Indian Cinema

British Premiere of Light of Asia

01 Apr 1926
Precise date unknown: 
Event location: 



The German film-maker Franz Osten's film Light of Asia (Prem Sanyas or Die Leuchte Asiens) had its British premiere in April 1926. The film was an adaptation of Edwin Arnold's 1861 epic poem on the life of Buddha. It was a silent film and a German-Indian collaboration between Munich-born Franz Osten and film producer and actor Himansu Rai, who had previously studied law in Calcutta and London and at Rabindranath Tagore's university. The film was celebrated in Germany and found a wide audience in Britain as well. Favourably reviewed in the British press, it ran in London for ten months. George V and his family attended a screening of the film at Windsor Castle on 27 April 1926.

People involved: 

Franz Osten, Himansu Rai.

Secondary works: 

Dwyer, Rachel, Filming the Gods: Religion and Indian Cinema (London: Routledge, 2006)

Rajadyaksha, Ashish and Willemen, Paul (eds), Encyclopaedia of Indian Cinema, revised ed. (London: BFI, 2002)

Schönfeld, Carl-Erdmann, 'Franz Osten's "The Light of Asia" (1926): a German-Indian film of Prince Buddha', Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television 15.4 (1995), pp. 555-559

Tags for Making Britain: 

Devika Rani


The actress Devika Rani was Rabindranath Tagore’s grand-niece and the daughter of the first Indian surgeon general M. N. Chaudhuri. Devika Rani lived in London in the mid-1920s, studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA) and the Royal Academy of Music. She also studied architecture and textile design and was for a while apprenticed to the studio of Elisabeth Arden. She met Himanshu Rai in London in 1928. He had originally trained as a lawyer but had become a film director and asked Devika Rani to design his next film, A Throw of Dice (1929). They married in 1929. The film was edited in Germany where Devika Rani met film directors such as Sternberg, G. W. Pabst and Fritz Lang, which heightened her interest in film-making. She subsequently joined UFA studios in Berlin, where she assisted Marlene Dietrich on the set of Der Blaue Engel (1930). She also briefly worked with Max Reinhardt. One of the early BBC broadcasts to India included a Devika Rani recital (15 May 1933). Rai and Devika Rani starred together in the film Karma (1933), which was completed at the Stall Studios in London. The film was the first Indian Talkie in English and Hindustani to be released in England, Europe and India. The film had its premiere, attended by the former Viceroy to India, Lord Irwin, in London in May 1933, and was well received by the critics and a big hit with the public. After the successful premiere of Karma, Devika Rani was asked by the BBC to act in an early television broadcast in Britain and was also chosen to inaugurate the first BBC broadcast on the short wavelength to India in May 1933.

Devika Rani and Rai returned to Bombay and set up the Bombay Talkies studio in 1934. It was hailed as one of India’s best-equipped studios and enlisted the work of cinema practitioners like the German director Franz Osten, and the cameraman Carl Josef Wirsching. The studio also launched the careers of many cinema icons of the immediate post-independence era, such as Ashok Kumar, Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor. After the death of her husband in 1940, Devika Rani became the manager of Bombay Talkies. In 1945 she married the Russian artist Svetoslav Roerich and sold her shares in Bombay Talkies. In 1953 she was awarded the Padamshree and in 1969 the Dadasaheb Phalke Award for Lifetime Achievement in Cinema.

Published works: 

Selected filmography:

Prapancha Pash (1929) [costume design]

Karma (1933)

Jawani Ki Hawa (1935)

Achhut Kanya (1936)

Janmabhoomi (1936)

Jeevan Naiya (1936)

Jeevan Prabhat (1937)

Savitri (1937)

Durga (1939)

Anjaan (1941)

Hamari Baat (1943)

Date of birth: 
30 Mar 1908
Secondary works: 

Rajadhyaksha, Ashish and Willemen, Paul,  Encyclopaedia of Indian Cinema, 2nd edn (London: British Film Institute, 2002)

Wadia, Avabai, The Light is Ours: Memoirs and Movements (International Planned Parenthood Federation, 2001)

Varma, Madhulika, 'Obituary: Devika Rani', The Independent (26 March 1994)

City of birth: 
Country of birth: 
Current name city of birth: 
Other names: 

Devika Rani Choudhury

Date of death: 
09 Mar 1994
Location of death: 
Date of 1st arrival in Britain: 
01 Jan 1925
Precise 1st arrival date unknown: 
Dates of time spent in Britain: 




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