First Woman Film director of India : Fatma Begum

When we talk about firsts in relation to the film industry, we hardly pay attention to the first woman film director of India. I bet none of us rarely think about the woman who set out the way for fabulous women directors we have now like Zoya Akhtar, Gauri Shinde or Rima Kagti.

I, till very recently, was unaware about the first woman film director in India – Fatma Begum and so when I read about her in an article on Indian film industry, I did a little bit of research.

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Fatma Begum was born in a Muslim family and was supposedly born around some time in 1892. She was the mother of three yesteryear actresses – Zubeida, Sultana and Shehzadi. Fatma began acting in silent films in 1922, after being trained in plays. Fatma worked as an actress with the likes of Ardeshir Irani who brought talking movies to India and was the maker of Alam Ara,  the first talking film of India in Hindi. Her debut film was Veer Abhimanyu  which was released in 1922 and established her as a huge woman superstar.

Fatma, in 1926,  went on to start her own production house – Fatma Films, which she renamed to Victoria-Fatma Films in 1928. In 1926, she made Bulbul-E-Paristan which was the first Indian film made by a female director. Although there is no known print of the film available now, it is said that the film was a fantasy film with lots of special effects. If this be true, it places her in the category of early pioneers of fantasy cinema such as Georges Melies.

Despite her own production house, she continued to work as an actress. Her last film as an actress was Duniya Kya Hai? which was released in 1938. As a director, IMDB lists 8 films to her credit – Bulbul-E-Paristan, Goddess of Love, Heer Ranjha, Chandravali, Shakuntala, Milan Dinar, Kanakatara, and Goddess of Luck. 

She died at the age of ninety one in 1983.

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