The legendary Zohra Segal is more than a century old now, keeping pace with Indian cinema as it celebrates 100 years of its existence
Zohra Segal was born on April 27, 1912 in Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh, as Zohra Begum Mumtaz-Ullah Khanon. The acclaimed actor-dancer turns 101 today. The thespian celebrates her birthday even as Indian cinema itself is in its centenary year.
The Padma Vibhushan awardee began her career in 1935 as part of renowned dancer-choreographer Uday Shankar’s troupe. She later worked in theatre, television and films with equal ease, thanks to her experience with Shankar and her training in modern dance in Germany. Zohra taught at Shankar’s academy in the hill station of Almora. Later, she set up a dance institute with her husband Kameshwar Sehgal in Lahore. The couple had two children and moved to India in 1940. In Mumbai, she worked with the Kapoors’ Prithvi Theatre and the Indian People’s Theatre Association. Segal is an inspiration for many with her zeal and her acting talent.
She made her film debut in Dharti Ke Lal (1946), and also starred in Neecha Nagar, the film that won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes International Film Festival. Early on, she choreographed dance sequences for movies such as Raj Kapoor’s Awara. She continued working when her husband passed away, moving to Delhi and working as director at the Natya Academy.
Over the past few years, Zohra has been seen in Hindi films such as Cheeni Kum, Saawariya, Kal Ho Naa Ho, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Bend It Like Beckham, The Mistress of Spices, Bhaji on the Beach and Dil Se to name a few.
Last year, when Zohra turned 100, her daughter Kiran released a book in her name, titled Zohra Segal – Fatty.