Soon after historian Irfan Habib informed the world of the passing of India’s veteran actress Zohra Sehgal on twitter, condolences from friends and fans started pouring. The 102-year-old actress passed away in a Delhi hotel due to a cardiac arrest. "Just confirmed that Zohra Aapa is no more… Extremely sad to know about d passing away of Zohra Sehgal, a woman who lived a full life on her own terms. Great loss to art and culture. RIP," he tweeted.
With a career spanning over eight decades, the Indian film industry’s loveable grandmother was known for her zeal for life and her expressions alike. She started her career with as a dancer for Uday Shankar’s troupe, and went on to star in many films like Cheeni Kum (where she played Amitabh Bachchan mother, Dil Se, Veer-Zara, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Dillagi and Bend it Like Beckham. She was last seen in the Ranbir Kapoor-starrer Sawariya.
Born on April 27, 1912, as Sahibzadi Zohra Begum Mumtaz-ullah Khan in Sahranpur, she studied in both in India and in Lahore in Pakistan. Her elder sister Uzra Butt was a leading theatre star from Prithviraj Theatre. In 1942, she married Kameshwar Sehgal, a scientist, and after his death in 1952 brought up her children on her own.
Amitabh Bachchan was one of the first to react on her passing. “Zohra Sehgal passes away at 102 yrs ..what a journey and what an immensely loveable co star ! Prayers for her blessed soul !!,’ he tweeted. Actor Ritesh Deshmukh, too, offered his condolences on twitter. “RIP Zohra Sehgal - Charming & Elegant -will miss you,” he tweeted. The Lunchbox star Nimrat Kaur, too offered her condolences in two tweets: “In her century long life,Zohra Sehgal ji gave us a million years worth of inspiration.Woman,soul,an existence extraordinaire..what a life!!”
After her husband’s death, she went to England where she acted in productions like The Raj Quartet, The Jewel in the crown, Tandoori Nights, My Beautiful Laundrette, to name a few.
She was awarded the Padma Shri in 1998, and the Padma Vibhushan, India's second-highest civilian honor, in 2010.
Early this year, in February, she lamented that the Delhi government declined a Ministry of Culture request on her behalf that she be allotted a ground-floor government accommodation in Central Delhi. The government had dismissed the request citing that she did not fall within the admissible age limit of 40-60 years under artiste quota.
She will be cremated at the Lodi Road crematorium at 11am today.