A star gone too soon

One is not really sure when the first beauty pageant was held in the State. But the first one that really hogged the limelight was the one held at Thrissur in 1965. A high school student from Fathima Girls High School, Fort Kochi, went on to win the Miss Kerala crown. The rumour at that time was that the very intention to organise this contest was to find a new, young heroine for a film they had planned.

The girl who won the crown was Rani Chandra and the film planned was Daivathinte Maranam (Death of God). This film did not take off but the victory in the beauty contest and news that she was going to be cast in a film gave Rani Chandra an unexpected celebrity status. Magazines and newspapers published her photographs and some of them even called her Kerala Beauty.

This entire attention and media glare ignited in Rani Chandra a desire to act in films. Those were days when she was seriously into dance, something she had begun to study when she was just out of her primary school. She continued her dance training even when she was in college. At the back of her mind there remained the burning desire to be a film star.

Rani Chandra did not have to wait long. She made her debut in P.A. Thomas’s Pavappettaval. How ever, in the credits and song book of this film she is simply referred to as Miss Kerala. The film, released in 1967, had Sathyan, Kamaladevi, Adoor Bhasi and Sukumari in lead roles.

That was the start Rani Chandra was looking for but she had to wait for a whole year to get her first film and her name into the credits. She was cast in an important role in Anchu Sundarikal (1968). The film directed by M. Krishnan Nair had Prem Nazir, Jayabharathi, Adoor Bhasi, G.K. Pillai, Paravur Bharathan in lead roles.

She literally danced her way into Tamil films too. Director A.V. Francis, who happened to watch one of Rani Chandra’s dance performances in Madras, offered her a role in his film Porchilai (1969). Though in her rather brief career she did not act in many Tamil films, Rani Chandra did make an impact in films like Bhadrakali.

Born in 1949 at Alappuzha as the second daughter of Chandran and Kanthimathi, Rani Chandra had acted in school plays before moving seriously into dance. Her family moved to Kochi and this went a long way in nurturing her dance and her desire to star in films. Those days Madras was the centre for Malayalam and Tamil films. As Rani Chandra began to get more and more film offers the family moved to Madras.

Proficient in all the South Indian classical dance forms Rani Chandra had a troupe of her own in which some of the gifted musicians and singers were associated. Dance and films kept her busy.

From a greenhorn Rani Chandra evolved into a fine actor even going on to win the Kerala State award for Best Actress for her role in K.G. George’s debut film Swapnadanam.

Among Rani Chandra’s noted films are Prathidwani, Chembarathi, Nellu, Boyfriend, Amba Ambika Ambalika, Anaavaranam, Hello Darling, Ulsavam, Naathoon, Kaamini, Swapnam, Kaapalika etc.

Like it happens to most stars Rani Chandra was drawn into the vortex of commercial cinema. She really never got that many chances to prove her acting skills. Rani Chandra did get her share of criticism for simply agreeing to do the glamour roles, even doing 13 films in one year. But whenever she got that rare chance, even if it was a character role like in Naathoon or Swapnadanam for that matter, Rani Chandra did prove that she was not just a glamour doll.

Just when Rani Chandra was finding her feet in films Fate cut short her life. She, along with her mother and three sisters died in an Indian Airlines crash on a return flight from Bombay on October 12, 1976. She was returning after a dance performance in West Asia. In a career spanning hardly 10 years and around 60 films, Rani Chandra left behind unfulfilled dreams.

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Printable version | Nov 25, 2020 3:12:44 PM |

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