indian cinema heritage foundation

Radha Rani

  • Spouse: Majnu (actor-director)

Essaying lead as well as supporting roles across Bengali, Oriya and Hindi language cinema from the 1930s up until the 1970s, Radha Rani—also spelt Radharani—is known for films such as Chanakya (1939), Hind Ka Lal (1940) and Kurukshetra (1945). She featured in more than 30 films in the course of her career, working with many Calcutta-based studios including British Dominion Film Company, the renowned New Theatres, Kali Films, and East India Film Company, following which she worked in several Hindi film productions by the Wadia brothers, including stunt and action-adventure genre films like Diamond Queen (1940), Hind Ka Lal, Bambaiwali (1941), and Jungle Princess (1942). She worked in Bengali language films like Jakher Dhan (1939) and Kashinath (1943), as well as Oriya language productions like Kedar Gouri (1954) and Jajabar (1975). She also acted in mythological genre films such as Seeta Bihaha (1936)—the first Oriya language feature film—and Kurukshetra (1945), a Mahabharata retelling in which she essayed Draupadi. She was married to actor-director Majnu.

Among the earliest films she acted in was Alik Babu (1930), a comedy film written by Jyotindra Nath Tagore and directed by Dhirendranath Ganguly. The cast comprised Dinesh Ranjan Das, Kalipada Das, Dhirendranath Ganguly, and Satya Sindhu. This British Dominion Film Company production was also known by the title Master Liar. 

Srikanta (1930), produced by Radha Films, saw her feature in this Tarakumar Bhaduri directorial penned by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, starring Kanti Banerjee as the title character, alongside Tarakumar Bhadhuri, Molina Devi and Shanta Kumari.

Kamanar Aagun/ Flames of Flesh (1930), the drama war romance directed by Dinesh Ranjan Das and Dhirendranath Ganguly, saw her feature amidst a cast comprising Debaki Kumar Bose, Delicia Clarck, Dinesh Ranjan Das and Premlatika Devi, among others. She played a character named Reba in the British Dominion Film company film that was penned by Debaki Kumar Bose.

In 1933, she acted in the Hindi/ Urdu drama fantasy Yahudi Ki Ladki, directed by Premankur Attorthy and produced by New Theatres Limited. Written by Aga Hashr Kashmiri and Wajahat Mirza, it starred K L Saigal, Pahadi Sanyal and Rattan Bai. The story revolved around the rivalry and revenge between the Jewish merchant Prince Ezra and the Roman priest Brutus. 

She played a key role in Radha Films’ Manmoyee Girls School (1935), a comedy drama, written by Rabindranath Maitra and directed by Jyotish Bannerjee. The plot revolved around a zamindar, who starts a school named after his wife and recruits a married couple as teachers. The couple, however, only pretends to be married in order to get the job, a fact that leads to complications. 

Seeta Bibaha (1936) saw her cast as Seeta’s friend in this Kali Films’ production that marked Oriya language cinema’s first feature film. A Ramayana mythological retelling of Rama's wedding to Seeta, it showed Rama and Lakshmana coming to the court of King Janaki. Rama must not only lift a huge bow, but also string it and use it if he is to win Seeta's hand in marriage. Rama strings and breaks the bow with his strength. Directed by Mohan Sunder Dev Goswami and written by Kampal Misra and Advartacharan Mohanty, the star cast comprised Makhanlal Bannerjee, Mohan Sunder, Dev Goswami, Krishnachandra Singh, and Prabhavati.

In the East India Film Company’s Bengali language film Jakher Dhan (1939), a thriller, she was part of the cast including Chhayadevi, Ahindra Choudhury, Jahar Ganguly, and Mrinalkanti Ghosh, among others. Directed by Haricharan Bhanja, and written by Haricharan Bhanja and Hemendrakumar Roy, the film’s plot was based on an adventure story written for children. For the screen, several changes were made in the story and female characters were included that were not originally present in the story.

The same year, she featured in Wadia Brothers’ Hindi language production Kahan Hai Manzil Teri (1939), directed by S M Yusuf, and starring Agha, Sayani Atish, and Ila Devi. She would go on to work extensively with Wadia Brothers, playing a character named Radha in the Fearless Nadia-starrer Diamond Queen (1940), Wadia Movietone’s Hind Ka Lal (1940) in which she played the female lead Kamla Kumari opposite Sardar Mansur, Bambaiwali (1941), and Jungle Princess (1942) in which she starred as Meena alongside Fearless Nadia.

In 1943, she played a kirtan singer in New Theatres’ Bengali film Kashinath directed by Nitin Bose, and Draupadi in the Mahabharata inspired Unity Productions’ Hindi film Kurukshetra (1945) directed by R Sharma. Other key films she acted in include the Oriya language Kedar Gouri (1954) directed by Nitai Palit, the Trimurty-directed Oriya drama film Jajabar (1975), and Chilika Teerey (1977), an Oriya film directed by Biplab Roy Chowdhury

She was married to actor-director Majnu, known for films like Tatar Ka Chor (1955), Paapi (1943) and Badnami (1946).