Zohra Segal’s 100th birthday wish: long blonde hair, an hourglass figure and growing to a height of five feet six inches. The grand old lady of Indian cinema celebrated her birthday in Delhi with the launch of her biography, Zohra Segal: Fatty, written by her daughter Kiran.
Segal who arrived at her birthday party in a wheelchair proved, with her wit, that age is just a number.
“Thank you all for coming here today. The relationship between an artist and the audience is the most beautiful. If you people hadn’t turned up, who would we have spoken to?” she said.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s wife Gursharan Kaur who calls Segal ‘Ammi’, released the book. “It’s a proud day for us that Zohraji has completed 100 years of her life. Her infectious energy is inspiring,” said Kaur.
Segal was a path breaker in many ways. Born in 1912 in Uttar Pradesh, Segal came from an aristocratic family, yet she became a dancer and a theatre performer in an age when these careers were frowned upon. Her marriage to Kameshwar Segal, a scientist and an artiste, in 1942, was a scandal. She a Muslim, he a Hindu and eight years younger than her; they broke all taboos, parental and societal norms. “Although I was a staunch Muslim, I broke all rules...when you fall in love, nothing matters...we fell in love, but I didn’t want to marry him...having an affair was okay,” she said in an interview earlier this week.
A recipient of prestigious honours such as the Sangeet Natak Akademi and Padma Vibhushan, Segal was one of the more known crossover international artistes. From her award-winning role in the British television series A Jewel in the Crown in 1984 to her role as Amitabh Bachchan’s mother in Cheeni Kum in 2007, Segal’s charm, wit and style have enamoured audiences across the world. In 2008, the United Nations Population Fund felicitated Segal as the ‘Laadli of the Century.’
“All my life I have been active in my profession since October 8, 1935. Even when my children were born, or my husband committed suicide, I managed to carry on. After the 75th year of my career, I decided to stop,” she said in an audio visual recorded to commemorate her 100th birthday.
But what troubles her most about her age? Her inability to read. I used read books… especially detective novels with a lot of sex in them…but now I can’t read. It’s ok...after all, I have lived a 100 years.”