded as the ‘Captain’ of the crew because it is his creative vision that takes that shape of an entertaining film. Though Bollywood is packed with maximum male film directors, the female directors also have their share of credits. Since Indian Film History (IFH) is recognized for making an in-depth study of Indian cinema hence this week IFH enlightens its readers about some of the Top Indian Female Film Directors who gave a new definition to Indian Cinema.
It is true that in the early ’30s when Indian cinema started the ladies were not much educated and many did not enter into the film industry as it had a dubious reputation. However, readers would be rather surprised to know that the First Female Director who directed a Hindi film was Fatma Begum, who had her own film company called Fatma Films. She directed a silent film Bulbul-e-Paristan in 1926. She was not only a director but she was a famous actress, a writer, and a celebrated film producer. Her hit films include The Nightingale of Fairyland, Heer Ranjha, The Goddess of Fate, Shakuntala, etc.
The second most celebrated lady filmmaker of the ’30s was Jaddanbai, better known as the mother of Bollywood’s topmost star Nargis (Mother of today’s popular film star Sanjay Dutt). Jaddanbai was a multifaceted personality as she was a popular actress, singer, music composer and filmmaker. She produced films under her own film company Sangeet Film Company. Some of her hit films as a director are Madam Fashion (1936); Hriday Manthan (1936); Moti Ka Haar (1937) and Jeevan Swapna (1937). It was Jaddanbai, who introduced her daughter Nargis in films as a Child Artist in her own film production Talash-e-Haq (1935).
Just as Jaddanbai introduced her daughter Nargis into films, another top actress of the 30’s Shobhana Samarth introduced her talented daughter Nutan (better known to today’s generation as the ‘Badi Maa’ of Kajol) into films. Shobhana Samarth was a popular mythological film actress. She is best remembered for her immortal role of Sita in Ram Rajya (1943), the only Hindi film that was seen by Mahatma Gandhi.
She directed two films, Hamari Beti (1950) the film that introduced Nutan into Bollywood. The film was a big flop. Hence she did not direct any film for many years. Later when Nutan became a star with hit films like Seema (1955), Paying Guest (1957), Anari (1958) and Sujata (1959), Shobhana Samarth made another film with Nutan, a decade later called Chhabili. The film was a hit. Filmfare remembered Shobhana Samarth in 1997 and honoured her with a Special Filmfare Award for her contribution to Indian Cinema.
Leela Chitnis was the beautiful actress of the ’30s who did hit films like Kangan (1939) and Jhoola (1941) with the top star of the 30’s Ashok Kumar. Later in the 50’s she turned Producer-Director and made a film Aaj Ki Baat (1955) staring Ajit and herself in the lead. The film was a disaster and she opted for character roles. She became the sobbing mother in many films like Dosti, Hum Dono, Dil Hi To Hai, etc.
The above pioneer female directors have motivated girls today to explores even this avenue of film making, besides acting