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Patience Cooper

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Patience Cooper
Patience Cooper.jpg Patience Cooper.jpg
Calcutta, Bengal Presidency, British India
🏳️ Nationality
Other names
💼 Occupation
💵 Salary :
📆 Years active  1920–1946

Patience Cooper (1905–1993) was an India born Pakistani film actress. An Anglo-Indian[1] from Calcutta, Cooper had a successful career in both silent and sound films. She was one of the early superstars of Bollywood.[2] Cooper is credited with the first double roles of Indian cinema—as twin sisters in Patni Pratap and as mother and daughter in Kashmiri Sundari,[3] even though earlier in 1917, actor Anna Salunke had played roles of both the male lead character Ram and the female lead character Seeta in the film Lanka Dahan.[4]

Stage career[edit]

Cooper began her career as a dancer in Bandmann's Musical Comedy, a Eurasian troupe. She later joined Jamshedji Framji Madan's Corinithian Stage Company as an actress.

Film career[edit]

Cooper first made an impact with Nala Damayanti (1920). The film starred Keki Adajania as Nala and Cooper as Damayanti. The film was a big budget Madan Theatre production and was directed by Eugenio de Liguoro, known in Italy for his Orientalist spectacles like Fascino d'Oro (1919). Nala Damayanti was famous for its special effects at the time — Narada's ascent of Mount Meru to heaven, the transformations of four gods into impersonations of Nala, the transformation of Kali into a serpent among others.

Her next film was Vishnu Avtar, released in 1921. De Liguoro also directed Dhruva Chartitra (1921), a mythological based on the legend of Dhruva whose quest for eternal knowledge and salvation was rewarded when he became the brightest star in the heavens, the pole star also known as Dhruvatara. The film was made as a bid for an international breakthrough for Madan Theatres and featured many Europeans in the cast along with Cooper who played the female lead, Suniti.

One of Cooper's biggest successes was Pati Bhakti (1922). Cooper played Leelavati in the film, directed by the great JJ Madan himself, advocating that women should be devoted to their husband. The film is regarded as her greatest film and was also involved in a small controversy as in Madras, the censor demanded that a dance number be removed on the grounds of obscenity.

Cooper also played perhaps the first ever double roles in Hindi films — Patni Pratap (1923), where she played two sisters and Kashmiri Sundari (1924), where she played mother and daughter.

Cooper did films right through to the mid-1930s. One of her last major films was Zehari Saap (1933). The film was a typical Cooper vehicle about a medieval chieftain's revolt against the good Nawab Bakar Malik. The nawab's outlaw son vows revenge and finally all's well that ends well. The dramatic conflict in the film sees the chieftain wanting to marry the princess, whom he had raised as his own daughter.

Cooper acted in over 40 films until she retired in 1944, after performing in her last film, Iraada. Cooper was often cast in the role of a sexually troubled but innocent woman, always at the centre of moral dilemmas, often caused by the men in her lives.

A major aspect of Cooper's star image was the successful achievement of the 'Hollywood look' in spite of different light and technical conditions. Her distinctively Anglo-Indian features, like dark eyes, sharp features, ebony hair and light skin tone, allowed technicians to experiment with the imported technique of eye-level lighting and achieve an appearance similar to Hollywood stars of the silent era.

The low number of women, especially Hindus, in the film industry during the 1920s (due to conservative attitudes) meant Anglo-Indian actresses like Cooper, were in demand. Her appearance in a string of successful films has led her to being called the first ever female Indian film star.

Later life[edit]

It is generally supposed Cooper married Mirza Ahmad Ispahani Saheb (MAH Ispahani), a well-known Indian businessman. In 1947, they migrated to Pakistan.[5] Actually she was married to MAH Ispahani at the age of 21 and divorced soon after. She then married Gul Hamid Khan, one of the first early silent movie actors. He died six years later from Hodgkin's Disease. She remained friends with MAH Ispahani till the end of her life. Cooper changed her name to Sabra Begum and lived the last of her days with her two adopted daughters Zeenat and Haleema in Karachi, Pakistan. Her foster daughter Syeda Nafees Rizvi lives in Houston, Texas, USA[citation needed]. She fostered and/or adopted 17 children during her lifetime. Cooper died in 1993.[6]


Year Film Director Notes
1920 Nala Damayanti Eugenio de Liguoro
1921 Bishu Abatar Jyotish Bandyopadhyay
Dhruba Charitra Jyotish Bannerji
Nal Damayanti Jyotish Bandyopadhyay
Dhruva Charitra Eugenio De Liguoro
Behula C. Legrand
Vishnu Avatar C. Legrand
1922 Sati
Ratnavali Jyotish Bannerji
Pati Bhakti J. J. Madan
Kamale Kamini Sisir Kumar Bhaduri
Ramayan Jyotish Bandyopadhyay Serial
Ramayan Eugenio De Liguoro Serial
Nartaki Tara Jyotish Bandyopadhyay
Ratnavali C. Legrand
Raja Bhoj
Mohini Sisir Kumar Bhaduri
Bhagirathi Ganga
Rajkumari Budur J. J. Madan
Laila Majnu J. J. Madan
1923 Matri Sneha Jyotish Bannerji
Noorjehan J. J. Madan
1924 Patni Pratap J. J. Madan Serial
Turki Hoor J. J. Madan
1925 Sati Lakshmi Jyotish Bannerji
Adoorat Chheley J. J. Madan
Sansar Chakra
Kashmiri Sundari
1926 Prafulla Jyotish Bannerji
1926 Joydev Jyotish Bannerji
1926 Dharmapatni Jyotish Bannerji
1927 Jana Priyanath Ganguly
1927 Krishnakanter Will Priyanath Ganguly
1927 Durgesh Nandini Priyanath Ganguly
1927 Chandidas Jyotish Bannerji
1928 Aankh Ka Nasha
1928 Hoor-E-Arab Ratansha Sinore
1928 Bhranti Jyotish Bannerji
1929 Giribala Modhu Bose
1929 Kapal Kundala Priyanath Ganguly
1930 Bharat Ramani Jyotish Bannerji
1930 Vaman Avatar
1930 Rajsingha Jyotish Bannerji
1930 Kal Parinaya Priyanath Ganguly
1930 Ganesh Janma Jal Ariah
1931 Bibaha Bibhrat Jyotish Bannerji
1931 Alladin And The Wonderful Lamp Jal Ariah
1931 Samaj Ka Shikar
1931 Satyawadi Raja Harishchandra J. J. Madan
1931 Bharati Balak Aga Hashr Kashmiri
1932 Pati Bhakti
1932 Chatra Bakavali J. J. Madan Fantasy
1932 Bilwamangal Fram Madan
1932 Alibaba And Forty Thieves J. J. Madan
1932 Educated Wife
1932 Hathili Dulhan J. J. Madan
1933 Madhur Murali
1933 Naqli Doctor J. J. Madan
1933 Zehari Saap J. J. Madan
1934 Kismet Ka Shikar
1934 Bhakta-Ke-Bhagwan V. M. Gunjal
1934 Garib Ki Duniya Sorabji Kerawala
1934 Anokha Prem F. R. Irani
1934 Kanya Vikraya Mohammad Hussain
1934 Sakhi Lutera Sorabji Kerawala
1935 Dil Ki Pyaas J. J. Madan
1935 Asmat Ka Moti Fram Sethna
1935 Khudadad
1935 Prem Ki Ragini
1935 Sulagto Sansar G. R. Sethi
1935 Mera Pyara Ezra Mir
1936 Noor-E-Wahadat G. R. Sethi
1936 Baghi Sipahi A.R. Kardar
1936 Khyber Pass Gul Hamid
1937 Fakhr-E-Islam Nanubhai Vakil
1943 Rani P. C. Barua
1944 Chandar Kalanka Pramathesh Chandra Barua
1944 Iraada S. Shamsuddin
1946 Khan Saheb Prem Sethna


  1. p 163, Parama Roy, Indian Traffic: Identities in Question in Colonial and Postcolonial India, University of California Press, ISBN 0-520-20487-5 Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png.
  2. "Patience Cooper". www.imdb.com. Retrieved 2009-02-16.
  3. "Personalities of Indian Cinema - Silent screen stars". www.indiaheritage.org. Archived from the original on 19 October 2007. Retrieved 2009-02-16. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  4. "Dadasaheb Phalke - Father of Indian Cinema". Dadasaheb Phalke Academy. Archived from the original on 18 December 2012. Retrieved 13 December 2012. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  5. Article from Economic & Political Weekly[permanent dead link]
  6. "Bollywood Divas". www.hindustantimes.com. Archived from the original on 9 May 2008. Retrieved 16 February 2009. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)

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