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Meet actress who performed India's first, longest kissing scene; ran away with co-star, husband had to pay her to...

Meet actress who performed Bollywood's first kissing scene back in 1933 and later became infamous for eloping with her co-star

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Devika Rani in one of her films from the 1930s (Image: Twitter)
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Kissing scenes in Hindi cinema may seem a new development but in reality, on screen kisses in India have been around since the era of talkies began. While there was a time period in Bollywood when public display of affection on screen was frowned upon, in the 30s and 40s, on-screen kisses were all too common. In fact, the first on-screen kiss in Indian cinema was also the longest kiss scene in the industry. And the actress performing it was India’s first female superstar and a powerful filmmaker no less. On Kiss Day 2024, we take a look at Indian cinema’s first kiss.

The actress who performed Bollywood’s first kissing scene

In 1933, filmmaker and actor Himanshu Rai made a film called Karma. Rai, who had just returned from London, starred himself in the lead role and cast his wife – Devika Rani – as the heroine. This marked their debuts in Indian cinema. The film featured a kissing scene between husband and wife which went on for four minutes. Till date, this remains the record for the kissing scene of the longest duration in Indian cinema. That scene was easily the first such in Indian cinema and one of the earliest such worldwide as well.

Devika Rani’s scandal and elopement

By the mid-1930s, Devika Rani had become the numero uno actress in India and a powerful figure courtesy her influence in her husband’s productions. However, in 1936, Devika fell for her co-star Najm-ul-Hassan, while they were filming Jeevan Naiya, a film produced by Rai’s Bombay Talkies. The two actors eloped leaving the film stalled. Angered and frustrated by the turn of events, Himanshu Rai sent his sound engineer Sashadhar Mukherjee, who had a brotherly bond with Devika, to try and convince her to return. Mukherjee travelled to Devika and Hassan where the actress said she would only return if Himashu would give them a huge sum of money. Rai agreed to these terms but out of spite, later fired Najm-ul-Hassan, ending his career. Interestingly, the man whom Rai chose to replace his hero was Sashadhar’s brother-in-law Kumudlal Ganguly, who worked in the studio as a lab assistant. The reluctant Kumudlal became a hero and later came to be a superstar, known better by the name of Ashok Kumar.

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