She was a stage actress, a mother and grandmother or a great-grandmother or as we call it dadi to everyone in Bollywood. She made people laugh, she made people love she made people smile! She had a killer smile which everyone loved. If it was on screen or off the screen she was a dadi which everyone loved hugging.
Zohra Sehgal an Indian actress and choreographer as she started her career as a dancer with Uday Shankar in 1935 and worked with him for the next eight years. Later, she appeared in many Bollywood films, English language films and television series as an actress.
The famous films she was part of, include Neecha Nagar, Afsar(1946),Bhaji on the Beach (1992), The Mystic Masseur (2001), Bend It Like Beckham (2002), Dil Se.. (1998), Saawariya andCheeni Kum (2007); and the TV series, The Jewel in the Crown (1984), Tandoori Nights (1985–87), Amma and Family (1996).
At the age of 90, she got the lead character around whom the story revolved in 2002 film Chalo Ishq Ladaaye, where she had stunt sequences and emotional scenes. Considered the doyenne of Indian theatre, she acted with Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA) and Prithviraj Kapoor’s Prithvi Theatre for 14 years.
She has received many awards as well! She was awarded the Padma Shri in 1998, Kalidas Samman in 2001, and in 2004, the Sangeet Natak Akademi. India’s National Academy for Music, Dance and Drama presented her with its highest award, the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship for lifetime achievement. She received the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second-highest civilian honor, in 2010
Ageless and timeless in her over seven-decade-long theatre and film career, Zohra Sehgal’s zest for life, wit and charm will continued to inspire generations to come. If Zohra, who died Thursday at the age of 102, was named the “Laadli of the Century” by the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF)-Laadli Media Awards, she was also labelled a “tireless performer” by her fans and well-wishers.
Born as Sahibzadi Zohra Begum Mumtaz-ullah Khan April 27, 1912 in Saharanpur in then United Provinces, Sehgal was one of seven children of Mumtazullah Khan and Natiqua Begum. Her over 70-year professional journey is beautifully summarised by well-known stage personalities M.K. Raina and Anant Raina in “Zohra Sehgal: An Interview 2012″, a documentary featuring a lengthy interview with the actress along with old photos from her family albums showing how she didn’t let age dampen her spirit at all.
On her 100th birthday, her first official biography, “Zohra Sehgal: Fatty” by her daughter Kiran Segal was released.
After graduating from Lahore’s Queen Mary College, Zohra, who was passionate about dance, chose career over marriage. Her tryst with showbiz began with dance when she joined Uday Shankar in 1935 and worked with him for a few years. She went on to teach dance in Almora later, and that’s where she met painter and dancer Kameshwar Sehgal and married him. She later took to dramatics with the Prithvi Theatre in 1945. Zohra worked with them for 14 years, travelling to various cities, and even joined the Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA). Her journey into filmdom was been interesting too. Described as a doyenne of Indian theatre, she appeared in over 20 films. Apart from others, she worked with four generations of Bollywood’s famous Kapoor family – from Prithviraj Kapoor to Raj Kapoor, Rishi Kapoor to Ranbir Kapoor, she worked with them all.
Co-incidentally, her last movie “Saawariya”, was Ranbir’s first movie. Zohra had joined Prithvi Theatres in 1945, and had said that the 14 years she spent there had a affirmative influence on her life.
“If you like my work today or praise my work, it’s all thanks to Prithviraj (Kapoor),” she was quoted as saying.
Zohra is best remembered for her appearances in “Bhaji on the Beach” (1992), “Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam”, “Bend It Like Beckham” (2002), “Dil Se…” (1998) and “Cheeni Kum” (2007).
She was perhaps one of the first Indians to have a taste of international entertainment. In the mid-1960s, she featured in an adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s “The Rescue of Pluffles”, and then also anchored a few episodes of television series “Padosi”. While she was in London, she featured in a film called “The Courtesans of Bombay”, directed by James Ivory in 1982. There was no looking back in international showbiz thereafter.
She went on to feature in TV series like “The Jewel in the Crown”, “My Beautiful Launderette”, “Tandoori Nights” and “Never Say Die”. Zohra came back to India in the 1990s. She was around 80 years old then. While many would have thought she would quit the entertainment world, she was not ready to call it a day.
Sanjay Leela Bhansali, who directed her in two of his films, “Hum Dil…” and “Saawariya”, had once said: “To call her a live-wire is an understatement.”
On the small screen, she featured in “Amma and Family”, and bagged roles in big banner movies. She was passionate about acting that she never said no to any role, even if it was not up to the mark.
“Acting is the only thing I enjoy apart from kissing my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren,” she had said in one of her interviews to ibnlive.in.com. “I have hardly ever refused a role. If I get a bad role, I take it up and work on it.”
At the fag end of her life, age-related problems surrounded her and she had requested for a ground-floor government accommodation from the union culture ministry and the urban development ministry, under the artiste quota, but it was denied. She was 101 at that time.
Check out this video she did with IBNLive about 2 years ago!
(Courtesy of IBN Live)
Today Zohra Sehgal says goodbye after leaving us at 102 years of age. She lived a very long life and gave many of us great memories of her films and her work ethic. An actress who never gave up on work no matter how old she was and always took roles at any age. When she celebrated her birthday she gave a amazing funny pose while cutting her cake which made us all laugh. She saw life as only smiling and no reason to be sad at all. She stated at once:
“I am preparing myself for death. When I go to sleep, I try to keep smiling myself. So that when I die, I have a smile on my lips. I want an electric cremation. I don’t want any poems or fuss after that. And for heaven’s sake, don’t bring back my ashes. Flus them down the toilent if the cremation refuses to keep them. If they tell you that I am dead, I want you to give a big laugh”
We wonder why she stated that before she left us – but the real reason was she was full of life and happiness. She had no regrets in life. Check out her latest video that she did back in February this year, it sure will get you teary! Grab a tissue!