Zohra Segal

Born in 1912 in Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh, Shrimati Zohra Segal exemplifies through her life the coming into being of the professional stage artist in SANGEET NATAK AKADEMI FELLOWS 27 twentieth-century India. Matriculating in 1929, she went to Europe to learn modern dance under Mary Wigman at her school in Dresden, Germany, obtaining a diploma in eurhythmics in 1933. She returned to India to join Uday Shankar’s dance troupe, where she was the leading dancer from 1935 to 1943. She then moved to Lahore to run the Zoresh Dance Institute, which she founded with her late husband Kameshwar Segal, and then again to Bombay to join Prithvi Theatres. From 1945 to 1959, she was the leading actress and dance director at Prithvi Theatres, working under Prithviraj Kapoor. Here, guided by the noted thespian, she was to take her first steps in realistic acting. From the mid-1940s up to the present day, she has acted without a break on the stage, the cinema, and television chiefly in India, but also in Britain and the United States. For some years during the 1960s and 1970s, she headed the Natya Academy and the National Folk Dance Ensemble in Delhi, where she now resides. Shrimati Zohra Segal’s numerous stage productions include Din ke Andhere and Ek Thi Nani. She entered the cinema with a role in Chetan Anand’s Neecha Nagar (1946) and later acted in the IPTA production Dharti ke Lal (1950). In recent years, she has acted in a number of films from Bombay including Dil Se directed by Mani Ratnam, Ham Dil De Chuke Sanam by Leela Bhansali, and Veer Zara by Yash Chopra. Her films abroad include Long Duel, where she acted with Yul Brynner, Patrician where her coacters were Saeed Jaffrey, Roshan Seth and Zia Moheyuddin, The Honorary Consul where she acted with Michael Caine, and Jewel in the Crown. Shrimati Zohra Segal’s many honours include the Star Certificate of the British Drama League (1962), the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for acting (1963), the Uttar Pradesh Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for acting (1991), the Padma Shri (1998), and the Kalidas Samman (2001). A book on her life, Stages: Art and Adventures of Zohra Segal, written by Joan Erdman with Zohra Segal, was published in 1997. For her contribution to theatre arts in India, Shrimati Zohra Segal is elected Fellow of Sangeet Natak Akademi.