The grand old lady: Zohra Sehgal


By Hindustan Times

Veteran actress Zohra Sehgal, whose spirited performance in many a film and stage production has entertained audiences over the past seven decades, turned 100 on Friday.

Sehgal, who has starred in films like Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Dil Se and Cheeni Kum, was last seen in Sanjay
Leela Bhansali's Sawariyaa (2007).

She was born on April 27, 1912, in Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh, third of her seven siblings - and grew up in Chakrata, now in Uttarakhand (near Dehradun).

She began her career as a dancer with Uday Shankar in 1935 and performed across Japan, Egypt, Europe and the US. She married scientist, painter and dancer Kameshwar Sehgal in August 1942. The couple had two children, Kiran and Pavan.

Considered the doyenne of theatre, Sehgal acted with Indian People's Theatre Association (IPTA) and Prithviraj Kapoor's Prithvi Theatre for fourteen years.

She was active in theatre mostly, but also did a few films in between. She choreographed for a few Hindi films as well, including Guru Dutt's Baazi (1951) and the dream sequence song in Raj Kapoor's film Awaara.

Sehgal moved to London on a drama scholarship in 1962, where she appeared in many TV productions including The Jewel in the Crown, Tandoori Nights and My Beautiful Laundrette.

Returning to India in the mid-1990s, Sehgal acted in several films, plays and TV series.

Her film credits include Masala (1991), Dillagi (1999), Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001), Bend it Like Beckham (2002), and Veer-Zaara (2004).

Known for her feisty spirit and zest for life, Zohra spread smiles with her roles in Sawariyaa and Cheeni Kum even at the age of 94.

Sehgal was awarded the Padma Shri in 1998. She was subsequently honoured with the Padma Bhushan (2002) and Padma Vibhushan, the second highest civilian award in 2010.

In 2008, she was named the Laadli of the Century by the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF)-Laadli Media Awards.

Incidentally, Sehgal's 100th birthday comes in the year when Cinema is also celebrating its completion of a century.