Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Once Indian Cinema was ruled by the Jews

These days for the past 2 months I am in Australia and watching a lot of T V programmes. A few days ago I heard about Danny Ben Moshe,  a documentary filmmaker and an Associate Professor at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia. He has an interest in studying the Jew community in various trades and settling in various part of Globe. He also came to India to make a documentary on Jews contribution to Indian Cinema. 
On this subject, I wrote a blog in July 2017 on the occasion of Indian Prime Minister Modi's visit to Israel. In continuation of this subject, I am writing another blog on this subject.
We all know that Jewish people are a very innovative and enterprising community. They were the first to make a studio and made cinema in Hollywood. In India also they entered into the Cinema industry. Initially, they financed Silent Cinema but later they entered into the other fields of cinema.
The ‘30s were a key decade for Indian cinema. Sound — and the dancing format that has characterized Bollywood ever since — was introduced in 1931 with “Alam Ara,” written by Indian Jewish playwright David Joseph Penkar. In 1932, another Indian Jew, Ezra Mir (born Edwin Myers), created a sensation with “Zarina,” which included a record 86 kiss scenes.
 The Jewish were active in Bollywood during the period – the ’30s and the ’40s – when anti-Semitism was at its peak in other parts of the world.

 In the early days of Bollywood,  it was a taboo for Hindu and Muslim women to act in movies. so initially female roles were played by men, the Jewish community in India was more liberal and progressive and they were prepared to take these role[s]. The fact that they had lighter skin made them all the more suited for celluloid. Initially, the cinema was silent so it was easy for the Jewish ladies to play the female lead as the language was not a barrier to them. They couldn't speak Hindi or Urdu.
During the silent era, most of India’s film stars were Jewish. But barring a few, they could not continue with their successful careers once the talkies were introduced as they were incapable of delivering dialogues in Hindi because of their Anglicised upbringing.
While in the early days of Hollywood the Jewish influence was behind the camera, in India it was front-and-centre onscreen.

The first female superstar was the Jewish actress Sulochana (aka Ruby Myers), and she and other Jewish stars had a formative impact on the development of Indian cinema. In her heyday, she was the highest paid actresses of her times, when she was pairing with, 'DinshawBillimoria' in 'Imperial Studios' films. In 1930, Sulochana made headlines when filmgoers saw her do a protracted kissing scene in the film “Hamara Hindustan." In mid-1930 she opened 'RubiPics', a film production House.
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! In 1953, she acted in her third Anarkali, but this time in a supporting role as Salim's mother. She received the Dada Sahab Phalke Award in 1973 for her lifetime contribution to Indian cinema. She died in 1983.
Sulochana was joined by other Indian Jewish actresses. Miss Rose, nee Rose Ezra, had endured a divorce and financial difficulties before finding silent-screen success in the 1920s. Rose’s cousin Pramila, who was born Esther Victoria Abraham, began her long career in the 1930s. Sulochana and Pramila would go on to become producers as well.

In the 40s another heroine made the name, Ramala Devi was born as Rachel Cohen. She is known for her work on Hit film Khazanchi (1941) where she appeared in the famous cycling song Saawan Ke Nazaare Hain. , one of her famous movies was Hum Bhi Insaan Hain (1948) with Dev Anand and. Jhooti Kasmen (1948). And as was the fashion with famous film stars of the time, she endorsed Lux soap in the 1940s. 

Post-independence Jewish Indian star Nadira was born Florence (or Farhat) Ezekiel Nadira, and debuted as Princess Rajshree in the 1952 film “Aan.”
In 1955, she played a rich socialite named Maya in Shree 420. She played pivotal roles in a number of films such as "Dil Apna Aur Preet Parai", Hanste ZakhmAmar Akbar Anthony and Pakeezah. She was often cast as a temptress or vamp and played opposite the chaste heroines then favoured by the Bollywood film industry. She was well paid for her efforts and was one of the first Indian actresses to own a Rolls-Royce. She 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 died at the age of 73 at the Bhatia Hospital at TardeoMumbai,

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 Naya Sansar and went on to act in over 110 films. He was a member of Mumbai's Bene Israel community. With the help of his close friend Mr Nayampalli, a veteran character actor, he managed to land himself his first role in a movie. The movie was Zambo (1937) it was being produced and directed by Mohan Bhavnani. Beside Character actor   David is best known for his portrayal of "John Chacha" in the 1954 hit and Filmfare Award for Best Film winner and Palme d'Or nominee, Boot Polish, directed by Prakash Arora, for which he won the 1955 Filmfare Best Supporting Actor AwardThe song "Nanhe Munne Bachche" from the film, picturized with him became a memorable song of that era. David was one of the best and the well-known anchor, compare and the host of the prominent award shows and other functions, He hosted many Filmfare Awards in the early years of Filmfare Awards. Some of his memorable films were  Anupama (1966),Ek Phool Do Maali (1969), Abhimaan (1973), Chupke Chupke (1975), Gol Maal (1979) and Khubsoorat (1980).He was awarded the Padma Shri award in 1969 by Government of IndiaHe died on 28 December 1981 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada of a heart attack at the age of 73.

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