Remembering Phani Majumdar, a pioneering director of Indian cinema, on his 24th death anniversary today.

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Phani Majumdar was an innovative film director born in Faridpur, now in Bangladesh, on 28th December, 1911. He graduated from Carmichael College in 1930 and his first job was that of a typist. His first opportunity in cinema was with P.C. Barua, the most renowned director of his time, in 1930s. Here, he first worked as a stenographer and later as assistant director and scenarist for Mukti (1937). He then worked at the New Theatres Studio of Calcutta, which was founded by B.N. Sircar.

Majumdar made his first movie as a director with K. L. Saigal — Street singer (1938), produced by New Theatres. He then moved to Bombay in 1941 to work with Bombay Talkies Studio. He made Tamanna (1942) with Suraiya, Mohabbat (1943) with Shanta Apte and Andolan (1951). It is said that Andolan was made to promote Congress Party.

In the late 1950s, he made two films in Malay language — Hang Tuah (1956) and Doktor (1958). In 1960s, he made make films in other Indian languages like Punjabi, Magadhi and Maithili.
He also made Hindi films like Kanyadaan, Akashdeep, Kaajal in 1965. But he was the most appreciated for Oonche Log (1965), which is said to have done wonders for actor Feroz Khan’s career.

He also made several documentaries and children’s short films like Saral Biswas (based on Tagore’s poem) (1960), Veer Purush (1960) and TV series like Bulbul and 52-episode Our India (1993).

He also worked on television on a 78-part religious epic The Ramayana in the 1980s. The masses loved his work on television and his fans list kept increasing.

He was married to Monica Desai, sister of actress, Leela Desai.

Phani Majumdar died on May 16, 1994.

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