• 1921 film starring Patience restored in Paris lab
    Times of India | 23 November 2022
  • KOLKATA: A 101-year-old film featuring Patience Cooper, India's first Anglo-Indian actress and one of Bollywood's early superstars, has been restored in a Paris lab and will be screened in India next month.

    'Behula', a five-reel film, was produced by Jamshedji Framji Madan, one of the country's first film magnates, after whom a street in Kolkata is named.

    "This is a miraculous find. The film was restored from original material. The fact that so few of our silent films survive makes this historic," said director and film archivist Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, whose Film Heritage Foundation will facilitate the screening of the restored version in Mumbai's Regal Cinema on December 5 as part of the Film Preservation Restoration Workshop.

    Famous for her striking "Hollywood looks", Cooper was one of Kolkata's early gifts to Bollywood. Born in the city in 1905 to a family with Jewish-Iraqi links, she was the best known of the Cooper sisters - Patience, Violet and Pearl - and started out as a stage dancer. Like Ruby Meyers (aka Sulochana), she belonged to the generation of "modern" actresses whose European look and education brought them immense popularity. Cooper starred in over 40 films till 1944 and was the first actress to feature in a double role in Indian cinema - in 'Patni Pratap' (1923) where she played two sisters and 'Kashmiri Sundari' (1924) where she played mother and daughter. It is believed she married Mirza Ahmad Ispahani Saheb, a well-known businessman and migrated to Pakistan in 1947. However, the marriage didn't last and later she married silent film actor Gul Hamid Khan.

    Despite Cooper's huge body of work, 'Behula' happens to be her only surviving film. "There are closeups of her in 'Behula' that remind one of early Hollywood silent films. It is sad that despite being India's first superstar, so few remember her now," said Dungarpur.
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