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Death anniversary: Knowing Khazanchi actress Ramola Devi?

The yesteryear actress is most well-known for her role in the pre-Partition hit Khazanchi (1941).

Sonal Pandya

The petite actress Ramola was born as Rachel Cohen in Bombay. The personal details surrounding the star of the 1940s and 1950s are few; she was born in 1917 but her birthdate was never publicised.

Her father Hayam Cohen, a schoolmaster, moved the family to Calcutta where she completed her schooling. Along with her two sisters, Ramola acted on stage as an amateur before getting into films.

The young Jewish girl changed her name to Ramola and made her debut with the Bengali film Graher Fer (1937). She was always conscious of her height (she was barely 5’ tall) and both filmmaker Kidar Sharma and Nitin Bose felt her height could be a deterrent to her big screen career.

However, Sharma was only a dialogue writer when he met Ramola, assured her that he would cast her as the lead in his film. A few years after Graher Fer, she received top billing in his Dil Hi To Hai (1939).

But it was the musical hit Khazanchi (1941) that made her into a star. Filmindia magazine commented, “In spite of many new stars on the film horizon, Ramola still commands a large film following and it is her histrionic talent that has helped her to maintain this position.”

Directed by Moti B Gidwani and bolstered by game-changing tunes of Ghulam Haider, Khazanchi was the top grosser of the year. The film was considered modern for its times and Ramola is still remembered in the hit song ‘Sawan Ke Nazare Hai’.

She followed up Khazanchi’s success with dramatic roles in films like Shukriya (1944), Albeli (1945) and Hum Bhi Insan Hain (1948) with Dev Anand. As one of the top stars of the 1940s, she appeared in the famous Lux soap advertisements.

With Dev Anand in Hum Bhi Insan Hain (1948)

However, the 1950s brought a whole slew of new and younger heroines, Meena Kumari, Nargis and Madhubala, she left the limelight after her films Jawani Ki Aag (1951) and Stage (1951).

Online records she passed away on 10 December, but her year of death remains unknown. Ramola was married at one time and had a young son who studied at a convent in Mussorie. And as suddenly as she entered the industry and became a star, Ramola Devi bowed out from films after 1951.