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Thread: The Bollywood Jewish connection

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    Lightbulb The Bollywood Jewish connection

    (Lesser known) Pioneering
    Indian Jewish Bollywood
    Actresses & actors

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    It gives me great pleasure and a sense of Jewish contribution to Indian cinema achievements when I read about Ms. Pramila, Born Esther Victoria Abraham ,the first Miss India 1947. She passed away recently at the ripe old age of 90 years.
    Bollywood said goodbye on August 6th 2006 to the first ever Miss India, Pramila (born Esther Abraham). Crowned in 1947, she entered the world of show business after leaving her conservative Jewish home in Calcutta at the age of 17. Her first job was to keep cinema audiences quiet during the 15 minutes it took to change the reel in the single projector of silent films. She made a name for herself in many films as an actress, stunt woman and India's first female producer. Pramila never shied away from controversy - her song CholiKiAndar caused a fervor with censors long before MadhuriDixit’sCholiKePeeche did.
    Many actors of Indian Jewish roots assimilated into the more prevalent Muslim and Hindu faiths of India.
    Pramila was elected as Miss India through aspecial press vote. Her daughter, NaqiJahan, became a beauty queen in 1967.

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    The saga of independent India's first-ever beauty queen came to a close on August 6, when Esther Abraham, screen name Pramila, faded into an eternal dissolve.
    A born rebel, she walked out of her conservative Baghdadi Jewish home in Kolkata at 17 to join a theatre company. She went on to realise her real dream and blazed across the Indian screen as a vamp and a fearless stunt star in 30 films, including UltiGanga, Bijli, Basant and Jungle King. She became the first major woman film producer, with 16 films under her Silver Productions banner.

    D M Madhok wrote CholiKeAndar lyrics for her years before MadhuriDixit was born and then Bombay chief minister Morarji Desai had her wrongly arrested as a Pakistani spy because of her visits to that country to distribute films.

    In a big bad man's world, she wore the pants and led an interesting personal life. As a teenager, she eloped with Marwari theatre director ManicklalDangi. She later married actor Kumar (who appeared in Mughal-e-Azam and Shri 420) before settling down to live with Parsi filmmaker NariGadhali for four decades after Kumar migrated to Pakistan in 1963.


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    In those four decades, she shunned the limelight, brought up her four sons and a daughter and waged a colossal battle to get back her property in Mumbai's ShivajiPark area from the clutches of creditors and authorities.
    With a whirlwind life like that, even the most stout-hearted scriptwriter would hesitate to pen her biopic. Her youngest son actor Hyder Ali of television series Nukkad-fame pays a very personal tribute here:

    My ma may be known for dash and feisty spirit but it did not come up only when she was cornered. It was her trait. It appeared in everything she did.

    I asked her what it was about her that AmolPalekar wanted her to act in his Marathi film, Thang, at 90. How do you manage to be the centre of attraction even now, I asked her.


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    She said, 'Haidoo, you have to command what you want. If you do not get it, demand it. If you still don't get it, grab it. If you still do not get it you to kill to get it. If you worry about what the world thinks, you will waver from your goal.'
    She was like that. She never cared too hoots if the world was shocked, embarrassed... right from the day she walked out of her house.

    She hurt people in the process but she was able to compensate because she succeeded financially. She never took from people, she only gave. Throughout, she remained economically independent and died as a landlady.

    Charting your own independent path was easier said than done. When she wanted to emulate the success of her cousin in Bollywood as a Kolkata teenager, she joined a Parsitravelling theatre company.


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    Her job was to keep the audiences quiet with her charms during the 15 minutes it took to change reels in the single-projector silent film. You can imagine the courage and conviction it took for someone, who had been a kindergarden headmistress and had pre-university art certificates from London.
    Her orthodox father clobbered her for that but she did not care.

    Her spirit showed again when our father left for Pakistan, leaving us in debt. Our family building had been mortgaged for Rs 1 lakh (easily equivalent to crores of rupees today). Some of its flats had been requisitioned by the government. Unlike other film people, she gave up all trappings of stardom, travelled in public buses to fight court battles. She juggled her film finances to ward off auctions on two occasions and a civic injuction on another.

    She wanted all of us to join cinema. Only I stand devoted to it. My siblings said it is too irregular a profession. My mom said, all life is irregular. That was her message to us. Never give up. You have keep trying and trying all the time till your last breath and the opportunity will create itself.



    For it was a handful of Jews who helped pioneer the fledgling Indian film industry, from the silent era into sound. Not surprisingly, some of Bollywood's first and greatest stars were Jews.

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    Smile Yes, it's about time you also heard about:

    Sulochana, born: Ruby Meyers

    (Not to be confused with actresses SulochanaDevi and SulochanaLatkar)



    Sulochana (1907 - 1983), real name Ruby Myers) was an Indian silent film star of Jewish ancestry, although it is unclear whether she descended from an Ashkenazi family, Bene Israeli family, or both.

    In her heyday she was the highest paid actresses of her times, when she was pairing with, 'DinshawBillimoria' in 'Imperial Studios' films. In mid 1930 she opened 'RubiPics', a film production House

    Last edited by Revenge of The Fallen; 01-07-2012 at 10:07 PM.

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    She was awarded the 1973 Dada SahebPhalke Award, India's highest Award in Cinema for Lifetime achievement.

    Among her popular films were Typist Girl (1926), Balidaan (1927) and Wildcat of Bombay (1927) where she essayed eight roles including a gardener, a policeman, a Hyderabadi gentleman, a street urchin, a banana seller and a European blonde!

    Further talkie versions of her silent hits followed and with Indira (now an) M.A.(1934), Anarkali (1935) and BombaykiBilli (1936). Sulochana was back with a bang. She was drawing a salary ofRs 5000 per month, she had the sleekest of cars (Chevrolet 1935) and one of the biggest heroes of the silent era, D. Billimoria, as her lover with whom she worked exclusively between 1933 and 1939. They were an extremely popular pair - His John Barrymore style opposite her Oriental 'Queen of Romance' image.

    In 1953, she acted in her third Anarkali, but this time in a supporting role as Salim's mother.

    She finally died lonely and forgotten in 1983 in her flat in Mumbai. A sad end for the woman who once became famous for drawing a larger salary than the Governor of Bombay and who even acted in a film named after her - Sulochana (1933)!

    Sulochana established her own film studio, RubiPics, in the mid-1930s. She received the Dada SahebPhalke Award in 1973 for her lifetime contribution to Indian cinema.

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    Firoza Begum, alias: Susan Solomon,


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    Default David of Chupke Chupke fame and a lot many other movies


    David born as David Abraham Cheulkar,



    David Abraham Cheulkar (1908 - 1981), popularly known as David was a Jewish-Indian Hindi-language film actor, who started his film career with 1941 film NayaSansar and went on to act in over 110 films. He was a member of Mumbai's BeneIsrael community.

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    Strongly associated with friendly uncle roles, David is best known for his portrayal of John Chacha in the 1954 hit Boot Polish, directed by PrakashArora for which he won the 1955 Filmfare Best Supporting Actor Award. The song "NanheMunneBachche" from the film, picturized with him became a memorable song of that era. He never married and died on 28 December 1981 in Toronto, Canada.

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    Thumbs up You Got To Notice This One

    Nadira, born Florence Ezekiel.



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    Indian actress Nadira, born: Florence Ezekiel. Nadira was born to a Baghdadi Jewish family. She is survived by two brothers, one of whom lives in the USA and another in Israel..

    Nadira won a Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress, her role as Julie's mother Margaret, 'Maggie', in the 1975 film Julie. During the 1980s and 1990s, she entered a new phase of her career, playing elderly women as a supporting actress. Her last role was in the film Josh (2000).

    She was well paid for her efforts, and was one of the first Indian actors to own a Rolls-Royce.

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