Zohra Sehgal, a quintessential Bollywood diva who essayed character roles with aplomb in a career spanning over seven decades in both theatre and cinema, died on Thursday (July 10) at the age of 102. A Padma Vibhushan awardee, Zohra Sehgal breathed her last at Max hospital at around 4:30 PM.
“She was admitted yesterday and diagnosed with pneumonia. A heart patient, she suffered a cardiac arrest and passed away,” a senior doctor at the hospital said. “She was unwell for last three-four days,” daughter Kiran told PTI.
Sehgal would be cremated today at 11 AM at the Lodhi Road crematorium. The news was broken in the night by historian Irfan Habib who tweeted, “Just confirmed that Zohra Aapa is no more…”
In another tweet, he said, “Extremely sad to know about d passing away of Zohra Sehgal, a woman who lived a full life on her own terms. Great loss to art and culture. RIP.”
Zohra Sehgal, a vivacious personality, started her career as a dancer with Uday Shankar in 1935. She had appeared in many Bollywood films as a character actor as well as in English language films besides television series and plays.
Often called the grand old lady of Bollywood, she last appeared in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s ‘Saawariya’ (with Ranbir Kapoor and Sonam Kapoor) in 2007. She acted in hits like ‘Cheeni Kum’ (with Amitabh Bachchan), ‘Dil Se’ (with Shah Rukh Khan and Manisha Koirala), ‘Veer Zaara’ (Shah Rukh and Priety Zinta), ‘Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’ (Salman Khan and Aishwarya Rai) and ‘Bend It Like Beckham’.
Born on April 27, 1912 in Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh in a traditional Muslim family, Zohra Sehgal, third of her seven siblings, grew up in Chakrata near Dehradun and was sent to Lahore to pursue her higher education.
As a dancer, she performed across Japan, Egypt, Europe and the US. She married scientist, painter and dancer Kameshwar Sehgal in August 1942. The couple had two children, Kiran and Pavan. Kameshwar died in 1952 and Zohra raised the children all by herself.
Sehgal, called the “laadli” of entertainment and the doyenne of Indian theatre, was part of many a film and stage
production over the past seven decades.
She was a member of the Indian People’s Theatre Association and in 1946 debuted in its first film production
“Dharti Ke Lal”, which dealt with the Bengal famine. She also acted in another IPTA film – Chetan Anand’s “Neecha Nagar”.
In 2012, daughter Kiran wrote Sehgal’s biography named “Zohra Segal: Fatty”. Kiran, herself an Odissi dancer, expressed grief that during her dying days, her mother could not not even get the government flat she has asked for.
“She was always so full of life and energy. I am in very different state of mind right now…But, what is more tragic
is that during her dying days, she could not even get the government flat she had asked for,” she told PTI.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also paid tributes to veteran actress Zohra Sehgal, who died here, and said her acting was admired across generations.
“Prolific & full of life, Zohra Sehgal made a mark through her acting which is admired across generations. Saddened on her demise.”