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Biography

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Overview (1)

Died in Calcutta, Bengal, British India  (meningitis)

Mini Bio (1)

The first graduate woman to enter the Bengal stage was Kankabati Sahu, daughter of a landlord Gangadhar Prasad Sahu. She was born in May, 1903 in Muzaffarpur, Bihar. The father was a man of modern outlook and sent his two daughters Kankabati and Chandrabati to Calcutta for education. As a student Kankabati got an opportunity to visit Raindra Nath Tagore at his Jorasanko residence and sang Tagore's Ei Lahinu Sanga Taba before him. This led to her good fortune to get lessons in music and acting from Tagore himself. In her college days Kankabati took part in cultural activities within college campus as a singer and as an actress. After graduation, Kankabati entered the university for her M.A. degree but at the same time expressed her desire to enter the professional stage and her father agreed readily. Accordingly, in 1928, she signed a contract with Art Theatres whereby she would be their exclusive artiste for three years although she would get a salary only after three months of training, Rupees three hundred a month in the first year, then four hundred a month during the second year and finally five hundred a month in the third year of the contract. The announcement of her stage entry in the newspapers and magazines caused a lot of excitement and rumbling because since 1873, when women first entered the professional stage in Bengal, only those from red light areas of Calcutta had taken to acting professionally. However, Kankabati broke her contract unilaterally and joined the group of the legendary Sisir Kumar Bhaduri. A court case was slapped on her and an injunction issued barring her from participating in any professional stage of Calcutta. The matter was settled out of court by theatre lovers and Kankabati was free to act on the stage and in the group of her choice. Mud slinging and juicy articles did not stop at that and acid remarks about the actress who had gained "fame" and name even without appearing once on the stage continued and leading figures of the field showed undue interest and questioned when the debut of the "famous actress" would actually happen. Her educational qualifications led learned persons to remark that they did not believe that a university degree did not mean that she could be a good artiste. Sisir Kumar had to train the newcomer in haste and gave her a singing role, that of Bharatnari in his play Digbijoyi and in the first week of February, 1929 Kankabati first appeared before the public on the stage. There was naturally a tremendous rush at the theatre to witness her performance and Kankabati passed with distinction specially because she received support for her role in the songs, more so for the Tagore songs. Her entry on the stage singing Tagore's Gram Chhara Oi Ranga Matir Path was greeted with great enthusiasm by the audience. In her first play Digbijoyi , Kankabati had renowned stage personalities like Biswanath Bhaduri, Charushila, Jiban Ganguly, Rabi Ray, Harisundari Blackie and above all Sisir Kumar as co-stars. During this time Kankabati became close in personal life to Sisir Kumar Bhaduri and the duo went on to produce one success after another in the forthcoming years. These included Basantaleela and Tagore's Bisarjan where Kankabati played male characters. These were followed with Buddhadeb Charit as Goutami, Alamgir, Bibaha Bibhrat as Bilasini Karfarma, Pally Samaj as Jethaima, Tapati as Bipasha, Shesh Rakhsha, Sree Sree Bishnupriya as Sachimata, Gairik Pataka as Jijabai, Mahaprasthan as Gandhari and Rukmini, Rizia, Nadir Shah, Abhimanini as Bala, Sita in different characters, Chirakumar Sabha as Nirabala, Biraj Bou, Sarama as Mandodori, Dasher Dabi as Sujata, Bijoya in the title role, Reetimata Natak as Swagata, in the title role, Jogajog as Kumudini, to name a few. Sisir Kumar Bhaduri's team got an invitation to perform in the United States and Kankabati along with the entire group left for New York on the 30th of September via Karachi and returned in March 1931. This foreign trip remained somewhat unsuccessful for the troupe but along with Sisir Kumar Bhaduri and Parbhadevi , Kankabati managed to earn critical appreciation. The failure of the foreign trip devastated Sisir Kumar and he became increasingly dependent on alcohol. This affected the stage performances of his wife also and Kankabati was criticized for many of her performances after this trip. Kankabati first appeared on the screen in the silent film Bicharak (1928) based on a story by Tagore in the role of Khiroda. In sound films her most important work were in Palli Samaj (1932) as Jethaima, Seeta (1933) as Seeta and Talkie of Talkies (1937) as Swagata. She had completed about half the shooting for Sisir Kumar Bhaduri's film Chanakya (1939) in the role of Mura, when she suffered from an attack of meningitis and was admitted at the Carmichael Medical College in Calcutta where she breathed her last on 21st June, 1939 leaving behind Sisir Kumar Bhaduri and their two children, a son and a daughter. Her one regret at death bed was that she could not rid her husband Sisir Kumar of alcohol. Her portion in Chanakya (1939) was not scrapped but the remaining part was completed by Rajlakshmi Devi.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Dr. Jyoti Prakash Guha<jyotiprakasguha@rediffmail.com>

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