Growing up, I didn’t know that Baghdadi Jewish women--including members of my own family--were Indian film superstars. My mother went to the movies, but to British and American ones, not Bollywood ones in Hindi. Her favorite stars were Ingrid Bergman and Clark Gable. Her parents were fluent in Arabic mixed with Hindustani and English and they went neither to Bollywood or English movies. My father's family did go to Hindi movies—in fact Sulochana, who starred in 70 Bollywood movies, was my grandfather's first cousin.
By the time I was born, the Baghdadi Jewish stars had faded or died. Imagine my surprise and delight when one day in March 2017, almost exactly four years ago, I received an email from Danny Ben-Moshe, the director of a then-upcoming documentary about Jews and Indian cinema. He asked if he could use music from my CD, Hodu: Jewish Rhythms from Baghdad to India, in his film, Shalom Bollywood.
Shalom Bollywood has had great success and has been screened at film festivals around the world. Audiences have fallen in love with the Jewish stars: Sulochana; Pramila, who went on to be the first Miss India; Miss Rose, the "socialite extraordinaire;" Uncle David, who often hosted India’s equivalent to the Oscars; and Nadira, who often played the sassy vamp.
Today, Shalom Bollywood is available on Amazon Prime.
I'm thrilled that Danny Ben-Moshe will be my guest on our next NamaStay at Home program, Sunday, February 28 at 7 pm ET. He will talk about the impact these stars had on shaping what we now know as the worlds’ largest film industry; the cultural reasons that allowed these Jewish women to push boundaries and the harmonious Jewish existence in India, which he calls a "refreshingly positive Jewish story." The reign of the Jewish stars lasted until Hindu women broke their own societal taboos and entered Indian cinema.
Photographer Joan Roth will also join us to share her memories of Nadira and producing an iconic photo of the star in her Bombay home.
Our program will go beyond Bollywood of yesteryear to today's Bollywood dance. Revital Moses, a choreographer, dancer and Mumbai native who now lives in Israel, will share her flair and love for contemporary Bollywood. You won't want to miss her moves!
Register now for this fascinating program, Sunday, February 28 at 7 pm ET.
It's the perfect post-Purim celebration!