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Zohra Sehgal: Google doodle on an actress who breathed life through dance & cinema

Devdiscourse News Desk | Kolkata | Updated: 29-09-2020 02:22 IST | Created: 29-09-2020 02:00 IST
Zohra Sehgal: Google doodle on an actress who breathed life through dance & cinema
Zohra Sehgal and her sisters were enrolled at the Queen Mary College in Lahore. Image Credit: Google doodle

Google today dedicates an artistic doodle to Zohra Segal (or Zohra Sehgal), an Indian actress, dancer, and choreographer. She became one of India's first female actors to truly achieve recognition on the international stage.

Zohra Mumtaz Sehgal was born on April 27, 1912 as as Sahibzadi Zohra Mumtazullah Khan Begum in Uttar Pradesh's Rampur. She described herself as a tomboy, who enjoyed climbing trees and playing outdoor games. She lost vision in her left eye when she contracted glaucoma at the age of one. She was referred to a hospital in Birmingham where she was treated at a cost of £300.

Zohra Sehgal and her sisters were enrolled at the Queen Mary College in Lahore. Strict purdah was observed at the institute. She decided against getting married after seeing her sister's failed marriage. Upon graduating, Zohra Sehgal's maternal uncle, Sahebzada Saeeduzzafar Khan, who was based in Edinburgh, arranged for her to apprentice under a British actor. They started from Lahore by car and, en route, crossed Iran and Palestine, before reaching Damascus, Syria, where she met her cousin. Then they traveled into Egypt and caught a boat to Europe in Alexandria.

Zohra Sehgal moved to London, England in 1962 and built an international profile over the following decades with roles in British television classics like "Doctor Who" and the 1984 miniseries "The Jewel in the Crown." In the mid-1990s, she returned to India, where she continued acting on the stage and in Bollywood films. In 2002, the year of her 90th birthday, Sega Zohra Sehgal appeared in her memorable role in the film "Bend it Like Beckham," and continued to act well into her 90s.

Zohra Sehgal joined the leftist theatre group, Indian People's Theatre Association (IPTA) in 1945. She acted in several plays, and made her film debut in IPTA's first film production, directed by Khwaja Ahmad Abbas, Dharti Ke Lal in 1946; she followed it up with another IPTA-supported film, Neecha Nagar. During her stay in Bombay, Zohra Sehgal became friends with several theatre and film personalities; she continued her association with theatre appearing in successful productions including Ebrahim Alkazi's Din Ke Andhere, playing the role of Begum Qudsia and K.A. Abbas's stage productions for IPTA. She lived in a rented house owned by Chetan and Uma Anand. She worked as a choreographer for Hindi films, including Guru Dutt's Baazi and Raj Kapoor's Awaara (both 1951).

Zohra Sehgal married Kameshwar Sehgal, a Hindu, despite some initial reluctance from her parents. The ceremony was held on 14 August 1942. Her husband was a young scientist, painter and dancer from Indore, eight years her junior, belonging to the Radha Soami sect.

Zohra Sehgal acted in many national and international movies and series. She bagged many accolades including Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1963, Padma Shri in 1998, Kalidas Samman in 2001, Padma Bhushan in 2002, Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship in 2004 and Padma Vibhusan in 2010.

Zohra Sehgal died on 10 July 2014, aged 102, after suffering cardiac arrest. Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid tribute to Seghal on Twitter, describing her as "[p]rolific & full of life," and adding that she "made a mark through her acting which is admired across generations."

Also Read: Arati Saha – Google doodle on first Asian woman to swim across English Channel


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