‘Esther Victoria Abraham,’ known as Pramila was born on Saturday, 30 December 1916 (aged 90 years at the time of death) in Calcutta, British India (now Kolkata, India). She did her schooling at Calcutta Girls High School and then shifted to St. James School due to the reasonable fee structure. She then attained a graduation degree in arts from Cambridge University. Soon after completing her studies, she started to teach kindergarten at the Talmud Torah Boys.
Height (approx.): 5′ 5″
Weight (approx.): 60 kg
Hair Colour: Dark Brown
Eye Colour: Black
Esther Victoria Abraham belonged to a Baghdadi Jewish family, who were settled around the Indian Ocean and the South Chinese sea trade ports.
Parents & Siblings
Esther was the daughter of a Kolkata-based Jewish businessman Reuben Abraham with his second wife Matilda Issac, a Jewish lady from Karachi. Esther had three half-siblings and six siblings of her own.
Husband & Children
Esther Victoria Abraham first got married at the age of seventeen to Maniklal Dangi. The couple had a son together. However, their marriage lasted for less than a year. She got married for the second time in 1939 at the age of 22 to Syed Hassan Ali Zaidi, who was known as ‘Kumar.’ The couple were parents to three sons named Akbar, Asghar, and Haider, and a daughter named Naqi. Haider was into films and wrote the screenplay for the movie ‘Jodhaa Akbar’ (2008). Naqi was a model and got married to a Gujarati businessman. Later, she lived with her five children in India after her husband moved to Pakistan with his elementary family from Lucknow.
Esther was of the Jewish faith.
At the age of 17, Esther left her home in Kolkata and worked as a dancer with a Parsi traveling theatre company in Mumbai. Later, She played courageous stunt roles in about 30 films, debuting in the film ‘Bhikarin’ (1935). She gave many hit films including ‘Ulti Ganga’ (1942),
‘Bijli’ (1939), ‘Basant’ (1942), ‘Jungle King’ (1959), ‘Bahana’ (1960), and ‘Bade Nawab Saheb’ (1944).
Her final performance as an actress was in the film ‘Murad’ in 1964. However, Esther played the role of grandmother even after her retirement from the industry and was last seen in the film ‘Quest’ in 2006.
First Miss India
At the age of 31, Esther Victoria Abraham was crowned the first Miss India pageant in 1947 by India’s fourth Prime Minister Morarji Desai. She was pregnant with her fifth child when she became the holder of this title. In an interview she said,
The title was okay—it didn’t really mean much to me then. It only became important 20 years later.”
After the win Miss India, she was a popular face in many magazines of the ’30s and ’40s. She added,
At that time, it (the Miss India pageant) was more of a popular-face contest, and since I was on the cover of most magazines in those days, I was chosen. In those days, the rules and regulations had still not been formally laid down.”
In 1942, Esher and her husband Zaidi established their production company called ‘Silver Productions.’ She started to rise funds for her films and produced 16 films under her banner Silver Productions. She was a successful first women film producer. She use to be a constant traveler in order to promote her films.
Esther Victoria Abraham was jailed by then Prime Minister Morarji Desai on the impression of being a Pakistani spy because of her regular visit to Pakistan. However, it was proved that she use to travel for the promotion of her films.
Awards, Honours, Achievements
- Pramila won the first Miss India Pageant in 1947.
Her net worth was $3 million.
On 6 August 2006, Esther Victoria Abraham, at the age of 90, took her last breath in Mumbai.
- Esther was good in both her studies and sports. Her master game was hockey for which she won many prizes.
- After 20 years of Miss India’s win, Esther’s daughter Naqi won the same title in 1967, therefore, making it the first mother-daughter duo.
- Esther adopted Islam and changed her name to ‘Shabnam Begum Ali’ after her second marriage to Zaidi.
- Her pictures were portrayed on the walls of the Israeli Embassy in Delhi in order to layer up a unique cultural connection between India and Israel.