While the prominent role of Jews in the early years of Hollywood is well known, more obscure is the part played by Jews in the founding of “Bollywood,” the Indian film industry. Indian Jews were filmmakers and occasionally actors but, most of all, actresses. Navras Jaat Aafreedi writes:
[O]f all the diverse ethnic and religious groups in the world’s second-most-populous country, these earliest female stars came from a minority within India’s smallest religious minority, the Jews, who constitute no more than 0.0004 per cent of its total population. The Baghdadis (as the Jews who came from a number of Middle Eastern countries . . . came to be called), were one of the three Jewish communities in India; they were [also] among those [ethnic and religious] communities in India who completely Anglicized themselves. . . .
Baghdadi Jewish women, highly Westernized in their lifestyle and outlook, . . . did not have the reservations [about the] performing arts that women from other communities in India—including the other Jewish communities, the Bene Israel and the Cochin Jews—had. By doing so they paved the way for women from respectable families from other communities to follow suit. . . .
The first star of Indian cinema was Sulochana (née Ruby Myers, 1907-83). . . . A hugely popular dance of Sulochana’s from the film Madhuri was added to a short film on Mahatma Gandhi . . . which also happened to be India’s first “talkie.”
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