Zohra Sehgal, one of the best known faces of Indian television, cinema and theatre, has celebrated reaching 100 years of age with the publication of a biography about her life.
Zohra Sehgal – also spelled Segal – was born in Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh, India, on 27 April, 1912.
According to the Hindustan Times, as a young woman she travelled with one of her uncles “to England by road ‘in an old Dodge car through Afghanistan and Iran’ to train as an actor”.
Speaking to the paper, the centenarian recalls the journey in detail: “I sat in the front with my uncle. A young man sat at the back.” After arriving in Egypt, Sehgal caught a boat to Europe and then on to Britain.
During the birthday celebrations on Friday, a biography detailing her amazing life and career was unveiled by Gursharan Kaur, the wife of Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India.
The book – Zohra Sehgal: Fatty – is a pictorial monogram written by Sehgal’s daughter, Kiran Segal.
Segal explained to those in attendance that “Fatty” is an endearment used by her to describe her “weight-conscious mother [who] is very particular about her figure like a 16-year-old starlet”.
Trending on Twitter
Many members of the actor’s extended family were there to help Sehgal celebrate, to whom she said, “Ao, ao, yeh mauka aur nahin milega [Come, come, you will not get this opportunity again].”
Guests were then given a viewing of a new documentary – Zohra Segal: An Interview 2012 – which has been produced by M. K. Raina and Anant Raina. The film consists of a lengthy conversation with the actor and includes family photographs and old film footage of her early acting career.
Meanwhile, Hindustan Times Tabloid reported that Sehgal trended on Twitter as people took to the micro-blogging site to wish her well.
Sehgal is a well-known stage and film actor in India and the UK. In the West, she is best known for her parts in a number of movies, including Meera Syal’s Bhaji on the Beach (1992), Bend It Like Beckham and another Meera Syal-penned film Anita and Me (both 2002) and Merchant Ivory’s The Mystic Masseur (2001). In Bollywood, her films include Dil Se.. (1998) and Cheeni Kum (2007).
In 1984, she was cast as Lady Chatterjee in the epic television adaptation of The Jewel in the Crown; and from 1985 to 1987, she appeared in Tandoori Nights.
From Saharanpur to Gallifrey
To Doctor Who fans, Seghal is fondly remembered for two parts she played, when William Hartnell was the First Doctor, in the early days of the science-fiction drama – Marco Polo (1964) and The Crusade (1965).
Seghal is a keen supporter of SAHMAT – the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust – which was set up in honour of Safdar Hashmi, the actor, playwright and street theatre activist who was murdered in 1989
Sehgal was then presented with gifts from family, friends and admirers, which included a bouquet of 101 roses, a huge birthday cake, a commemorative SAHMAT photograph and a painting by the director-general of Indian Council for Cultural Relations.
Having moved back to India in the mid-1990s, Seghal now lives with her daughter, Kiran, in Delhi.