Sanjna Kapoor, who worked with Zohra Sehgal, fondly remembers the grand old lady of Indian cinema and also recalls the latter's equation with her grandfather, Prithviraj Kapoor.
Every time I think of Zohraji
, I think of a woman who was so energetic and full of life. Her energy was contagious. One of my first memories of her was when I was in England and she was staying there too. I think she would even give Kunal (Kapoor, brother) lessons in Hindi. But I remember in 2006, when we were celebrating late Prithviraj Kapoor's centenary, we at Prithvi Theatre had decided to try and pull together all the old actors of the original Prithvi troupe. We wanted them all to do bits and pieces and snippets of the memories of Prithvi, which included the plays back then and talk about the memories of my grandfather. In fact her sister Uzra Mumtaz, too, who passed away a few years ago, was the leading lady of Prithvi and was also a part of this.
It was a beautifully designed piece of theatre. When they arrived, Zohraji
being the eldest, immediately asked for the director. I had no one in place and I had no answer. Finally I got Makrand Deshpande on board. Zohraji, who was helming this, insisted that they keep doing rehearsals. She had no airs about her. She was clear that she was here to do her job and would do it perfectly. And they all did a beautiful job.
My grandfather was one of her mentors. I remember that even when I used to visit her at her home in Delhi, she would look up at the sky and say, 'He's right here, looking at me.' And she would start doing her riyaaz. And she would do her riyaaz everyday. She would cull out old poetries and recite them with perfect diction. She was dancer so she would even do those movements. And she would make me realise that she, and people from her times, who slogged through their lives, never forgot to stay humble.
I feel so blessed to having had the chance to meet her. She would always say, 'When I pass away, I want no mourning. Have a drink, do bottoms up and celebrate my life.' She was an amazing woman. She gave more than she could.
Even a few years ago when I met her in Delhi, she was invited to give a talk to an audience. She spoke eloquently. She could barely hear at that time. But as long as she had the energy, she gave it her all. I don't think we should be mournful or sorrowful. I wish we had more women like her. She was an inspiration and we must all aspire to have the same vivacity.
(As told to Shalvi Mangaokar)