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|October 21, 1997
Amidst the euphoria of Independence and the holocaust of Partition, the Miss India title was conferred probably for the first time upon actress Pramila. Patronised by editors and prominent journalists from different magazines and based on all-India voting by fans, the title was presented to the stunt movie star-turned vamp by Morarji Desai
When Esther (Pramila's original name) came to Bombay for a holiday, she ended up signing her first film! The unit, headed by director R S Chaudhari, went to Kashmir for the shoot, but the company broke up on location and the film, Return of Toofan Mail, was never made.
On her return, Baburao Pendharker of Kolhapur Cine Tone offered her Rs 1,500 and the second lead role in his film Bhikaran, and renamed her Pramila. The film was successful and Pramila won the best supporting actress award. Her performance was so popular that the distributors were forced to make new posters incorporating her name prominently. Around this time the kingpin of Imperial Movies, Ardeshir Irani , for his second colour film, hired Pramila, who has six TR Ableet Art Certificates from London, as the colour coordinator. He paid her an extra salary of Rs 12,000 to oversee the colour designing of costumes, sets and allowed her the final say in the editing room. The film, called Mother India (not to be confused with the 1957 epic of the same name) also featured Pramila as a foreign-educated Indian girl returning home with progressive new ideas only to realise that her roots are in India. The film was a big success -- it ran for 82 weeks and became the first Indian film to be shown at Buckingham Palace.
But Pramila continued to be mostly a stunt film star, under contract with movie-maker JBH Wadia, who had discovered the reigning stunt queen, Nadia. Later, Pramila successfully broke away from this Hollywood-inspired system, where stars were owned by individual studios, and became the first freelance movie star
Excerpted from Pride of India by Persis Khambatta, Rs 1495, Parijat Media Limited, with the publishers permission. Special copies, signed by many of the Miss Indias and priced at Rs 5000, are also available. The proceeds of this special copies will go to the Missionaries of Charity.
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