KANAN quit film acting in 1959 but continued to be associated with
film making as a producer. The films produced by her, mostly based on
Sarat Chandra stories anddirected by husband Haridas Bhattacharjee
remain assets of the mainstream Bengali cinema.
She won several awards,BEST ACTRESS a number of times,she was offered PADMASHREE
in 1968-surely she deserved a higher award, the DADASAHEB PHALKE AWARD
in 1977, GOLD DISC from The Gramophone Company of India, although she
was a Megaphone artiste for most of her singing career. However, above
all was the love and respect that she earned for herself from the masses.
This remains unsurpassed by any other film personality.
One of her major achievements was the formation of the MAHILA SHILPI
MAHAL was formed from the felt need that actresses, out of work and easily
forgotten by the media and society, should be able to live with honour.
Members of this organization performed stage shows where only female
artistes participated .These plays turned out to be extremely popular and
KANAN herself acted in some of the plays.The money that was raised was
used to buy a house at Garcha Road, Calcutta to provide shelter to those
who needed. This was definitely the first of it’s kind and perhaps the
only one till date in India. The success of MAHILA SHILPI MAHAL resulted
in other organizations coming to her with appeals to provide leadership.
The fate of the MAHAL however left her heartbroken-some members got over
ambitious with it’s success and tried to occupy thehouse forcefully.
KANAN’s failing health could not cope up with these unforeseencomplications
and she was forced to disband the MAHAL and sell the house and thefunds
were used for social welfare activities.
Her greatest achievement was perhaps earning respectability for womenin
the industry. She joined films at a time when all actresses came from red
light areas of Calcutta. The same was true for Bombay and Lahore. Attempts
at introduction of “respectable women” were done by Dhirendra Nath Ganguly
(with his own wife and daughter), Dadasaheb Phalke (with daughter) but the
trend was not generalized and films largely depended on social outcasts.
KANAN’s phenomenal rise undoubtedly set a brilliant example of upliftment …
Her transformation from the illegitimate slum dweller to a glamourous
member of Calcutta’s cultural elite has been likened to that of Eliza
Doolittle or Cinderella. However, there was no Professor Higgins or a
Fairy Godmother to help …