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Patience Cooper was an actor. She began her career as a dancer in Bandmann’s Musical Comedy, a revue troupe. She later joined Jamshedji Framji Madan’s Corinthian Stage Company. In those days, it was very difficult for respectable Indian women to join films, and most of the early heroines were tawaifs (courtesans) or Anglo-Indian dancers like Patience or Gauhar Jan’s (q.v.) mother. Patience had very well marked features, which made her perfect for the lighting used in films at that time. She played sexy but innocent heroines caught in moral dilemmas, the kind of roles later played by Nargis (q.v.). Her first major film was Nala Damayanti (1920) a lavish Madan production directed by the Italian Eugenio De Liguoro, known in Italy for his spectacular ‘oriental’ films like Fascino d’Oro (1919). He also directed Dhruva Charitra (1921). Nala Damayanti used innovative (for the time) special effects to give a sense of the mythological dimensions of the story. She then appeared in Vishnu Avatar (1921) and Pati Bhakti (1922) directed by J.J. Madan. She retired in 1944, after performing over 40 films. She was the first person in Hindi cinema to play a double role, playing two sisters in the film Patni Pratap, and a mother and daughter in Kashmiri Sundari. Sulochana (q.v.) was her competitor. She married Isphahani Saheb, a tea-estate owner, when she was 21, but the marriage fell apart although they remained friends. She then married Gul Hamid Khan, another actor, who died of cancer six years later. After Independence she emigrated to Pakistan, and changed her name to Sabra Begum. She fostered and/or adopted 17 children during her life time. Her last film was Zehari Saap (1933) about a revolt against an evil Nawab.
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