The Film industry lost its Grand Old Lady with the passing of veteran actress Zohra Sehgal in Delhi yesterday. She was 102. Sehgal died of a cardiac arrest. Speaking to mid-day, the actress’s daughter Kiran said, “My mother suffered a massive heart attack at about 4.30 pm this evening.
Sehgal getting the Padma Vibhushan from President Pratibha Patil in 2010. File pic
She was unwell for the last three-four days” Sehgal, whose career spanned both theatre and cinema, started her career as a dancer with Uday Shankar in 1935.
She acted in nearly 52 films, with her maiden film being Dharti Ke Lal, in 1946, and her last appearance in Saawariya, in 2007. A vivacious woman with an incredible zest for life, she had also worked in various English films, TV shows, and plays.
Recalling working with her, director Sanjay Leela Bhansali said, “I worked with Zohra Sehgal when she was 84 in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, and then in Saawariya. Not only was she extremely talented and methodical as an actor, but she also had an infectious personality. The world and I will never forget her.”
Without a home
Sehgal had been living with her daughter Kiran Sehgal in her first-floor home in Mandakini Enclave in New Delhi. The actress had applied for a home on the ground floor in 2011 to the then CM Sheila Dixit, stating that she was unable to move around due to her age.
She was promised that the application had been forwarded to the urban development ministry, but nothing materialised later. The Padma Vibhushan awardee had applied under the artiste quota.
With the help of her daughter, Sehgal wrote to the Sangeet Natak Academy with a similar plea. They also went to the culture ministry with their request, where they asked her to fill up a proforma declaring her income and property she held in Delhi. The urban development ministry declined her application.
Her daughter Kiran said, “It was a ridiculous requirement that to get a house under the artiste quota, one should not be above 60 years of age.”
Kiran recalled that when she informed her mother of her application being rejected, she recited a dialogue from one of her plays, Maya ko Maya Mile: “Maya ko maya mile kar kar ke lambe haath, Tulsidas gareeb ki koi na maane baat (The rich only help the rich, nobody helps the poor).”
Kiran is upset with not only the government who did not honour a doyenne’s request, but also the people of the film industry who didn’t come forward to help her.
Sehgal began her acting career with KA Abbas’s Dharti Ke Lal and has played a vital role in development of Indian theatre. Some of her notable films are Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Cheeni Kum, Dil Se Saawariya, The Mystic Masseur and Bend It Like Beckham.
She also appeared on BBC’s comedy series Mind Your Language. She was awarded the Padma Shri in 1998, the Kalidas Samman in 2001, the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship for Lifetime Achievement in 2004 and the Padma Vibhushan in 2010.