Phenomenal Woman: Fatma Begum

Born in 1892 to a Muslim-Indian family. Fatma is renowned as a pioneer of fantasy cinema and director in Indian Cinema.

She started her career on stage, starring in plays in Urdu. Then moved onto acting in silent films. At the time, it was complacencies for all roles to be played by men, and male actors would don drag to play women on screen.

This made Fatma especially famous, being one of the first women to play a woman’s role in movies. Though it should be noted, she was a lightskinned woman and is said to have worn darker-skinned makeup to be shot better in sepia and black & white films.

In 1926, she went on to start her own production house Fatma-Films (later known as Victoria-Fatma Films). Her specialty in trick photography made her a pioneer in the field of fantasy cinema. Though she continues to act, and produce her focus was directing. With the debut of her film Bulbul-e-Paristan 1926, she became the first woman director in Indian Cinema.

Her legacy for arts was carried on by her children, and even today by her great-great-great grandchildren, who are prominent members of Bollywood’s ranks.

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