MUMBAI – MAHARASHTRA – INDIA MAY 22 , 2012 04.15 P.M.
Zohra Sehgal , the legendary film and theatre actor , recently completed 100 years of her momentous life . It is fascinating to know that she is as old as Indian cinema . She , in fact , is a year older . She was born in Saharanpur , Uttar Pradesh in 1912 . And the first Indian cinema ” Raja Harishchandra ” was made and released in 1913 in Mumbai . So she precedes Indian cinema and is still among us .
She was born as Zohra Mumtaz Ullah Khan in an orthodox Muslim aristocratic family and went to Queen Mary’s Girls College , Lahore and later on to Mary Wigmen’s ballet school in Dresden , Germany . There she was trained in modern dance and was the first Indian to get trained at that school . She stayed there for couple of years and fortunately met Uday Shankar there , who was travelling Europe at that time with his troupe .
While still in Europe , she was invited by Uday Shankar to join his troupe . She joined legendary dancer’s troupe in 1935 and worked with him for 8 long years . Along with his troupe , she toured Japan , Egypt , Europe and U. S. A. Later on she became a teacher in Uday Shankar’s India Cultural Centre at Almora .
She met her future husband Kameshwar Nath Sehgal at the Uday Shankar’s India Cultural Centre and married him against the wishes of her orthodox family and hence , she came to be known as Zohra Sehgal . She has a daughter Kiran and a son Pavan , who is married to the grand – daughter of Munshi Premchand , the renowned Hindi writer .
Later on , she migrated to Bombay [ now Mumbai ] with her family and started working with Prithvi Raj Kapoor’s Prithvi Theatre in 1945 , where her sister Uzra Butt was already working . She essayed many roles in his plays . She was a major star of Prithvi theatre . She also worked with Indian People’s Theatre Association [ IPTA ] for 14 long years .
She made her screen debut with IPTA’s first film production ” Dharti Ke Lal ” [ 1946 ] , a film directed by Khwaja Ahmad Abbas . This followed by ” Neecha Nagar ” [ 1946 ] , directed by Chetan Anand . incidentally ” Neecha Nagar “ became the first Indian film to win Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival . Later on she worked in ” Afsar ” [ 1950 ] , first film of Dev Anand’s banner Navketan and ” Baazi ” [ 1951 ] , a film directed by Guru Dutt .
After her husband’s death in 1959 , Zohra Sehgal moved to Delhi and then to London and worked in films like ” The Courtesans of Bombay ” [ 1983 ] , a Merchant Ivory Productions . ” The Jewel in The Crown ” [ 1984 ] and ” Tandoori Nights ” [ 1985 ] are her famous TV role .
In mid 90s , she again returned to India and started her second innings with films like ; ” Dil Se ” [ 1998 ] . ” Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam ” [ 1999 ] , ” Dillagi ” [ 1999 ] , ” Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham ” [ 2001 ] , ” The Mystic Masseur ” [ 2001 ] , ” Bend It Like Beckham ” [ 2002 ] , ” Veer – Zaara ” [ 2004 ] ” Cheeni Kum ” [ 2007 ] and ” Saawariya ” [ 2007 ] .
She won many awards in her long and chequered career . She got Padma Shri in 1998 , Padma Bhushan in 2002 and Padma Vibhushan in 2010 . She also received Kalidas Samman in 2001 and Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship in 2004 for lifetime achievement .
It is fascinating to complete 100 years of one’s life and 61 years of active film and stage career . She started her career on stage in 1945 at Prithvi Theatre . So from 1945 to 2006 , when she appeared on stage again for the Centenary Year celebration of Prithvi Raj Kapoor , it is 61 – year – long stage career .
From ” Dharti Ke Lal ” and ” Neecha Nagar ” [ 1946 ] to ” Cheeni Kum ” and ” Saawariya ” [ 2007 ] , it is again 61 – year – long career in films .
She joined Uday Shankar’s troupe in 1935 . And her last two appearances on-screen ; ” Cheeni Kum “ and ” Saawariya ” came in 2007 . So it becomes incredible 72 – year – long career in fine arts .
She has another distinction to her credit . She worked with Prithvi Raj Kapoor in 1945 . And then she worked with his great grandson Ranbir Kapoor in 2007 . I think this is un – paralleled in the history of world cinema . She beautifullybridged the gap of 62 years and 4 generations .
Her life and achievements are amazing . I have trained Ranbir Kapoor for ” Saawariya ” . So I feel a sense of attachment to the legendary Zohra Sehgal because she was also associated with the film . I feel blessed .
See the photograph posted above . See her zest and vigour . Her energy is infectious . Her impish smile is intact .
I pray for her long life . May she out – live me also . Amen !!!
MUMBAI – MAHARASHTRA – INDIA
- Zohra’s century: Grande dame of Indian theatre celebrates 100th birthday with a book on her remarkable life (dailymail.co.uk)
- An evening of love: Zohra celebrates a fun-packed evening (dailymail.co.uk)
- Next Post (niyogibooks.wordpress.com)
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