Fragrance of Yesteryears: Zohra Sehgal

BollyCurry brings to you the journey of a woman, who is not only a source of inspiration to many but also an inexorable force never seen before!

Thursday, July 31, 2014 | 9:25:00 PM IST (+05:30 GMT)
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Change is the only constant in the world, and the pioneers of change are the ones that are seen as the guiding light in every era. This week, BollyCurry brings to you the journey of a woman, who is not only a source of inspiration to many but also an inexorable force never seen before - Sahibzadi Zohra Begum Mumtaz-ullah Khan, more commonly known as Zohra Sehgal to all.

Born in a traditional and conservative family, Sehgal was a rebel when it came to following the conventional. In times when women held no respectable stature in society, choosing career over marriage was akin to committing social suicide, but she went ahead with it fearlessly. As a dancer, she first joined Uday Shankar's troupe in 1935 and worked with him for about a decade. It was here that she met Kameshwar Sehgal and married him, who was not only 8 years her junior but also a non-Muslim. In 1945, she not only started working under Prithviraj Kapoor in Prithvi Theatre but also made her film debut with Indian People's Theatre Association or IPTA's Dharti Ke Lal in 1946. It was followed by another IPTA movie - Neecha Nagar which was the first movie to garner international critical recognition and the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival.
Sehgal's inclination towards theatre and dancing was noticeable, although she continued to appear in films from time to time. She went on to become a choreographer for a few Hindi films like Baazi (1951) and Awaara (1951).
Sehgal is one of the first and few celebrities to have tasted international recognition for her work. She first acted for the British television in a Kipling story adaptation, The Rescue of Pluffles (1964). There was no looking back after this as Sehgal went on to star in popular television series like Doctor Who, Theatre 625, The Expert, Mind Your Language and the likes.
It wasn't until 1982 that Sehgal got her big break in the movie The Courtesans of Bombay directed by James Ivory under the Merchant Ivory Productions. The movie paved way for more important roles in television series like The Jewel in the Crown, The Raj Quartet, Tandoori Nights, etc. After her return to India in the 1990s, she again fell back to her first love - theatre and plays. At the same time, she actively participated in many films as well.
Sehgal put her foot in the Bollywood industry around the year 1996. Her first break here was in the movie Dil Se.. (1998), followed by a few other big budget movies like Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999), Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003) [in which her role was edited out], Veer-Zaara (2004) and Cheeni Kum (2007). Sehgal shook not only a leg, but the whole screen with her presence in the song "Jiya Jale" from Dil Se.. Sehgal might've played significant roles in these movies, but she was overwhelmed when a movie was made revolving around her character - Chalo Ishq Ladaaye (2002). It is the only Hindi movie which has her playing a lead role. Sehgal may have started off her career with a Kapoor, but giving it a closure with a Kapoor as well is what counts. Her last outing was in the Sanjay Leela Bhansali production Saawariya (2007) along with Ranbir Kapoor. Sehgal has a few prestigious accolades to her name, like the Padma Shri, the Kalidas Samman, the Sangeet Natak Akademi and the Padma Vibhushan, which is the second-highest civilian honour.
Sehgal was not only an aplomb woman - a girl at heart, but also her life was full of zest, passion and liveliness. She brought international recognition and appreciation to Indian Cinema. A rebel at heart, the veteran actress and dancer set her own benchmark at being adventurous and zealous at whatever she did. She recently passed away at the age of 102, but not before making sure her name went down in history for the woman that she was.
We all are still in awe of Sehgal's vivacious personality, the energy she oozed and the innocent-yet-naughty twinkle of her eyes. She has brought laughter to many during the span of her seven decade long career. BollyCurry hails the actress who soothed people's souls and prays that her soul may rest in peace.
Writer: Pooja B.
Editors: Ritchelle C. and Gunia K.
Graphics: Komal P.

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Posted on: 01 August 2014 at 12:07am
she was lovable in all her hindi movies!

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Posted on: 31 July 2014 at 1:10pm
A remarkable women ...What an actress...She lit up the screen with smile and sparkling eyes ...

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Posted on: 31 July 2014 at 12:07pm
Absolutely loved her in movies. Her eyes always twinkled and her presence always lit the screen up for me. May she RIP!

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