A stalwart figure in Indian theatre, Zohra Sehgal acted with Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA) and Prithviraj Kapoor’s Prithvi Theatre for fourteen years. She was awarded the Padma Shri in 1998 and the Sangeet Natak Akademi in 2004. She also received the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second-highest civilian honor in 2010. In 1994, she was diagnosed with cancer, but she recovered.
Born on April 27, 1912, in Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh, Sahibzadi Zohra Begum Mumtaz-Ullah Khan was third of her seven siblings and grew up in Chakrata near Dehradun.
Considered the doyenne of Indian theatre, Sehgal acted with Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA) and Prithviraj Kapoor’s Prithvi Theatre for fourteen years.
She choreographed for a few Hindi films as well, including classics like Guru Dutt’s “Baazi” (1951) and the dream sequence song in Raj Kapoor’s film “Awaara”.
After her husband’s death in 1952, Sehgal first moved to Delhi and then to London on a drama scholarship in 1962, where she appeared in many TV productions including “The Jewel in the Crown”, “Tandoori Nights” and “My Beautiful Laundrette”.
A tireless performer, she used to stay in New Delhi with her daughter, renowned Odissi danseuse Kiran Sehgal. 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 even get the government flat she had asked for.
(With agency inputs)