Zohra Sehgal is an Indian stage and film actress, who started her career as dancer with dancer Uday Shankar in 1935 and worked with him for the next eight years. She has appeared in many Bollywood films as well as English language films and television series.
Born on April 27, 1912, in Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh, India, one of seven children of a land-owning family of Rohilla Pathans. Upon graduating, her maternal uncle, Sahebzada Saeeduzzafar Khan, who was based in Edinburgh to study medicine, arranged for her to apprentice under a British actor. So they started from Lahore by car and, en route, crossed Iran, Palestine, before reaching Damascus, Syria, where she met her cousin. Then they traveled into Egypt and caught a boat to Europe in Alexandria.
When Uday Shankar moved back to India in 1940, she became a teacher at the Uday Shankar India Cultural Centre at Almora. It was here that she met Kameshwar Sehgal, an young scientist, painter and dancer from Indore, eight years her junior, belonging to the Radha Swami sect. There was initial opposition from her parents, but they eventually gave their approval to marry. They married on 14 August 1942.
She joined the leftist theatre group, IPTA, acted in several plays, and made her film debut in IPTA's first film production, directed by Khwaja Ahmad Abbas, Dharti Ke Lal in 1946; she followed it up with another IPTA-supported film, Chetan Anand's Neecha Nagar. In the same year, it became the first Indian film to gain critical international recognition and won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival.
Zohra Sehgal started her career as a dancer with the great Uday Shankar and then went on to work in theatre with the likes of Prithviraj Kapoor before she made an entry into Bollywood. Her mischievous, vivacious personality has charmed many hearts in films like Gurinder Chadha's 'Bhajji On the Beach' and 'Bend It Like Beckham' and Hindi films like Mani.
From Prithviraj Kapoor to Raj Kapoor, Rishi Kapoor and Ranbir Kapoor, she has worked with four generations of Bollywood's famous Kapoor family - and she hasn't let age dampen her spirit at all.
When it comes to awards, in 1998 she was honoured with the Padma Shri, one of India's highest civilian honours, following which she received the Kalidas Samman in 2001, and the Sangeet Natak Akademi in 2004. In 2010, she was bestowed with the Padma Vibhushan. In 2008, at the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF)-Laadli Media Awards in New Delhi, she was felicitated as the 'Laadli of the century'; the award was handed over by the Chief Minister of Delhi, Sheila Dikshit.
On July 9, 2014 she was admitted to the Max Hospital in South Delhi after being diagnosed with pneumonia. She passed away at around 4:30PM on July 10, after suffering a cardiac arrest. She was cremated on Friday 11 July at Lodhi Road crematorium, Delhi