The Israel embassy in India has collaborated with Delhi Street Art to conceive and execute a wall art project – to mark 30 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Ambassador of Israel to India Naor Gilon and minister of state for external affairs and culture of India Meenakshi Lekhi on Monday unveiled a mural at Connaught Place, which depicts and pays tribute to three Indian-Jewish actresses Esther Victoria Abraham- Pramila, Sulochana – Ruby Myers and Nadira- Florence Ezekiel who made a mark in the early years of Indian cinema.
“Thank you Meenakshi Lekhi, NDMC and to Delhi Street Art who helped us add more colour to the city. Today, we are revealing this mural, reminding us of the work of three extraordinary actresses from the Jewish community in India, and in doing so we are also revealing another layer of the unique cultural connection between India and Israel,” Gilon said.
Gilon hoped that passersby will be inspired by these characters – “women from a small community who have paved a path for other women to be bold and fearless, and left a mark on what is today, the largest film industry in the world, Bollywood”.
The mural was designed by Delhi Street Art’s founder Yogesh Saini and his team. It took them seven days to prepare the art.
“This project represents the shared history and friendship between India and Israel. I congratulate the people of both nations as together we celebrate 75 years of India’s independence and 30 years of our diplomatic relations,” said Lekhi at the event.
On the occasion, Saini said, “This mural is the fruition of several months of conceptualising, planning and designing. Both India and Israel have been blessed with empowered women in every professional field. We have chosen to represent some of these trendsetting women from the early days of Indian cinema who brought the best of both cultures to the silver screen.”
Esther Victoria Abraham is widely known by her stage name Pramila. She was the first woman to be crowned Miss India in 1947. She belonged to the Baghdadi-Jewish community in Calcutta. Pramila starred in about 30 films as a stunt star, including Ulti Ganga, Basant and Jungle King.
In 1942, she became the first-ever woman producer in India, when she founded a production house with her husband by the name of Silver Films.
Florence Ezekiel, popularly known as Nadira, was an actress in Indian cinema. Born to a Baghdadi-Jewish family, she is best remembered for her performances in films during the 1950s and 1960s such as Shree 420, Pakeezah and Julie.
Nadira’s cinematic prominence rose with the 1952 film Aan with her role as a Rajput princess. She won a Filmfare Award for best supporting actress for her role as Julie’s mother Margaret, ‘Maggie’ in the 1975 film Julie. She is also fondly remembered as part of the “Mud Mud Ke Na Dekh” song (in the movie Shree 420).
Ruby Myers, better known as Sulochana, was one of the most successful silent film stars. She also belonged to a Baghdadi Jewish family. Ruby’s career took off with her debut role in Veer Bala (1925). She went on to act in several movies, ranging in a number of genres such as Typist Girl, Balidaan, Cinema Queen and Wildcat of Bombay, where she played eight different characters. Her career reached new heights with films such as Madhuri (1928), Anarkali and Indira BA In the mid-1930s, she was one of the highest-paid actresses of her time, reputedly drawing a salary higher than the governor of the Bombay presidency. In 1973, she was awarded Dada Saheb Phalke Award, India’s highest award in cinema for her lifetime achievement.