Devika Rani Chaudhuri, usually known as Devika Rani (30 March 1908–9 March 1994), was an actress who was active during the 1930s and 1940s. Widely acknowledged as the first lady of Indian cinema, Devika Rani had a successful film career that spanned 10 years.
Devika Rani’s early years were mostly spent in London where she studied architecture, and started her career as a textile engineer. In 1928, she met Himanshu Rai, an Indian film producer, who persuaded her to join his production crew. She assisted in costumes design and art direction for Rai’s film A Throw of Dice (1929). The two married in 1929, and went to Germany where Devika Rani learned different aspects of film-making in the UFA Studios in Berlin. Rai then cast her in the 1933 talkie Karma in which her performance received critical acclaim. Returning to India, the couple established their production studio Bombay Talkies in 1934. They produced many women-centric films throughout the decade, with Devika Rani portraying lead roles in most of them. Her on-screen pairing with Ashok Kumar became popular in India.
Following Rai’s death in 1940, Devika Rani took over the control of the studio and produced several films. At the peak of her career she retired from films, and in 1945 she married Russian painter Svetoslav Roerich, leading thereafter life of a recluse. Her persona and roles in films were often considered socially unconventional. Her awards include the Padmashri (1958), Dadasaheb Phalke Award (1970) and the Soviet Land Nehru Award (1990).