She was only ten when she was cast in a small role in Jaidev, a Madan Theatres production, followed by Shankaracharya next year. Little did Kananbala or her directors or producers know that a star had been born. It was not a spectacular debut. Nor did five films with Madan Theatres productions, Rishir Prem, Jorebarat , Vishnu Maya and Prahlad, in which she played even male leads in the last two give any indication of the shape of things to come. New Theatres&’s PC Barua wanted her to play the lead in his Devdas, but, due to contractual reasons, she could not act in the film, a factor she regretted all her life.
From silent film roles as a child artist Kanan made the successful transition into talkie films and was noticed with Jorebarat, Manomoyee Girls School, Khooni Kaun and Maa.
The films of New Theatres established her as a superhit singer and her films ran to packed houses. She had to travel under constant protection given her huge fan following. During her years with New Theatres, Calcutta from 1937, she played the lead in Barua&’s Mukti, which was perhaps her finest performance, making her the studio&’s top star. Apart from Mukti, she did Vidyapati, Saathi, Street Singer, Sapera, Jawani Ki Reet, Parajay, Abhinetri, Lagan, Parichay and Jawab. She became known as Kanan Devi from this point. M.P. Productions&’s Jawaab, was perhaps her biggest hit. Her song Duniya Yeh Duniya, Hai Toofan Mail was well received. She repeated the same feat in Hospital, Banphool, and Rajlakshmi. Kanan Devi&’s last Hindi film was Chandrashekhar with Ashok Kumar. Kananbala,the then first lady of Bengali films turned producer with Shrimati Pictures in 1949 and later launched the Sabyasachi Collective with the film Ananya. As the years rolled by, she came to be known as Kanan Devi. Srishti Parishad observed her birth centenary at ICCR recently.