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Ratan Bai Challenges Our Men Producers: "Deep Thinking" Is Her Only Hobby

12 Jun, 2020 | Archival Reproductions by Sushila Rani
Rattan Bai. Image Courtesy: Filmindia, January 1943

As she came in, I thought Lady Godiva had walked in - of course, without the horse and with the clothes on. The significant thing about her was her long flowing hair touching the ground.

 It puzzled me a lot to find a star preserving that length in these days, when different hair-does are in vogue. I asked her how she managed all that growth and Ratan Bai replied: “My mother looks after it”. At least, that is one more thing good about having a mother.

I was a bit nervous about meeting Ratan Bai, as I had thought that she would floor me in a minute with her excellent Urdu doled out through the poems of Zafar or Ghalib. Not so! Ratan Bai had a surprise waiting for me in her remarkably beautiful English accent which suggested that she had just escaped from a college.

I was puzzled remembering what Baburao had once told me that eight years backs Ratan Bai did not know a word of English.

Catching my thought in its flight Ratan replied, “You are surprised that I talk English. Everyone who comes from Baburao is always surprised. Yes he must have told you that years back I did not know a word of English. He is right. Eight years ago, when I came to Bombay all that I knew was a “Good-morning,” and I often used it in the evening . But Baburao laughed at me so long and so loud that I took up the challenge and beat him at his game of English.”  

With Ratan Bai languages should come in easily, because she is a linguist, seeing that she already knows seven languages.
Suddenly she turned round and with an infectious smile asked me, “Am I good now?” I admitted that she was good - too good - but with Ratan Bai languages should come in easily, because she is a linguist, seeing that she already knows seven languages. As regards Urdu, what Ratan Bai speaks is Urdu - the rest - is Billingsgate. I still remember the huge mouthfuls of beautiful Urdu which she flung at one and all even  without provocation in that beautiful picture, “Yahudi-ki-Ladki”

That was years back. Since then Ratan has travelled a long way through sheer sweat and toil to reach the heights of stardom.

 A STAR OVERNIGHT 

Born at Patna on 12th June 1912, Ratan is a home-educated product. As a child, she was fond of seeing pictures, as a woman she is making them today. While still a kid, she was taken to Calcutta, but it was not till May 1932, that she got her first chance for acting with the New Theatres in “Yahudi-ki-Ladki”.
Her very first picture in Bombay “Bharat-ki-Beti” captivated the audiences and disarmed the critics.
Ambitious at all times, and at all hours of the day, Calcutta soon became a small place for Ratan. So in 1934, she landed in Bombay with a contract for Eastern Art Productions. Her very first picture in Bombay “Bharat-ki-Beti” captivated the audiences and disarmed the critics. Next year she made two more pictures for the Kolhapur Cinetone but again in 1936 she returned to Bombay to act in some more pictures for the Imperial Film Company.

Since 1938 Ratan has become a free-lance artiste and has starred, off and on, in several pictures, but today she is making her own pictures and is therefore known as a producer - rather a doubtful recognition to these times.
In India, considering the fact that women have not been allowed the same status as men, Ratan’s distinction in this field is really praiseworthy. For besides hard work and perseverance, this charming lady is endowed with a rare business acumen which will take her a long way in life.
In India, considering the fact that women have not been allowed the same status as men, Ratan’s distinction in this field is really praiseworthy. For besides hard work and perseverance, this charming lady is endowed with a rare business acumen which will take her a long way in life.

Her maiden effort as a producer is called “Saheli” in which she plays the lead opposite Sanyal. Of course, like other producers she threatens to give us more pictures and we only hope that they are good.
She is modest when she says that her acting has not yet reached the standard she has in mind. Ratan Bai is not a bragging sort.
She is modest when she says that her acting has not yet reached the standard she has in mind. Ratan Bai is not a bragging sort, like some other film girls I have met but from what I have seen of Ratan’s acting, I feel that she is far above many, many, whom I have seen making faces on the screen. Ratan feels that tragic portrayals suit her best. I agree.

BELIEVES IN LOVE AND HOME 

Though a star, forging many a love-scene for the screen Ratan believes in love – the real stuff that comes along once in a lifetime and incidentally she also votes for the traditional warm and happy home.
In other respects Ratan is a bold woman. When I asked her, if she liked any director in particular she replied quickly, “Nowadays it has become a fashion to praise Shantaram. ‘filmindia’ began it and others have turned it into an epidemic."
Married at fifteen, she has contributed to her home two sturdy sons who are fulfilling their mother’s intense desire of English education. It is difficult to draw things out of Ratan bai. Every question is answered after a long look into the future – as if that question would someday come out of the past again and haunt the future. Ratan Bai was therefore very reserved when I prodded her to secure a personal story for this interview. Those lips of hers were sealed hiding her usual spontaneous smile. My attempt therefore to find the skeletons in the family cupboard was foiled. 

In other respects Ratan is a bold woman. When I asked her, if she liked any director in particular she replied quickly, “Nowadays it has become a fashion to praise Shantaram. ‘filmindia’ began it and others have turned it into an epidemic. Of course, I do like his pictures because they are good.”

Amongst the stars, she likes Devika Rani and Durga Khote, these two she thinks are as good as Norma Shearer and Greta Garbo of Hollywood. 

Fond Of A Cat

With Ratan Bai, everything seems to be methodical like her talk. She does not go to the races, does not smoke, does not drink, does not overeat, learns something new every time, keeps slimming every minute and thinks every half-a-minute. She has a good bank account, has purchased property, invested in life insurance, and yet she earns nearly Rs. 3000/- a month.

Her favourite hobby is according to her “thinking deeply”, for a couple of hours. I wonder about whom – and about what. She likes pets very much and introduced “Lallu” to me – a pretty cat I thought – I think she considers these pets to be more reliable than men, though I wonder why a sweet woman like Ratan should display such a distinctive liking for cats, leaving dogs and the men severely alone.
Full of energy and optimism, versatile every minute, charming at will, coy under necessity and firm without provocation, Ratan Bai provides a wonderful example of a self-made woman – out to conquer the world with her two little hands.
There seems to be no nonsense about this woman and she seems to be having a pretty well-balanced mind. In her casual talk, she uses all the histrionics she is capable of and there is more drama in her conversations than is found in half a dozen Indian pictures.

Full of energy and optimism, versatile every minute, charming at will, coy under necessity and firm without provocation, Ratan Bai provides a wonderful example of a self-made woman – out to conquer the world with her two little hands.

Incidentally she is the only woman producer that we have producing a picture with her own resources and brain and telling us in addition that she has already earned forty thousand rupees, as net profits in her very first picture.

Is that not something for the bragging men to think about? 

This is a reproduction of the original published in Filmindia, January 1943.
 

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