June 17, 2024

From David to Nadira, even India’s first female star Sulochana were all Jews – Throwback | Hindi Movie News



As Israel is embroiled in a war, Indians have found reason to support the Middle Eastern nation. And there’s a reason why the Indian sentiment resonates with the Jewish country. Jews have long been part of Indian culture and society. Film Theorist, Historian and Curator, Amrit Gangar reveals Indian cinema‘s deep connections to Jews.
He reveals, “Way back in 1969, I was still a student in Bombay, I studied violin under a Jewish teacher named BennySatamkar near Sandhurst Road railway station.Benny, a Bene Israel Jew, had taken me to the Rajkamal Kalamadir studios in Parel where the background music for a Marathi film ‘Aai Aahe Shetat’ (Mother is in the Field, 1970) was being recorded. Its music director was Hemant Kedar, who was also the film’s producer. Benny was part of Bollywood music world so was his uncleDavid. Many Jewish families lived in the Mazagaon neighborhood.”
Gangar further recalls, “Another Jewish immigrant who composed the AIR (All India Radio) signature tune was Walter Kaufmannn, on whom I have written a book. Walter also composed music for Bollywood films, eg, movies produced by Wadia Movietone etc back in the 30s and 40s.”Amrit had the good fortune of meeting one of the most famous Jews to ever have lived in India. He says, “Among the most famous Jews (both female and male actors) were Sulochana, whose original name was Ruby Myers (1907-1983), whom I had the privilege of meeting along with my silent film scholar friend Virchand Dharamsey. But by that time, she had become very reticent and unwilling to talk. Her contemporary was another well-known Jewish actress, Pramila, whose original name was Esther Victoria Abraham, who was also a star of the Indian silent era.”
The list of famous Jewish stars goes on. Gangar elaborates, “Nadira nee Florence Ezekiel was another lead star in the early Bollywood films. She starred in India’s first colour film ‘Aan’ (1952). How can you forget that great song from the film ‘Shree 420’? Mud mud ke na dekh mud mud ke, so vibrantly essayed by Nadira with Raj Kapoor?”
Gangar recalls the affable charm of David and other significant Jewish persons who contributed to Indian cinema. He says, “Among well-known Bollywood actors, the unforgettable name is David, who had a long career and was such a lovable actor. India’s first talkie or the sound film ‘Alam Ara’ (1931) was based on the Jewish writer Joseph David. Ezra Mir played a very significant role in shaping up Bollywood in all its aspects, documentary films, feature films, children’s films, etc.”
Summarizing the historical association between Indians and Jewish people, Gangar signs off, “In short, the Jewish community is an inseparable part of Bollywood.”


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