Zohra’s zest for life

Himalayan News Service

New Delhi:

At an age when people are content to gently fade away, 93-year-old actress Zohra Segal is bursting with a million ideas for her next performance. For Zohra was born to act. And she has enjoyed every minute of it ever since her debut on stage in 1935 as a dancer with the legendary Uday Shankar’s troupe.

“I don’t believe in god or life after death. I believe in the magic of theatre,” Segal told HNS in an interview. “This year August 8, I will complete seven decades of non-stop showbiz,” an effervescent Segal said, her voice soaked in fervour. An optimistic person, Zohra’s joie de vivre is simply infectious. Small wonder that thoughts of death or god don’t torment her much. Despite being a confirmed agnostic, she sometimes speaks like a mystic. “Religion is a hook. If you look closely around, god is everywhere. You mix red with yellow and you get orange — it’s a miracle of sorts,” says Segal.

The veteran actress has an eclectic repertoire of films to her credit that includes blockbusters like “Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham” and “Veer-Zaara” and crossover films like Gurinder Chadha’s “Bhaji On The Beach” and “Bend It Like Beckham”. All her theatrical and stylised orations, all her bewitching masks slip when she talks about the love of her life - her husband Kameshwar Segal, a gifted painter and a tormented genius. Talking about his suicide, she is once again a vulnerable girl, full of fear and trembling. Survivors’ guilt haunts her to this day.

“For an actor, tears have to be real and laughter has to be real. One has to live intensely, suffer a lot for acting to be real. Acting has to come from deep within,” says Segal, her eyes slightly misty with recollections of times past.

A late bloomer, Segal got her first big break in 1982 in ‘Jewel In The Crown’. She played the role of Lily Chatterjee, an ICS officer’s wife in the film. Gurinder Chaddha’s “Bhaji On The Beach” in 1993 was another big hit that got her noticed the world over. But her really big break was the Salman Khan-starrer “Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam”. Says Segal, pointedly aware of the crowning irony of showbiz. “It was a silly Bollywood film that really did the trick for me. Offers started pouring in after I played the role of Salman Khan’s grandmother in the film. And now I am one of the richest women.”

“I now have name, fame and money. What more do you want?” asks Segal.