Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Happy Independence Day!

A little late, but Happy Independence Day to India.

Photo taken by me: Ganesh in the Bank, 2011

Monday, 11 July 2011

joanna's article in Jewish Renaissance magazine july 2011

I have an article in the current issue of 'Jewish Renaissance' magazine.

Joanna Ezekiel’s account of the JR tour’s visit to Elijah’s rock, a site of pilgrimage for the Bene Israel Jews of whom her father was one.

This article is part of a special 'Jews of India' feature, and also includes articles from my fellow tour members.


Monday, 27 June 2011

Filming Shalom Bollywood

This blog post was first published on my other blog, http://mydelayedreactions.blogspot.com/ in May 2010. Since then, I've visited India for the first time, and am starting work on a longer piece of writing involving my great-grandfather.
As well as all the excitement of 'Centuries of Skin' coming out, I've also been involved in a very interesting project.
I've been interviewed and have read a poem for a documentary film, 'Shalom Bollywood'. Many of India's early Bollywood pioneers and stars were Indian Jews, a part of Jewish and Indian heritage that not many people know about.
The documentary is being made by Danny Ben-Moshe, a filmmaker and academic, for his film company Identity Films. http://www.identity-films.com/about.html He has been flying all over the world, interviewing descendants of these Bollywood Jews.

This is a link to a clip of the film:

I was delighted to have been invited to talk about my great-grandfather's achievements for the film, especially 'Alam Ara' and am really looking forward to seeing it. Thanks, Danny, and good luck with the funding.

I will put more info on this blog about release dates, etc, nearer the time.

This is the poem I read, for my great-grandfather Joseph David Penkar, a Bollywood scriptwriter, director, producer, songwriter, and also playwright.

For Joseph David

This book-lined room is backdrop
for your modest gaze. Photographed
without your furry Russian hat- Dad remembers
how you wore it through the heat and dust.
Did you take it off, close the shutters
at mid-day to write, could you hear

your audience applaud from market stalls,
rickshaws, your mind flickering
past the reels of languages you spoke,
the silhouettes of stories, waves of ragaas?
You wrote as if the silver screen
was big enough to hold a world

where your descendants would scatter -
England, Ahmedabad, Israel, Canada.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Hooray for Bollywood article reprinted

Hooray for Bollywood:

About Joseph David, the Bene Israel Jew who wrote and produced the first talkie in Bollywood.                           

India has a thriving film industry. For example, Bengal (the home of Satyajit Ray's famous films, such as the trilogy starting with The World of Apu); South India, especially Kerala; Maharashtra State, Rajasthan and the Punjab all have their own large, thriving film industries. Bollywood, however is the best-known aspect of it in the West, and seems to be the most popular among the Indian expatriate community.

Bollywood is centred in Bombay, or as it now is, Mumbai, (perhaps now it should be called Mollywood,) and churns out about 800 films a year in 12 languages. Financed by interest rates of 40 to 60 percent and with a dozen-odd studios working round the clock, producing several films at any one time, all in the same studios, as well as some of the stars working on up to ten films simultaneously, ''churn'' seems to be the operative word. Clearly it is not a place for painstaking method-actors or -actresses.

In the first talkie in Hollywood, a Jew, Al Jolson, merely starred in it, but in the Indian film industry's first talkie, Joseph David (DE’s grandfather), wrote the story, the music and co-produced it.

The film Alam Ara is a swashbuckling tale about a power-struggle between two queens of an ageing king, and the daughter of an imprisoned loyal general, the Alam Ara of the title. It was based on Joseph David's popular play written in Persian, and performed by his Parsee Theatrical Theatre Company and produced by Wadia Movietone. According to The Encyclopedia of Indian Cinema, "Alam Ara established the use of music, song and dance as the mainstay of Indian cinema."

He went on to write and co-produce many other films for Wadia Movietone, including a series of  stunt movies, the first being Hunterwali, (The Lady with the Whip), about a super-heroine, the Indian equivalent of the superheroes and heroines, such as Batman and Wonder-woman in Western cinema. Incidentally the leading lady in these films was a Jewess from the Ukraine, called Nadia. The Jewish connection does not end there. The Bombay Film Laboratories, which processed most of the films made in Bombay at that time, was started by a Jewish solicitor called Moses Solomon who happened to be the grandfather of another of our contributors, Sophie Jhirard.

Alam Ara had an interesting brush with history. An actor called Master Vithal was the leading man. The studio that he left to join Wadia Movietone, Sharda Studio, sued him for breach of contract. The lawyer who successfully defended him was Mohamed Ali Jinnah, the founder and first president of Pakistan.

A moving tribute was written by J.B.H.Wadia, one of the Wadia brothers who owned and ran Wadia Movietone which appeared in the Times of India in 1966. He pointed out that it was due to David Joseph’s extreme modesty (not an asset in this industry) that he did not receive the full recognition for his pioneering work and for his importance in the Indian film industry. -- Anthony Kerstein & Danny Ezekiel

This article was first published online at:
Many thanks to Anthony Kerstein, Henry Gee, and my father, Danny.

poem: rothko in mumbai

Rothko in Mumbai

Rothko's reds
pulse into life
his greys and blacks
are also seen
by tired eyes
welcoming sleep

If I could
I'd parachute
Rothko's canvases
into Mumbai

the scarlet spatter
across the lobby
of the Taj Palace Hotel

I wrote this poem on November 27, 2008, when the Mumbai attacks were still continuing (in London time) after visiting the Rothko exhibition at the Tate Modern. In February 2011, I visited Chabad House, now being restored, bullet holes still in the wall, police officers standing outside.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Joanna at the Bollywood Bazaar


Thanks to Millie Kieve who took this short film at the Bollywood Bazaar shop in the Chor Bazaar, Mumbai on Feb 21, 2011. I had a lovely chat with owner Shahid Mansoori, and bought prints of 'Alam Ara' and 'Hunterwali' - films that were written by my great-grandfather, plus a couple of other posters that looked great. Mr. Mansoori has written books on Bollywood, and has a comprehensive stock of film posters - well worth a visit.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

history of Alam Ara on a TV clip

This is a link to an Indian TV programme about early Bollywood, involving a short history of Alam Ara. The Alam Ara part is about five minutes in to the programme.


Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Alam Ara Google Doodle

This is the Google Doodle that appeared on Google India on March 14 2011 for the 80th anniversary of India's first talking film.


And here's a short, informative Indian TV clip about early Bollywood. There's a new photo of Joseph David in the TV clip, and a mention that Alam Ara was 'based on a Parsi play by Joseph David'.


Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Indian 'DNA Daily News and Analysis' article about early Bollywood

I was interviewed for a very informative article about the Jewish involvement in early Bollywood.  Thanks to Lenny Bhutia for taking an interest in Joseph David.

Article about Bollywood's Jewish connections