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Rediff News  All News  » Movies » Gurinder Chadha: Zohra Sehgal's performances were always pitch-perfect

Gurinder Chadha: Zohra Sehgal's performances were always pitch-perfect

Last updated on: July 11, 2014 13:35 IST

Gurinder Chadha: Zohra Sehgal's performances were always pitch-perfect


Aseem Chhabra/ in New York

Bollywood stalwarts bid goodbye to Zohra Sehgal, the famously fiesty veteran actress who passed into the ages on July 10.
For the spirited Zohra Sehgal, age was truly just a number. 

Born on April 27, 1912, Zohra started her career with the iconic dancer-choreographer Uday Shankar.

In 2007, in what was to be her among her last film appearances, Zohra Sehgal floored us all as the sass-mouthing mother of Amitabh Bachchan's confirmed bachelor chef in R Balki's Cheeni Kum.

Gurinder Chaddha, who worked with Zohra Sehgal in three films, pays tribute.

I loved working with Zohra, we worked on three films -- Bhaaji On The Beach, Bend It Like Beckham and Mistress of Spices -- and in every case, she became the life and soul of the set as soon as she stepped onto it.

Never was there an actress who enjoyed plying her trade with such fun and commitment. She was able to be dramatic and funny, touching and farcical effortlessly.

Before takes, she would always whisper to me to tell her if she was overacting as she had a tendency to do that.

She always asked so sweetly and in such a charming way. She had her own unique style of performance -- always pitch perfect.

We should celebrate and salute the long and extremely memorable contribution she has made to our world.

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Image: Zohra Sehgal in Bend It Like Beckham


Amitabh Bachchan: Zohra Sehgal was an incredible costar

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Subhash K Jha in Patna

Amitabh Bachchan, who worked with Sehgal in Cheeni Kum:

Coincidentally, Amitabh Bachchan was shooting with his Cheeni Kum director R Balki on a European location when news of Sehgal's demise reached him. 

Reacting to the news, the veteran actor said, "What a lady! What a journey! What an incredible costar.

"She was ever-smiling, effervescent, and brimming with a zest for life that was unique to her."

Image: Zohra Sehgal with Amitabh Bachchan in Cheeni Kum

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'A spirit like Zohraji's can never die'

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R Balki, who directed Zohra Sehgal in Cheeni Kum:

She was 94 when she worked with me.

She is 102 now...

I speak of her in the present tense because a spirit like Zohraji's can never die. She will never stop being a content soul and a great friend no matter where she is.

Her passing away is a loss to humanity, and not just to cinema. She was the happiest soul in the world, I am sure of that. She was spunky, spirited and full of life.

No wonder her performances were so spirited too.

Everyday of the shooting for Cheeni Kum with Zohraji is etched in my memory.

I'll cherish and smile at every single moment I spent working with her. 


Image: Zohra Sehgal in Cheeni Kum


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'We must celebrate Zohra Aapa's life'

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Shabana Azmi, Sehgal's close family friend:

We must not mourn, we must celebrate Zohra Aapa's life, which she lived on her own terms.

She was an institution in herself and a towering theatre personality. My mum Shaukat Kaifi was her junior at Prithvi Theatre and was greatly inspired by her.

Zohra Aapa knew me since I was an infant strapped to my mum's back and would play with me when mum was performing on stage.

I got a chance to work with her only when I did a play written by Roysten Abel with her and Nandita Das in 2003.

She would always arrive for rehearsals on time. She made no fuss and was a thorough professional. She would keep everyone in splits with her jokes.

Those who missed watching her on stage don't know what an experience they've missed.

She was delightful on screen as well. But it was not a patch on what she was on stage. I salute her, even as my heart reaches out to her daughter Kiran.

Image: Shabana Azmi
Photographs: Abhijit Mhamunkar

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'Thank you Zohra aapa for touching my life; May your vibrant soul rest in peace'

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Nandita Das, who worked in a play along side Sehgal:

I had known Zohra aapa since I was very young.

I don't think I have seen a more spirited person in my life.

I have also had the great privilege of working with her in a play called Diary of Anne Frank.

I think it was the best play I have ever worked in , but sadly we could do only nine shows as Shabanaji (Azmi) couldn't do more due to her Rajya Sabha commitments. To watch Zohra aapa rehearse and perform in her 90s was a sheer delight!

I was in awe of her hard work, commitment, talent and understanding of the art form.

She lived a full life and inspired many.

She will go down in history as a woman of great substance.

Thank you Zohra aapa for touching my life. May your vibrant soul rest in peace.

Image: Nandita Das
Photographs: Pradeep Bandekar

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