I woke up today morning to read the news of Zohra Sehgal passing away. Being an ardent movie fan, I was a little sad; nevertheless I just took it as any other news. But then again I pondered into this. Weird as it might sound, I have this curious (or dark, is it?) self in me that wants to know more about anybody who passed away recently, especially when they’re famous! So I tried to gather more and more facts about her. That’s when this bizarre idea came out struck a chord in my mind’s guitar; why not write what I read about her?
Zohra Sehgal, fondly called as Zohra Appa, is inimitable in all respects. She did her initial studies in India and Lahore, and consequently left for Europe to pursue her ballet course preferring career over marriage, as she had seen her sister go through a lot in a troubled marriage. She started her career as a dancer at the Uday Shankar ballet group, once she completed her course. She danced her heart out to make it to be the lead dancer there, and travelled around the world to spread the unique art of fusion dancing throughout the world.
After she returned to India, she stayed with the Uday Shankar group to be a teacher. That was where she found the love of her life Kameshwar Sehgal, a scientist by profession, and an artist by heart (He was a dancer and a painter). I can’t imagine the amount of love that they might have shared; having art in you, and finding someone who can sense that and feel the same, is something that cannot be elucidated in words! That love must be what garnered her strength and courage to move forward, and bring her kids up on her own when Mr. Sehgal passed away. During the 17 years of their life together, they went through a lot of quandaries; their joint venture (Lotus Dance, a ballet for human puppets) had shut down, and they returned to Lahore where they started the Zohresh dance group, which again had to be closed down owing to the communal tension preceding the partition of India. They had two children when they returned to Bombay (now called Mumbai). She worked for the eminent Prithviraj theatre for a while, following which she joined the IPTA (Indian People’s Theatre Association, the cultural wing of the Communist Party on India). She got her first break into Hindi movies with IPTA’s first film production “Dharti ke laal”, which was about the Bengal famine that happened in 1943. But it was essentially Chetan Anand’s Neecha Nagar (Lowly City) that gained her more attention and she was awarded the much deserved Palme d’Or (or The Golden Palm, is the highest prized award) at the Cannes Film Festival. At this same time she also managed to choreograph for a few movies; the mesmerizing dream sequence “Ghar ayaa mera padosi” from Awaara, I feel, can never be forgotten by any true Hindi movie fan!
After her husband passed away in 1959, she moved to Delhi to direct the newly found Natya academy. This was only for a while, before she left for London. In the three and some decades that she spent in London, she did parts in many TV series, anchored the BBC show Padosi, and did several small appearances in many films. She returned to India to have done a lot of roles in Hindi TV series and movies. The delightful “Nani” (Granny) from Dil se is a memory etched for the rest of my life, and so is the” biji” from Bend it like Beckham.
Her career lasted for a sweet 8 decades, and she has worked with great actors ranging from the late Prithviraj Kapoor to his great grandson Ranbir Kapoor, with whom she acted for the last time (in Saawariya) . In this time period she received a lot of awards, comprising of the Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan.
I still remember watching the video of her lifetime achievement award acceptance speech during one IIFA(In 2012, I think), when she joked on being glad about getting the award at a “tender” age of 100 years. She might have been a 100 years old then, but the innocence in her expressions could never be of someone who lived in this world for 100 years!
There is so much to learn from Zohra Sehgal, especially for someone like me, who finds it difficult to accomplish at the least one task a day, let alone doing so much in one span of life. Staying humble even after being so prosperous in life, never giving up hopes just because you’ve lost someone very close to you so soon, standing up for what you deserve, seeking for more even though you understand that you’re good in something, are just a few inspiring thoughts that came into my mind while reading about her. And I’m glad I decided to write about her. 🙂
RIP Zohra Sehgal. You might have left the world physically, but your presence is always felt in the form of biji, bebo and many more characters.
#Tribute #Art #ZohraSehgal