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ZUBEIDA (1911-1990)


Zubeida Begum Dhanrajgir was an actor and India’s first woman film director. She was born in Surat, the daughter of Fatma Begum (q.v.) and the Nawab of the Princely State of Sachin. Here sisters were Shahzadi and Sultana. All three girls appeared on screen but Zubeida became the most famous and had the longest career. She was stunningly beautiful, and was only twelve when she first appeared in Kohinoor. Through the 1920s she made infrequent appearances on screen along with Sultana who was more famous at that time. They starred together witht heir mother in Veer Abhimanyu in 1922 and Kalyan Khajina in 1924. In 1925 Zubeida had nine releases amongst them Kala Chor, Devdasi and Desh Ka Dushman. In 1926 she acted in her mother’s debut film as director, Bulbul-e-Paristan. The following year she appeared in Laila Majnu, Nanand Bhojai and Naval Gandhi’s Sacrifice, based on Rabindranath Tagore’s short story ‘Balidaan’ starred Zubeida, Sulochana (q.v.), Master Vithal and Jal Khambatta. The Indian Cinematograph Committee recommended that it be sent abroad for screening. On March 14, 1931 Ardeshir Irani of Imperial Movietone released Alam Ara starring Zubeida and Master Vithal, the first full-length Indian talkie film at Majestic Theatre. Zubeida took easily to sound and starred in a string of mythologicals. She also appeared in Ezra Mir’s Zarina. In 1934 she set up Mahalakshmi Movietone with Nanubhai Vakil and had further hits with Gul-e-Sonobar and Rasik-e-Laila. In 1949 she appeared in her last film Nirdosh Abla. She then married Maharaj Narsingir Dhanrajgir Gyan Bahadur of the Princely State of Hyderabad, converting to Hinduism and spent her last years at the Dhanraj Mahal Palace in Bombay amongst her children and grandchildren. Her son Humayun Dhanrajgir is a famous industrialist.
 
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