Zohra Sehgal (27 April 1912 – 10 July 2014) was an actress, dancer, and choreographer. Sehgal started her career as a dancer in Uday Shankar’s troupe, performing in countries like the United States and Japan. She went on to appear in numerous Bollywood films as a character actress with a career-span of over 60 years. Considered the doyenne of Indian theatre, she acted with Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA) and Prithviraj Kapoor’s Prithvi Theatre for 14 years. She has also acted in English-speaking films such as Bend It Like Beckham. India’s National Academy for Music, Dance and Drama presented her with its highest award, the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship for lifetime achievement. She received the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second-highest civilian honor, in 2010.
“Sex is very important for life to get going; I still want it!” – Zohra Sehgal.
“My burqa was of lovely silk and I was so glad I made petticoats out of it!” – Zohra Sehgal.
“I’ve lived to the fullest — I’ve squeezed the best out of life. A good husband, children, family and most importantly my work – I am close to 100 and even with such a shriveled up face and figure I can boast that I’ve still got work, fame and money! I’ve not gone into oblivion.” – Zohra Sehgal
“Life’s been tough but I’ve been tougher. I beat life at its own game. You see me now when I am old and ugly, in fact you should have seen me earlier — when I was young and ugly!” – Zohra Sehgal.
“I don’t understand the hullabaloo about inner beauty. What actually makes brings out your beauty is the radiance of being content and you can only be content when you are employed in something you love. When admirers praise me for raising the paradigm for women in acting, I say b***s. What have I done for them consciously? Whatever I’ve done, I’ve done it for love of acting, fame and power. The love for life and work probably radiates as my inner beauty!” – Zohra Sehgal.
“Life becomes drudgery if you don’t have a sense of humor. A good sense of humour makes you see the funny side of a tragedy.” – Zohra Sehgal.
“There’s an energy that drives me; a voice that tells me every morning ‘You must go on’. Probably there would be a voice which tells me ‘Zohra, it’s time for you to stop’.” – Zohra Sehgal.
Source: Times of India
“Acting is the only thing I enjoy apart from kissing my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.” – Zohra Sehgal.
“I have hardly ever refused a role. If I get a bad role, I take it up and work on it.” – Zohra Sehgal.
Source: India Today
“As a child I was very mischievous. Ziddi (obstinate) kehta hai, na? I saw my older sister, who was married off early, going through an unhappy marriage, and I told my father, I don’t want to get married. At Queen Mary’s College where I studied, all the staff were English, and from them I got the notion of women having careers.” – Zohra Sehgal
“Religion is only a hook. I have strength enough to stand on my own. Religion is used by priests to corrupt others, and for their own ends. There was a period when I thought I was an atheist. Now I’m agnostic. Some kind of higher power is there. But why do you call it He? Why not She or It? In the computer of our brain is where you’ll find God. I think the search for God will be in the microchip.” – Zohra Sehgal.
Source: The Hindu
“Auntie Dicta took me to Mary Wigman’s ballet school in Dresdon, Germany, and the first question she asked me was: ‘Can you dance?’ I told her that I hadn’t learnt dance because my childhood was a sheltered one. As a dancer, I enjoyed a newfound freedom. I cut all my silk burqahs and made them into petticoats and blouses. By the end of my third year at the dance school, I was in a bikini, nimble on my toes, and ready to touch the sky!” – Zohra Sehgal.
“My brother-in-law ZA Ahmed was a secretary to Jawaharlal Nehru and Panditji had promised to attend the wedding and gift us Persian rugs. But he couldn’t make it as he was arrested the night before. Later, when he asked my brother-in-law how the young couple was doing, my reaction was, ‘That’s fine, but where are the rugs?’ – Zohra Sehgal.
“I am preparing myself for death. When I go to sleep, I try to keep myself smiling. So that when I die, I have a smile on my lips. I want an electric cremation. I don’t want any poems or fuss after that. And for heaven’s sake, don’t bring back my ashes. Flush them down the toilet if the crematorium refuses to keep them. If they tell you that I am dead, I want you to give a big laugh.” – Zohra Sehgal.
“I was being interviewed by BBC once. There was this interviewer — a dishy young man like you [she looks at Khushwant Singh]. He wanted to know the secret of my exuberance. I said: sex! The audience started laughing. Then he asked: What are your hobbies? I said I love to do crossword puzzles.” – Zohra Sehgal.
“I consider religion to be like a book. There is so much strength in each of my fingers, my nerves, my veins. That’s God, that’s everything.” – Zohra Sehgal.
“An astrologer had once looked at my hand and told me that I was going to die at 18. Then, much later, I came to do a film from England and stayed with Papaji Prithviraj [Kapoor]. He had a famous astrologer called Mullahji. He said, “You will die at 62.” I turned 62. Then I was 72. At 82, I was definite I was going to die. I have crossed 92 now. I don’t know when Mullahji meant. But he died.” – Zohra Sehgal, who died at the age of 102.
“When I sit on the terrace and recite my poems I look up at the sky and say, “Kameshwar, aa rahi hoon, theher jao zara.” That’s my husband, who committed suicide.” – Zohra Sehgal.
“I went to Germany at 18 and I was in purdah till then. The burqah was made of tusser silk. I asked them to cut it up and make petticoats out of it.” – Zohra Sehgal.