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.
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.