Dadasaheb Phalke indeed struggled to find female actresses to play roles in films as women working in cinema was a taboo but a decade later after Raja Harishchandra, an Indian lady; Fatma Begum wrote history by establishing her own production company, Fatima Films, and made a film Bulbul-E-Parastan (1926). She donned the cap of director, producer, writer and even actress.
The highlight of Bulbul-E-Paristan was that it was a big-budget fantasy film studded with action and spell bounding special effects that took the audience by surprise. As a director, Fatma introduced ‘Trick Photography’ and became famous as the ‘Queen of Fantasy Films’. Some of her hit films are Sita Sardaba (1924), Prithvi Vallabh (1924), Kala Naag (1924), Gul-E- Bakawali (1924) and Mumbai Ni Mohani (1925).
The success of Bulbul-E-Paristan made her popular and she wrote and produced and directed many films Goddess of Love (1927), Heer Ranjha (1928), Chandravali (1928), Shakuntala (1929), Milan Dinar (1929), Kanak Tara (1929) and Goddess of Luck (1929).
She was born in 1892 and gained success at Urdu theatre. Blessed with fair complexion and stunning looks, silent filmmaker Ardeshir Irani selected her for his silent film, Veer Abhimanyu (1922). Since in those men played female role hence cine buffs thronged cinema halls to watch Fatma Begum‘s films. Soon she became a huge star.
She worked 16 good years and contributed significantly as an actor, producer, writer, and director in Indian cinema. Her last film as director was Goddess of Luck, in 1929.
Fatma Begum had a bitter married life. She was married to Nawab Sidi Ibrahim Muhammad Yakut Khan III of Sachin State and had three daughters. But tragically the Nawab discarded her. Instead of committing suicide a brave Fatma, who has had mastery in Urdu literature joined Urdu theatre and made a name for herself.
Like herself, Fatma introduced all her daughters in cinema and fortunately, the trio sisters became superstars of silent cinema viz Zubeida, Sultana, and Shehzadi. Zubeida is also known as the First heroine of India’s first Talkie Alam Ara.
Fatma Begum died in 1983 at the age of 91.