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Israel embassy unveils street-art mural in Delhi, honours Indian Jewish actors

NEW DELHI: The Israeli embassy on Monday unveiled a street-art mural in the heart of New Delhi to mark 30 years of India-Israel friendship and to highlight the contributions of Indian-Jewish actors Nadira, Sulochana and Pramila.

The artwork at Connaught Place was unveiled by Israeli ambassador Naor Gilon and minister of state for external affairs Meenakashi Lekhi.

The Israeli embassy collaborated with Delhi Street Art to conceive and execute the wall art project, which pays tribute to the Indian-Jewish actors who made a mark in the early decades of Indian cinema. The mural is also a tribute to the deep-rooted cultural relations between Israel and India, which established full-fledged diplomatic relations in 1992.

Florence Ezekiel, popularly known as Nadira, was born into a Baghdadi-Jewish family and is best remembered for her performances in films during the 1950s and 1960s, such as Shree 420, Pakeezah and Julie.

Nadira rose to cinematic prominence with the 1952 film Aan, in which she played a princess. She won a Filmfare award for best supporting female actor for her role in the 1975 film Julie.

Esther Victoria Abraham, known by her stage name Pramila, was the first woman to be crowned Miss India in 1947. She belonged to the Baghdadi-Jewish community of Kolkata. Pramila starred in about 30 films as a stunt star, including Ulti Ganga, Basant and Jungle King.

Florence Ezekiel, popularly known as Nadira, is best remembered for her performances in films during the 1950s and 1960s, such as Shree 420, Pakeezah and Julie (Photo courtesy/Israeli embassy)

In 1942, she became the first woman producer in India, when she founded the production house Silver Films with her husband. Pramila used her position in the industry to encourage other women to join films.

Ruby Myers, better known as Sulochana, was one of the most successful silent film stars. She too belonged to a Baghdadi-Jewish family, and her career took off with her debut role in Veer Bala (1925). She acted in several movies in a number of genres, including Typist Girl, Balidaan, Cinema Queen and Wildcat of Bombay, where she played eight characters.

In the mid-1930s, she was one of the highest-paid female actors of her time, reputedly drawing a salary higher than the governor of the Bombay Presidency. In 1973, she was awarded the Dada Saheb Phalke Award for her lifetime achievements.

At the unveiling of the mural, Gilon said, “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.”

He added, “We hope that passersby in this corner 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 project is one of a series of events to mark 30 years of diplomatic ties between India and Israel.

Lekhi said, “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.”

The mural was designed by Delhi Street Art’s founder Yogesh Saini and his team of artists.

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