NEW DELHI: Life is a puzzle and so is the jigsaw smile of the people who make it moving. Such was the life of the grandma of Bollywood, Zohra Sehgal, who died on Thursday at the age of 102.
Her life coming to an end is disheartening. And how could I say ‘ayee mera zohra zabeen tujhe malum nahi’ that we all grew up on your smile? In her career spanning over seven decades in both theatre and cinema, the quintessential diva essayed character roles with aplomb.
Born as Sahibazi Zohra Begum Mumtazullah Khan on April 27, 1912 and the daughter of Mumtazullah Khan and Natiqua Begum, she belonged to Rampur, Uttar Pradesh. She was the third of seven children, and grew up in Chakrata, now in Uttarakhand (near Dehradun). A tomboy, she was fond of climbing trees and playing games.
She started off under the apprenticeship of a British actor with the help of her maternal uncle, Sahebzada Saeeduzzafar Khan.
The journey had already started and took a U-turn when her aunt took her to an audition at Mary Wigman Ballet School in Dresden, Germany. The cycle of events made her career more happening, as she became the popular lady on her voyage with a French dancer, Simkie, travelling from Japan to the US. Later, in 1940, she came back to India and started teaching at Uday Shankar India Cultural Centre at Almora. She showed her magic on the silver screen in movies such as Dil Se and Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, and has also appeared in British TV serials such as The Jewel in the Crown and Tandoori Nights.
Zohra won many prestigious awards, starting from the Sangeet Natak Akademi award in 1963 to the most prestigious Padma Vibhushan in 2010. And the grand old lady who taught us how to live -- Dharti Ke Lal to Sawaariya! -- breathed her last at a hospital here around 4:30 pm.