New Delhi: 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 here on Thursday at the age of 102.
A Padma Vibhushan awardee, Sehgal breathed her last at Max hospital here 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 said.
“She was unwell for last three-four days,” her daughter Kiran said.
Sehgal would be cremated on Friday at 11 am at the Lodhi Road crematorium.
Picture: Pradeep Chandra
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.”
Picture: Pradeep Chandra
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, 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.
On her return from foreign trips, Sehgal had to don the burqa while studying in Lahore's prestigious Queen Mary College, meant for daughters of aristocratic families, an institution where strict purdah was observed and males invited to speak there were put behind a screen.
Considered the doyenne of Indian theatre, Sehgal acted with Indian People’s Theatre Association and Prithviraj Kapoor’s Prithvi Theatre for 14 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....