Patience Cooper

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Patience Cooper
Born 1905
Calcutta, Bengal Presidency, British India
Died 1993
Occupation Actress
Years active 1920–1946

Patience Cooper (1905–1993) was an Indian and later 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 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 serpant 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 Isphahani at the age of 21 and divorced soon after. She then got married to Gul Hamid Khan, one of the first early silent movie actors. He died six years later due to Hodgkin's Disease. She remained friends with MAH Isphahani 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 Co-Star Remarks
1920 Nala Damayanti Eugenio de Liguoro Actor
1921 Bishu Abatar Jyotish Bandyopadhyay Actor
Dhruba Charitra Jyotish Bannerji Actor
Nal Damayanti Jyotish Bandyopadhyay Actor
Dhruva Charitra Eugenio De Liguoro Actor
Behula C. Legrand Actor
Vishnu Avatar C. Legrand Actor
1922 Sati Actor
Ratnavali Jyotish Bannerji Actor
Pati Bhakti J. J. Madan Actor
Kamale Kamini Sisir Kumar Bhaduri Actor
Ramayan Jyotish Bandyopadhyay Serial Actor
Ramayan Eugenio De Liguoro Serial Actor
Nartaki Tara Jyotish Bandyopadhyay Actor
Ratnavali C. Legrand Actor
Raja Bhoj Actor
Mohini Sisir Kumar Bhaduri Actor
Bhagirathi Ganga Actor
Rajkumari Budur J. J. Madan Actor
Laila Majnu J. J. Madan Actor
1923 Matri Sneha Jyotish Bannerji Actor
Noorjehan J. J. Madan Actor
1924 Patni Pratap J. J. Madan Serial Actor
Turki Hoor J. J. Madan Actor
1925 Sati Lakshmi Jyotish Bannerji Actor
Adoorat Chheley J. J. Madan Actor
Sansar Chakra Actor
Kashmiri Sundari Actor
1926 Prafulla Jyotish Bannerji Actor
1926 Joydev Jyotish Bannerji Actor
1926 Dharmapatni Jyotish Bannerji Actor
1927 Jana Priyanath Ganguly Actor
1927 Krishnakanter Will Priyanath Ganguly Actor
1927 Durgesh Nandini Priyanath Ganguly Actor
1927 Chandidas Jyotish Bannerji Actor
1928 Aankh Ka Nasha Actor
1928 Hoor-E-Arab Ratansha Sinore Actor
1928 Bhranti Jyotish Bannerji Actor
1929 Giribala Modhu Bose Actor
1929 Kapal Kundala Priyanath Ganguly Actor
1930 Bharat Ramani Jyotish Bannerji Actor
1930 Vaman Avatar Actor
1930 Rajsingha Jyotish Bannerji Actor
1930 Kal Parinaya Priyanath Ganguly Actor
1930 Ganesh Janma Jal Ariah Actor
1931 Bibaha Bibhrat Jyotish Bannerji Actor
1931 Alladin And The Wonderful Lamp Jal Ariah Actor
1931 Samaj Ka Shikar Actor
1931 Satyawadi Raja Harishchandra J. J. Madan Actor
1931 Bharati Balak Aga Hashr Kashmiri Actor
1932 Pati Bhakti Actor
1932 Chatra Bakavali J. J. Madan Fantasy Actor
1932 Bilwamangal Fram Madan Actor
1932 Alibaba And Forty Thieves J. J. Madan Actor
1932 Educated Wife Actor
1932 Hathili Dulhan J. J. Madan Actor
1933 Madhur Murali Actor
1933 Naqli Doctor J. J. Madan Actor
1933 Zehari Saap J. J. Madan Actor
1934 Kismet Ka Shikar Actor
1934 Bhakta-Ke-Bhagwan V. M. Gunjal Actor
1934 Garib Ki Duniya Sorabji Kerawala Actor
1934 Anokha Prem F. R. Irani Actor
1934 Kanya Vikraya Mohammad Hussain Actor
1934 Sakhi Lutera Sorabji Kerawala Actor
1935 Dil Ki Pyaas J. J. Madan Actor
1935 Asmat Ka Moti Fram Sethna Actor
1935 Khudadad Actor
1935 Prem Ki Ragini Actor
1935 Sulagto Sansar G. R. Sethi Actor
1935 Mera Pyara Ezra Mir Actor
1936 Noor-E-Wahadat G. R. Sethi Actor
1936 Baghi Sipahi A.R. Kardar Actor
1936 Khyber Pass Gul Hamid Actor
1937 Fakhr-E-Islam Nanubhai Vakil Actor
1944 Chandar Kalanka Pramathesh Chandra Barua Actor
1944 Iraada S. Shamsuddin Actor
1946 Khan Saheb Prem Sethna Actor.


  1. ^ p 163, Parama Roy, Indian Traffic: Identities in Question in Colonial and Postcolonial India, University of California Press, ISBN 0-520-20487-5
  2. ^ "Patience Cooper". Retrieved 2009-02-16. 
  3. ^ "Personalities of Indian Cinema - Silent screen stars.". Retrieved 2009-02-16. 
  4. ^ "Dadasaheb Phalke - Father of Indian Cinema". Dadasaheb Phalke Academy. Retrieved 2012-12-13. 
  5. ^ Article from Economic & Political Weekly
  6. ^ "Bollywood Divas". Retrieved 2009-02-16. 

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