Zohra Sahgal : A Glorious Century of Life


MUMBAI – MAHARASHTRA – INDIA           MAY 22 , 2012           04.15 P.M.

100 Years Old Zohra Segai

100 Years Old Zohra Sehgal

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 .

Map showing location of district in Uttar Prad...

Map showing location of U.P. in India & Saharanpur district in Uttar Pradesh

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 .

Uday Shankar (1900-1977), noted Indian dancer,...

Uday Shankar (1900-1977), noted Indian dancer, here seen in a 1930s photograph

The Uday Shankar Ballet Troupe, ca (1935-37). ...

The Uday Shankar Ballet Troupe, ca (1935-37). Also seen at the bottom left Zohra Segal

Zohra Sehgal In Uday Shankar's Troupe

Zohra Sehgal In Uday Shankar’s Troupe

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 .

Young Zohra Sehgal

Young Zohra Sehgal

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 .

Zohra Sehgal

Zohra Sehgal

Prithvi Theatre Festival 06, commemorating the...

Prithvi Theatre Festival 2006 , commemorating the Birth Centenary of Prithviraj Kapoor

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 .

Poster of Dharti Ke Lal

Poster of Dharti Ke Lal

Neecha Nagar

Neecha Nagar

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 .

Cover of

Cover of The Courtesans of Bombay

The Courtesans of Bombay

The Courtesans of Bombay

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 ] .

Poster of Dil Se

Poster of Dil Se

Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam

Poster of Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam

Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham...

Poster of Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham

Poster of Veer - Zaara

Poster of Veer – Zaara

Poster of Cheeni Kum

Poster of Cheeni Kum

Poster of Saawariya

Poster of Saawariya

With Ranbir Kapoor in Saawariya

With Ranbir Kapoor in Saawariya

With Amitabh Bachchan in Cheeni Kum

With Amitabh Bachchan in Cheeni Kum

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 .

Zohra Sehgal Receiving Padma Vibhushan in 2010

Zohra Sehgal Receiving Padma Vibhushan in 2010

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 .

100th Birthday Celebration of Zohra Sehgal

100th Birthday Celebration of Zohra Sehgal

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 !!!

VIDUR

MUMBAI – MAHARASHTRA – INDIA

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Curtain Call for Pandit Satyadev Dubey


Pandit Satyadev Dubey

MUMBAI – MAHARASHTRA – INDIA           DECEMBER  28, 2011           02.30 A.M.

I never ever thought that in the last quarter of 2011 I would be writing so many tributes to the departed stalwarts of the field of art  , music and literature . I have already written obituary on Bhupen Hazarika , Shammi Kapoor , Dev Anand , Mario Miranda and Christopher Hitchens . Obituary of Jagjit Singh and Steve Jobs are half – written and yet to be posted . And now comes the news of the sad demise of Pandit Satyadev Dubey .

Pandit Satyadev Dubey

On December 25 , 2011 , when the world was celebrating birth of Jesus Christ , an eminent theater personality Pandit Satyadev Dubey bid adieu . Curtain finally came down and stage went empty . A stalwart , who bestrode the theatre world of Mumbai for 5 decades , Pandit Satyadev Dubey  finally left the stage at the age of 75 . He was sitting in Prithvi Cafe on September 19 , 2011 , when he slipped into coma and was rushed to the hospital . He never came back .

Born in Bilaspur , Chhattisgarh in 1936 , Dubey ji , as he was fondly called , came to Mumbai to become a cricketer . While studying in St. Xavier’s College Mumbai , he came into contact with Vijay Anand , who introduced him to Ebrahim Alkazi . Thus began Dubey ji’s life – long association with theatre . He also learnt from Marathi theatre guru Parshwanath Aaltekar , who taught him articulation and proper pronunciation . Dubey ji used to lisp in his younger days . Theatre Guru Aaltekar taught him how to overcome this short coming .

Dubey ji in His Younger Days

In his 5 decades long career Pandit Satyadev Dubey produced and directed plays like ; ” Yayati ” and ” Hayavadana ” written by Girish Karnad ; ” Aadhe Adhure ” written by Mohan Rakesh ; ” Gidhade ” , ” Shantata ! Court Chalu Aahe ” and ” Baby ” written by Vijay Tendulkar ; ” Evam Indrajit ” and ” Pagla Ghoda ” written by Badal Sarkar ; ” Raktapushpa ” written by Mahesh Elkunchwar ; ” Savlya ” written by Chetan Datar and ” Antigone ” written by Jean Anouilh . He also staged and directed a play ” Andha Yug “ written by Dharamvir Bharti for radio . He wrote and directed plays like ; ” Sambhog Se Sanyas Tak ” , ” Inshallah ” ” Ada Chautal ” and ” Bramha Vishnu Mahesh “ . In the career span of 50 years , he wrote , produced and directed more than 100 plays in Hindi , Marathi and English .

Apart from stage , his first love , he wrote screenplay and dialogues of films like ; ” Ankur ”  [ Screenplay – Dialogue ]” Nishant ” [ Dialogue ] , ” Bhumika “ [ Screenplay – Dialogue ] , ” Hira Aur Patthar ” [ Dialogue ] , ” Vishwasghat ” [ Screenplay – Dialogue ] , ” Junoon ” [ Dialogue ] , ” Kalyug ” [ Dialogue ] , ” Akrosh ” [ Dialogue ] , ” Vijeta ” [ Story – Screenplay – Dialogue ] and ” Mandi “ [ Screenplay – Dialogue ] .

Poster of Ankur

Poster of Nishant

Poster of Bhumika

Poster of Kalyug

Poster of Mandi

Dubey ji made 2 short films ; ” Aparichay Ka Vindhyachal ” and ” Tongue In Cheek ” .

Apart from staging play and writing scripts for films , he donned the avatar of a trainer and groomed many actors . He believed in natural dialogue delivery and discarded highly theatrical and loud dialogue delivery , which was in vogue before his advent . Amrish Puri , Naseeruddin Shah and Amol Palekar are some of his most famous disciples . Amrish Puri was so indebted to Dubey ji that he would often say that , ” I can leave a film project for Dubey ji’s play , if I ever get a call ” .

A Young Amrish Puri in Dubey ji's Play

Young Naseeruddin Shah

Dubey ji With Ratna Pathak Shah

Naseeruddin Shah & Ratna Pathak Shah in Dubey ji's Last Play "Antigone"

Dubey ji got Madhya Pradesh government’s Shikhar Samman and Kalidas Samman . In 1971 he got prestigious Sangeet Natak Academy Award . In 2008 Prithvi Theatre paid tribute to him on completion of 50 years in theatre . Dubey ji received Padma Bhushan in January 2011 .

Prithvi Theatre's Tribute to Dubey ji in 2008

Receiving Padma Bhushan by President Pratibha Patil

He won 1978 National Film Award for Best Screenplay for ” Bhumika “ . In 1980 he got Filmfare Award for Best dialogue for ” Junoon ” .

Poster of Bhumika

During his later years he did many workshops for aspiring actors and people nick – named these workshops as NSD [ National school of Dubey ] .

When I first came to Mumbai in 1972 , I went to meet him at Tejpal Auditorium , Grant Road – West . He was busy staging his play ” Aadhe Adhure ” But still gave me time and told me to watch the play . He kindly gave me ticket also . Amrish Puri played main protagonist and if my memory is not failing me , Sulabha Deshpande was the female protagonist . I was stunned to watch their brilliant portrayals . Unfortunately I had to go to Allahabad to complete my post – graduation and lost the opportunity to work with him .

I came again in 1989 and went to meet him at his apartment at Phularani building in Sahitya Sahawas Colony , Bandra  – East . He told me to come to Karnataka Sangh , Matunga and watch his play ; ” Sambhog Se Sanyas Tak ” . Naseeruddin Shah and Ratna Pathak Shah were playing the main protagonists . I was simply mesmerized by the sheer brilliance of Dubey ji’s writing and the acting of the main protagonists . I remember that I reached late for the play and was gently reprimanded by Dubey ji for that .

Later on I bumped into him several times at Prithvi Theatre .

He was maverick . He was eccentric . He was controversial . But he was definitely a genius and was dedicated to theatre .

He was a great acting Guru . Very strict , very disciplined and ruthless . I must admit that I imbibed some facets of Dubey ji as an acting trainer . I am strict . I am disciplined and I am ruthless . He loved natural acting and I also try to inculcate this thing in the psyche of my students .

But unlike him , I am not eccentric . I am not a maverick and I don’t use colourful language like him . But I am indebted to him and I openly express my gratitude for imbibing few facets of his personality as an acting trainer .

I won’t say Rest In Peace Dubey ji . It’s a custom to clap when the curtain comes down after a play . I would like to stand up and would love to clap at the final curtain call of Pandit Satyadev Dubey .

Thanks for the lovely plays Dubey ji . You will be sorely missed .

VIDUR

MUMBAI – MAHARASHTRA – INDIA

www.vidur.co.in

www.vidurfilms.com

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80 Years of ” Alam Ara ” : India’s First Talkie


NIGHT……………………………….11.00

On March 14 , 1931 Indian cinema created history . First Hindi talkie ” ALAM ARA “ made by Ardeshir Irani was released on this very day in the Majestic cinema of Bombay [ now Mumbai ] Though , ” RAJA HARISCHANDRA ” , first ever full – length silent feature film of India was made by Dada Saheb Phalke , the pioneer of Indian cinema , in 1913.

scanned from personal collection Removed from ...

Dada Saheb Phalke - Father of Indian Cinema

A scene from indian movie

A scene from Indian movie Raja Harishchandra

A still of a scene from the first full-length ...

A scene from Indian movie Raja Harishchandra

It took almost 18 years to produce a talkie film and Ardeshir Irani became the pioneer. ” ALAM ARA ” made under the banner of Imperial Movietone had Master Vithal and Zubeida as the leading stars of the film and the movie had 7 memorable songs including DE DE KHUDA KE NAAM PAR sung by Wazir Mohammad Khan , who also played a faqir in the film . In those early years of talkie era there were no system of recording the song , Ardeshir Irani recorded it live with harmonium and tabla . This particular song is considered as the first ever song of not only Hindi films but Indian films as well. Music of ” ALAM ARA “ was given by Ferozshah M. Mistri and B. Irani .When released in the Majestic cinema hall of Bombay [ now Mumbai ] it created history . Public frenzy was to be seen to be believed , and finally police had to be summoned to control the crowd .

Director, Ardeshir Irani recording, Alam Ara f...

Ardeshir Irani recording a Song of Alam Ara

Alam Ara poster, 1931.

Alam Ara poster, 1931.

The film is a love story between a prince and a gypsy girl, based on a Parsi play written by Joseph David. David later served as a writer at Irani’s film company. The story centers on an imaginary, historical royal family in the kingdom of Kumarpur. The main characters are the king and his two warring wives Dilbahar and Navbahar. Their rivalry escalates when a fakir predicts that Navbahar will bear the king’s heir. Dilbahar, in revenge, attempts to have an affair with the kingdom’s chief minister Adil. The affair goes sour and a vengeful Dilbahar imprisons him and exiles his daughter, Alam Ara (Zubeida). In exile, Alam Ara is brought up by Gypsies. Upon returning to the palace at Kumarpur, Alam Ara meets and falls in love with the charming young prince (Master Vithal). In the end, Adil is released, Dilbahar is punished and the lovers marry.

A rare still from Ardeshir Irani's Alam Ara, t...

A rare still from Ardeshir Irani's Alam Ara

Description: Low-resolution reproduction of pu...

A Scene fron Alam Ara

After the fire at National Film Archive of India, Pune, in 2003, which destroyed the last surviving prints of several classics such as Raja Harishchandra and Achhut Kanya, this film is no longer available in its original format.

Master Vithal and Zubeida in Alam Ara, 1931.

Master Vithal and Zubeida in Alam Ara, 1931.

Newpaper advertisement for first Indian talkie...

Newspaper advertisement for Alam Ara

The name of the actors , who played major role in ” ALAM ARA ” , is worthy of notice for the today’s film connoisseurs. Apart from Master Vithal and Zubeida Begum Dhanrajgir [ known as Zubeida ] , it had singer Wazir Mohammad Khan as a faqir. Three prominent actors , who were part of the cast of ” ALAM ARA ” and who played major role in the talkie era and are known to today’s generation also , were Prithvi Raj Kapoor , Jillo Bai and L. V. Prasad .

Prithvi Raj Kapoor went on to play major roles in many films , won many awards and created an empire. His legacy was carried forward by his sons ; Raj Kapoor, Shammi Kapoor and Shashi Kpoor. Later on legacy was carried forward by his grandsons ; Randhir Kapoor, Rishi Kapoor and Rajeev Kapoor. Now fourth generation of Prithvi Raj Kapoor’s family is working in films. They are Kareena Kapoor and Ranbir Kapoor. Shashi Kapoor’s daughter manages Prithvi Theatre , made to commemorate  Prithvi Raj Kapoor’s memory.

Jillo Bai was seen as Madhubala’s mother in ” Mughal – E – Azam “ and as mother – in law of Nargis in ” Mother India “ .

Case of L. V. Prasad is more curious. He worked as an actor in first Hindi talkie ” ALAM ARA ” , first Tamil talkie ” KALIDAS ” and first Telugu talkie ” BHAKT PRAHLAD ” , all released in 1931. Later on he stablished a major production company named as Prasad Productions and made hits like ; ” SHARDA ” , ” CHHOTI BAHAN ” , ” BETI BETE ” , ” DADI MAA ” , ” MILAN ” , ” JEENE KI RAH ” , ” RAJA AUR RANK ” ,  ” KHILONA ” and ” EK DUJE KE LIYE ” .

It is sad that no print of the epic movie ” ALAM ARA “ is available today. This part of our history is lost for ever and no one is bothered . Ardeshir Irani’s path-breaking film is lost forever.

Ardeshir Irani, (1886 - 1969)

Ardeshir Irani, (1886 - 1969)

Ardeshir Irani died in 1969 , when I was studying in intermediate and Zubeida Begum Dhanrajgir a.k.a. Zubeida died in 1988, one year before I came to Mumbai to make a career in films.

Zubeida, a silent era actress in Indian Cinema...

Zubeida, a silent era actress

[ Synopsis of ” ALAM ARA “ is taken from Wikipedia. I have not seen the film , so for the story I have to rely on Wikipedia. I express my gratitude . ]

VIDUR

MUMBAI – MAHARASHTRA – INDIA

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