Padma Shri Padma Vibhushan Zohra Sehgal has been immortalised as the ‘Grand old lady of India’. Born on this day in 1912, Zohra was unconventional from the start, and lived her life on her own terms, as an exemplary danseuse, actor and person. Not without challenges. Not without family struggles. Not without having purdah for most part of her teenage life.
Sahibzadi Zohra Begum Mumtaz-ullah Khan, better known as Zohra, was born into a Sunni Muslim Rohilla Pathan family of Rampur, Uttar Pradesh. She traveled all the way across India, West Asia and Europe dancing in the troupe of Uday Shankar and later reaching Mumbai to foster her film dreams.
Most of her Hindi film career, she played granny roles, adding to the character an artsy touch of unique innocence and naughtiness. Here are some of her most iconic roles.
Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam
Remember the supercool dadi in the movie, who despite being visually impaired, could see with the eyes of her wisdom? Effortless perfection.
The unconventional mother of a 60 year old, Zohra Sehgal brought joy and enthusiasm to the role of a mother who has the same aspirations for her single son as any other mother.
She was also a part of popular English culture, with a science fiction TV of the 60s Series called ‘Doctor Who’, where she played the servant girl ‘Shreyah’. From the very beginning of post-independence cinema, Zohra was one of the pioneers who made the presence of Indian art and artists felt globally.
The Vengeance of She
The happy and bubbly old woman of Bollywood often took to international stage, with some great movies, and ‘The vengeance of she’ is one of them. It was a well received fictional work of the late 60′s.
Dharti Ke Lal
She was also a part of Dharti ke laal, the first movie to have the most widespread distribution in USSR. This was also her debut film, and went on to be a critically very well received, as it accurately portrayed the morbid picture of the Bengal Famine of 1943.
Bend It Like Beckham
One character we are forgetting is Zohra Sehgal as Biji! Yes, this Indian drama set in England also had India’s iconic Zohra Sehgal playing Biji. Don’t believe us, check that film CD and find it out for yourself.
Having lived a rare hundred years, Zohra Sehgal passed away in 2014 at 102. But left us with some great celluloid memories.
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