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SEETA DEVI (Renee Smith) (1905-1983)

Seeta Devi was an actor. Born Renee Smith to an Anglo-Indian family, she became a star when Himanshu Rai chose her to play the female lead opposite him in Prem Sanyas (1925) known by its English title Light of Asia, loosely based on Edwin Arnold’s poem of the same name about the life of the Buddha. Himanshu Rai gave her the name Seeta Devi. She was a star at Madan Theatres’ Elphinstone Theatre, making her debut with Dhiren Ganguly. She acted in Priyanath Ganguly’s 1920s Madan films.

She then appeared in Shiraz (1928) where she played the ‘other woman’; this was based on the story of the Taj Mahal. She acted in Prapancha Pash (1929), known in English as A Throw of Dice and based on the Mahabharata, as the heroine. All three films were made in collaboration with the German film director Franz Osten and the Bavarian company Emelka, but this collaboration ended with the Nazi seizure of power in Germany. It has been suggested that both Renee Smith and her sister Percy Smith appeared in the film Seeta Devi in the title role. Three of her other films, Krishnakanter Will (1926), Durgesh Nandini (1927), and Kapal Kundala (1929) were based on the novels of Bankim Chandra Chatterjee. She also appeared in Loves of a Moghul Prince (1928) titled Anarkali in Urdu and Rajmahal Ni Ramani in Punjabi. Her last film was Kal Parinaya (1930). Himanshu Rai’s death in 1940 was a blow to her career.
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