by Emily Wax
Imagine that it’s the spring of 1913, in the dawn of Indian cinema — what we know today as that song-and-dance, escapist movie industry that is Bollywood.
Back then, it was considered unseemly for Hindu and Muslim actresses to appear on celluloid, so they hired burly men with trademark Indian mustaches to play women by dressing in bedazzled saris and bangles and prancing around. It all ends up looking a lot like a Monty Python skit.
Then, one day, a theater producer thought of a solution: Why not cast female Jewish Indian dancers as Hindu heroines, since their families allowed them to perform onstage? In a largely untold and nearly forgotten story, Indian Jewish actresses rose to become some of the most famous starlets during the golden age of Bollywood.
“Just when you thought you’ve heard it all,” chuckled Daniel Mariaschin, executive vice president of B’nai B’rith International, which, along with the Indian Embassy in Washington, sponsored a screening of clips from the forthcoming documentary “Shalom Bollywood: The Untold Story of Indian Cinema.” ...more.
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