She was among the early singing stars of Indian cinema, and is credited popularly as the first star of Bengali cinema.KANAN has been honored as THE NIGHTINGALE OF BENGAL , by Miss Sandhya Sen, the eminent Bengali journalist. KANAN has been referred to as THE MELODY QUEEN OF INDIA by none other than the queen herself, that is Lata Mangeshkar.
She came in contact with the music maestro Rai Chand Boral who not only coached and familiarized her in the Hindi accent but experimented with many classical Western and Indian forms in his music. She received her initial musical training under Alla Rakha. She was employed as a singer at the Megaphone Gramaphone Company, receiving further training under Bhishmadev Chatterjee.
She worked with the biggest names in Indian cinema from K. L. Saigal, Pankaj Mullick, Pramathesh Barua, Pahari Sanyal, Chabi Biswas and Ashok Kumar.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 feast in Hospital (1943), Banphool (1945), and Rajlakshmi (1946). Kanan Devi's last Hindi film was Chandrashekhar (1948) with Ashok Kumar.
Kanan Devi, as the first lady of the Bengali screen, received many honours for her contribution to Indian cinema. An honorary degree from Vishwabharati, the Padma Shree in 1968 and the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 1976.
Her greatest achievement was perhaps earning respectability for womenin the industry. She joined films at a time when all actresses came from red light areas of Calcutta. The same was true for Bombay and Lahore. Attempts at introduction of respectable women were done by Dhirendra Nath Ganguly (with his own wife and daughter), Dadasaheb Phalke (with daughter) but the trend was not generalized and films largely depended on social outcasts. KANANs phenomenal rise undoubtedly set a brilliant example of upliftment.