On 107th Birthday of the longest living actors, Zohra Sehgal. Let’s have a look at the facts that are not known to everyone about the actress.
- First Indian woman to learn ballet at Mary Wigman’s ballet school in Dresden, Germany
Zohra trained under a British actor in Europe. During this time she learned ballet. This was the first time she had a romantic relationship with an art form, considering she was brought up strictly under a system where it was mandatory for her to do everything behind a veil.
- Zohra Sehgal fulfilled her mother’s last wish
In the 1920s, Zohra joined Queen Mary College in Lahore for her graduation because that’s the path her mother had chosen for her before her last breath. Also, joining this college meant following the “purdah system,” and she started wearing a “burqa” soon after. All this for her mother.
- She was very confident
Indian women felt shy in even coming in front of men in the era she was born but she was full of life and an unstoppable spirit even then. When she watched Uday Shankar, famous dancer and choreographer and her childhood inspiration, in his production “Shiv-Parvati” in Europe, instead of getting intimidated, she walked up straight to him and asked him to take her in his team. And of course, he had no other options in front of her acting skills and dancing ability. Next thing you know, she was dancing as a lead in his troupe and she danced across Japan, Egypt, Europe, and the US.
- She was a Tomboy and a passionate lover
Zohra was a tomboy when she was young. She was more of a tree-climbing boy than a doll-like girl. The turning point came when she saw Uday Shankar perform in Dehradun during her childhood. That incident changed her life forever. Once she joined Uday Shankar’s troupe years later, she fell in love with one of the co-dancers, Kameshwar Sehgal. After much opposition from her family because of religious as she was a Muslim and he was Hindu. And after facing age issues, they finally tied the knot in 1942.
- Zohra and her family left Lahore
Zohra and her husband shifted back to Bombay because they didn’t feel at home in Lahore anymore. She then came to India. Zohra was an atheist and her husband Kameshwar didn’t believe in the idea of religions. Hence, her two children never considered themselves as Hindu or Muslim.
- She was lucky in many ways
Not only did she celebrated her 101st birthday but after being associated with Prithvi theatre in Bombay for 14 years, she finally got her first break, her first film role in K.A. Abbas’s “Dharti Ke Lal”. The second film that she did, “Neecha Nagar,” became the first Indian film to have gained international recognition. It won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1946.
- Zohra lost the love of her life as early as in 1959
Zohra shifted to Delhi after her husband passed away in 1959 to head a newly founded dance school, Natya Academy. She won a dance scholarship soon after and shifted to London to raise her two children. She taught dance over there to earn a living.
- She even made a name in the foreign country
In 1982, Zohra was finally spotted by Merchant Ivory Productions and she signed her first contract with them in London where she acted in James Ivory’s “The Courtesans of Bombay”
- Zohra was a born survivor
When Zohra was just over a year old, she couldn’t see from her left eye because she got glaucoma and she had to get it treated at a hospital in Birmingham. In 1994, she got cancer but her will-power beat that too.
- Zohra Sehgal won Padma Shri Padma Vibhushan
Padma Shri in 1998 and Padma Vibhushan in 2010 were some of the few awards she received in her 102 years of existence.
- Longest living actor in 2012
Zohra appeared on “Doctor Who” as an only actor to have lived for so many years and as the first person to be over 100 years on the show.
- She was loved because she was the lady of beliefs
She believed in the most unique things like she once said “I don’t understand the hullabaloo about inner beauty. What actually 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!” And our favorite – “… Sex is very important for life to get going; I still want it!” she said at the age of 97.