The Miss India was not a ‘missy’, but a ‘Mrs’ who was pregnant with her fifth child. Shocked? Don’t be, for back in 1947, the contest was all about a popular pretty face, and Pramila had bagged the award hands down. Pramila was given away the Miss India trophy at Liberty Cinema by Moraji Desai.
Pramila was born as Esther Victoria Abraham in Calcutta (now Kolkatta) on 30 December, 1916. She came from an established Parsi business family. A rebel since her young days, Esther learned young in her life that to excel she had to be better than the boys in this highly patriarchal society. She left her home at the age of 17.
Esther landed in silent movies by a sheer stroke of luck. She had come to meet a cousin, an actress in Mumbai, when she was ‘discovered’. Esther’s life raced from there, when she became Pramila, an Indianised name to get in more audiences for her films. A woman who loved to live on the edge, she played a stuntwoman in one, a vamp in another, and soon became a popular name in the city of dreams.
Pramila married Syed Hasan Ali Zaidi in 1939. Zaidi, known by his screen name Kumar and had four children: Akbar, Asghar, Naqi and Haider. When Pramila was carrying her fifth child, she won the first ever Miss India title in 1947. A young nation was holding beauty pageants, where the winner was a 31-year-old much married woman.
Pramila’s win has so many layers of victories from which we can learn many things. The woman had won a pageant at a time, when the concept of beauty was very different. Besides the contest being an unorganised event, where probably the contestants have been more non-Hindu, it also established a norm in modern India, of killing up pretty faces who could draw in the crowd.
Pramila, in her later years, admitted that when she had won the contest back then, she was not hyped about it. The adulation came later, when the event gained more popularity and grew glamorous. Pramila was a full-bodied woman, who led the life of Mother India, herding her kids with equal ease.
Contrast it with today’s beauty contest aspirants who would live on one measly meal to get that zero figure. Today, girls look for ways to enhance their looks, and a few lakhs are nothing to get that desired look.
In a reverse spin of the wheel, the society deemed a woman beautiful, notwithstanding her marital status, loved her with her curves and all those stretch marks of bearing four children. Pramila died a decade back on August 6, 2006.