Popularly known as ‘Natyasamrajni’ or ‘Theatre Empress’, Saraju Bala Devi was one of the foremost actors on the Bengali stage and silent films from the 1930s-50s. Born in 1912, she began her career around 1928 in the role of a singing boy. She was trained in music by Kazi Nazrul Islam, K.C. Dey and Bhishmadev Chatterjee.
Saraju Bala Devi’s earliest landmark performance was the role of Krishna in Basanta Chatterjee’s Mirabai in 1928. Soon, she took on female roles and excelled herself in Jaladhar Chatterjee’s Praner Dabi in 1929, Manmatha Ray’s Mahuya in 1929, and Ray’s Karagar in 1930. She is also remembered for her roles of the astrologer in Ray’s Khana in 1935, Lutfa in Sachin Sengupta’s Sirajuddaula in 1938, and, for Natyabharati Panna in Sengupta’s Dhatri Panna in 1943. She made her mark in silent films, and experimented with the talkies with Rishir Prem directed by Jyotish Bandyopadhyay in 1931.
Saraju Bala Devi was deeply revered as the star of Bengali theatre. She passed away in 1994.