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‘SULOCHANA’ (Ruby Myers) (1907-1983)

Sulochana was an actor. She was born Ruby Myers, of Jewish ancestry, although it is unclear whether she descended from an Ashkenazi or a Bene Israeli family, or both. Chubby and brown-eyed, she grew up in Pune and was working as a telephone operator when she was approached by Mohan Bhavnani of Kohinoor Films. Initially she declined because of the social stigma of acting, but Bhavnani persisted and eventually she agreed. She went on to become the highest paid star in the country, drawing a salary of five thousand rupees a month (more than the Governor of Bombay) and driving around the city in a 1935 Chevrolet. She acted in Typist Girl (1926), Balidaan (1927) and Wildcat of Bombay (1927) a tour de force in which she played eight characters: a gardener, a policeman, a Hyderabadi gentleman, a street urchin, a banana seller and a European blonde. In 1929 three films featured her and directed by R.S. Chaudhari were hits: Madhuri, Anarkali and Indira B.A. The coming of sound was initially a problem as her Hindi was bad. She took a year off to study the language and improve her diction, then came back in 1932 with the talkie version of Madhuri. She remade many of her hits in talkie versions. She switched from Kohinoor Studio to Imperial Studios where she was paired with Dinshaw Billimoria from 1933 to 1939. In the mid-1930s she opened Rubi Pics, her own film production house. In 1973 she received the Dada Saheb Phalke Award for lifetime achievement. Ismail Merchant paid homage to her in Mahatma and the Bad Boy (1974).
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