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Books > Performing Arts > Close - Up: Memoirs of a Life on Stage and Screen
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Close - Up: Memoirs of a Life on Stage and Screen
Close - Up: Memoirs of a Life on Stage and Screen
Description
From the Flap

“Eight years with Dada (Uday Shankar), fourteen years with Papa ji (Prithvirja Kapoor), twenty – five years in England on television. But when I returned to India in 1987, none of this important – till I got a small role in a Hindi film!”

Zohra Segal’s no holds – barred memoir is feisty, irreverent and candid – a ringside view of nearly a hundred years of her life on stage screen, in India and England.

In 1930 Zohra Segal struck out and went to Germany to study modern dance at Mary Wigman’s Dance School in Dresden. It was most unusual decision – and a most unusual choice of career for an aristocratic young Indian woman. But then, Zohra was nothing if not unusual. In 1933 she returned to India, and in 1935 joined Uday Shankar’s famed dance academy in Almora, together with Simkie and fellow dancer, Kameshwar, whom she married in 1942. On to Lahore and the Zoresh Dance Institute – and then her big move into acting: Prithvi Theatres, the Old Vic, the British Drama League, BBC television, The Jewel in the Crown, Toba Tek, Singh, Bhaji on the Beach…

Along the way she recounts her encounters with the greats of British theatre in the 1960s and 70s – Sir Laurence Olivier, Sir Tyrone Guthrie, Fiona Walker, Priscilla Morgan and James Kerry among others – as well as her early forays into British television with Waris Hosain.

In this unputdownable memoir, Zohra Segal recreates her life as one of India’s greatest and best – loved stage and screen actresses with the same verve and spirit that she brings to all her performances. As she says, “Whatever I do, is for an audience!”

Among the many honours and awards that have been conferred on Zohra Segal are the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1963); the Norman Beaton Award for “significant contribution to the development of multicultural film and television drama in the United Kingdom” (1996); the Padma Shri (1998); the Sangeet Natak Akademi fellowship for lifetime achievement (2004); and the Padma Vibhushan (2010).

The Third Bell

Sitting on my balcony in the afternoon, watching the setting sun, I feel that all the members of my generation are popping off like corn in a cinema stall. But as the doctor said to his patient in the middle of an eye operation, when the latter wanted to relieve himself, “Well, when you’ve got to go you’ve got to go!”

How true is the French saying, “Tout passé, tout lasse, tout casse.” (Everything fades, breaks, and passes.)

I sometimes think that life is a big joke. Here I am, having brushed my teeth daily, had a bath every day, oiled, combed and washed my hair religiously, carried out a routine of breathing and physical exercises, spoken the truth as I see it…even to myself…and yet, what is life? A body deteriorating from day to day; the imbalance in walking, I cannot see the lines or the letters. If I were a religious person, this is when I would start believing in a God, but I am not and cannot be dishonest about it. I do believer that there is some kind of energy, some unchanging rule which makes the mixture of red and yellow turn into orange, etc. But in spite of being fascinated by it, I refuse to worship this law. Kameshwar used to say, “The secret of life will be dissolved in a drop of water.” I have come to the conclusion that “the secret of God will be found in a microchip”. But I have no animosity or disdain for those who believe in a divine being – if it gives them solace, so be it. After all, religion is only a hook to hang on to in the hour of need. But my faith is that this hook, this support, should be found within oneself. Tell yourself that you have the courage to surmount all difficulties and you will discover that your innermost courage will help you face every calamity.

In my Will I have said that when I die, I do not want any kind of ceremony, either religious or artistic. In case the crematorium authorities refuse to keep the ashes, my children should bring them home and flush them down the toilet. “Finito le comedia!” There is nothing more gruesome than finding a dead person’s remains in a jar on the mantelpiece. If there is no after life, there is nothing to worry about. And if there is…my so called spirit will soar into the heavens. I’ll meet my beloved Kameshwar, my grand old Abbajan, and my highly admired gurus, Dada and Papa ji.

This seems to be getting more and more morbid, which is not what I wanted to say.

Actually, I have been very lucky. I was taught by two geniuses, Uday Shankar in dance, and Prithviraj Kapoor in acting. And as the Persian saying goes, “The lump of clay on the floor of the hammam gathers the essence of the perfumes and unguents used by the bathing beauties, and imbibes some of the values in its make – up.”

I was fairly graceful dancer and a talented choreographer in my early career, but as they say, “In youth and in the moonlight even a she – ass looks beautiful.” I am a fairly good actress, though not as brilliant as some Indian artistes whose names have not acquired recognition. What I did excel in was teaching dance.

I did a pedagogic diploma in Germany in my youth and this suited my psyche to a “T”. But I never kept it up after having taught at Uday Shankar’s dance centre in Almora. I went on to become a co-director with my husband at the Zoresh Dance Institute in Lahore, and later became the dance – director of Prithvi Theatres in Bombay for 14 years, during which period I choreographed dance numbers successfully for films by Guru Dutt, Chetan Anand, Vijay Anand, and Raj Khosla. Had I opened a school of my own, I might have got some recognition as a teacher. But I never had the courage of the desire to do this.

Whereas in comparison my daughter, Kiran, displays her involvement with her dance academy “Pallay” which she has been running successful for several years!

I have two delightful children, Kiran and Pavan, whom I love with all my heart and of whom I am very proud. They are both at the top of their careers, which they have achieved solely by their own efforts. Kiran is a noted Odissi dancer, having received several awards, including the Padma Shri, and Pavan is a senior official with Who, now posted in Burkina Faso in Africa. He is my heart – throb, for whom I would do anything. But he is much too occupied with his work and the love of his three children to pay much attention to me. By comparison Kiran, my life’s ‘sunbeam’ and ‘moonbeam’, my first – born, has stood by me through thick and thin in spite of a grueling career, her regular classes, lec – dems and performances, and the care and responsibility of her teenage grand – daughter, Madhyama. In spite of all this Kiran showers her love and concern on a crotchety nonagerian mother who insists on holding center – stage! True, I have never been a financial burden on her. We share the house – hold expenses and I never fail to come up with any big expenses, such as the advance for a new flat, the cost of a new car or new fridge, and have always paid for all my operations. But this is nowhere near her sincere concern for me, for which I love and admire her beyond any limit. Who could hope for such a jewel of a daughter!! Kiran has attended all my operations, and these have been several. I turn to her attended all my operations, and there have been several. I turn to her when I am in great pain or need.

On the whole it has been an exciting an enjoyable life. I have traveled extensively, from the North Cape down to Java Bali. From San Francisco to Kuala Lumpur, North and South America, plus Africa. From the South to Mediterranean Sea towns, I have danced or acted in all the capitals of the world (except in China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand); met and known most of the famous names of my generation, experienced two world wars and two British Coronations, including Prince Edward’s abdication speech on radio, and acted with several celebrities, East and West. What more can one want?

During rehearsals for The city of Djinns, a journalist asked me the source of my energy. Tom Alter, the star of the show, who was also being interviewed simultaneously said, “Zohra’s life is very organized. It is this discipline that gives her the energy.” Apart from a daily kept routine, I have been blessed with an inner spring, a bubbling font of joy that surmounts all tragedies, however heartrending. But the William Dalrymple play took place over two years ago, and the magical source has certainly diminished. However, as Indira ji used to advise people to face everything “with courage and determination”, I hope and intend to go through the remainder of my life with courage and determination, plus a sense of humour, as I have done till now.

Contents

The Third Bell 7
Introduction: Family History 17
1. 1919 – 1929: Childhood and Lahore 25
2. 1930 – 1933: Europe and Dance School 33
3. 1933 – 1935: The First Return 59
4. 1935 – 1938: The Uday Shankar Ballet Company 66
5. 1938 – 1943: The Second Return 76
6. 1943 – 1945: Romance, Marriage and Lahore Again 91
7. 1945 – 1959: Prithvi Theatres and IPTA, Bombay 104
8. 1959 – 1962: Delhi144
9. 1962: Moscow, Baku, Berlin, Dresden, Prague157
10. 1962 – 1973: London: Stage and Screen179
11. 1974 – 1975: Delhi 233
12. 1976 – 1979: The Last Decades 250
Performances by Zohra Segal 288

Close - Up: Memoirs of a Life on Stage and Screen

Item Code:
IHL327
Cover:
Paperback
Edition:
2010
Publisher:
ISBN:
8188965618
Size:
8.5 Inch X 5.5 Inch
Pages:
292 (Illustrated Throughout In B/W)
Price:
$30.00
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$22.50   Shipping Free
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From the Flap

“Eight years with Dada (Uday Shankar), fourteen years with Papa ji (Prithvirja Kapoor), twenty – five years in England on television. But when I returned to India in 1987, none of this important – till I got a small role in a Hindi film!”

Zohra Segal’s no holds – barred memoir is feisty, irreverent and candid – a ringside view of nearly a hundred years of her life on stage screen, in India and England.

In 1930 Zohra Segal struck out and went to Germany to study modern dance at Mary Wigman’s Dance School in Dresden. It was most unusual decision – and a most unusual choice of career for an aristocratic young Indian woman. But then, Zohra was nothing if not unusual. In 1933 she returned to India, and in 1935 joined Uday Shankar’s famed dance academy in Almora, together with Simkie and fellow dancer, Kameshwar, whom she married in 1942. On to Lahore and the Zoresh Dance Institute – and then her big move into acting: Prithvi Theatres, the Old Vic, the British Drama League, BBC television, The Jewel in the Crown, Toba Tek, Singh, Bhaji on the Beach…

Along the way she recounts her encounters with the greats of British theatre in the 1960s and 70s – Sir Laurence Olivier, Sir Tyrone Guthrie, Fiona Walker, Priscilla Morgan and James Kerry among others – as well as her early forays into British television with Waris Hosain.

In this unputdownable memoir, Zohra Segal recreates her life as one of India’s greatest and best – loved stage and screen actresses with the same verve and spirit that she brings to all her performances. As she says, “Whatever I do, is for an audience!”

Among the many honours and awards that have been conferred on Zohra Segal are the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1963); the Norman Beaton Award for “significant contribution to the development of multicultural film and television drama in the United Kingdom” (1996); the Padma Shri (1998); the Sangeet Natak Akademi fellowship for lifetime achievement (2004); and the Padma Vibhushan (2010).

The Third Bell

Sitting on my balcony in the afternoon, watching the setting sun, I feel that all the members of my generation are popping off like corn in a cinema stall. But as the doctor said to his patient in the middle of an eye operation, when the latter wanted to relieve himself, “Well, when you’ve got to go you’ve got to go!”

How true is the French saying, “Tout passé, tout lasse, tout casse.” (Everything fades, breaks, and passes.)

I sometimes think that life is a big joke. Here I am, having brushed my teeth daily, had a bath every day, oiled, combed and washed my hair religiously, carried out a routine of breathing and physical exercises, spoken the truth as I see it…even to myself…and yet, what is life? A body deteriorating from day to day; the imbalance in walking, I cannot see the lines or the letters. If I were a religious person, this is when I would start believing in a God, but I am not and cannot be dishonest about it. I do believer that there is some kind of energy, some unchanging rule which makes the mixture of red and yellow turn into orange, etc. But in spite of being fascinated by it, I refuse to worship this law. Kameshwar used to say, “The secret of life will be dissolved in a drop of water.” I have come to the conclusion that “the secret of God will be found in a microchip”. But I have no animosity or disdain for those who believe in a divine being – if it gives them solace, so be it. After all, religion is only a hook to hang on to in the hour of need. But my faith is that this hook, this support, should be found within oneself. Tell yourself that you have the courage to surmount all difficulties and you will discover that your innermost courage will help you face every calamity.

In my Will I have said that when I die, I do not want any kind of ceremony, either religious or artistic. In case the crematorium authorities refuse to keep the ashes, my children should bring them home and flush them down the toilet. “Finito le comedia!” There is nothing more gruesome than finding a dead person’s remains in a jar on the mantelpiece. If there is no after life, there is nothing to worry about. And if there is…my so called spirit will soar into the heavens. I’ll meet my beloved Kameshwar, my grand old Abbajan, and my highly admired gurus, Dada and Papa ji.

This seems to be getting more and more morbid, which is not what I wanted to say.

Actually, I have been very lucky. I was taught by two geniuses, Uday Shankar in dance, and Prithviraj Kapoor in acting. And as the Persian saying goes, “The lump of clay on the floor of the hammam gathers the essence of the perfumes and unguents used by the bathing beauties, and imbibes some of the values in its make – up.”

I was fairly graceful dancer and a talented choreographer in my early career, but as they say, “In youth and in the moonlight even a she – ass looks beautiful.” I am a fairly good actress, though not as brilliant as some Indian artistes whose names have not acquired recognition. What I did excel in was teaching dance.

I did a pedagogic diploma in Germany in my youth and this suited my psyche to a “T”. But I never kept it up after having taught at Uday Shankar’s dance centre in Almora. I went on to become a co-director with my husband at the Zoresh Dance Institute in Lahore, and later became the dance – director of Prithvi Theatres in Bombay for 14 years, during which period I choreographed dance numbers successfully for films by Guru Dutt, Chetan Anand, Vijay Anand, and Raj Khosla. Had I opened a school of my own, I might have got some recognition as a teacher. But I never had the courage of the desire to do this.

Whereas in comparison my daughter, Kiran, displays her involvement with her dance academy “Pallay” which she has been running successful for several years!

I have two delightful children, Kiran and Pavan, whom I love with all my heart and of whom I am very proud. They are both at the top of their careers, which they have achieved solely by their own efforts. Kiran is a noted Odissi dancer, having received several awards, including the Padma Shri, and Pavan is a senior official with Who, now posted in Burkina Faso in Africa. He is my heart – throb, for whom I would do anything. But he is much too occupied with his work and the love of his three children to pay much attention to me. By comparison Kiran, my life’s ‘sunbeam’ and ‘moonbeam’, my first – born, has stood by me through thick and thin in spite of a grueling career, her regular classes, lec – dems and performances, and the care and responsibility of her teenage grand – daughter, Madhyama. In spite of all this Kiran showers her love and concern on a crotchety nonagerian mother who insists on holding center – stage! True, I have never been a financial burden on her. We share the house – hold expenses and I never fail to come up with any big expenses, such as the advance for a new flat, the cost of a new car or new fridge, and have always paid for all my operations. But this is nowhere near her sincere concern for me, for which I love and admire her beyond any limit. Who could hope for such a jewel of a daughter!! Kiran has attended all my operations, and these have been several. I turn to her attended all my operations, and there have been several. I turn to her when I am in great pain or need.

On the whole it has been an exciting an enjoyable life. I have traveled extensively, from the North Cape down to Java Bali. From San Francisco to Kuala Lumpur, North and South America, plus Africa. From the South to Mediterranean Sea towns, I have danced or acted in all the capitals of the world (except in China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand); met and known most of the famous names of my generation, experienced two world wars and two British Coronations, including Prince Edward’s abdication speech on radio, and acted with several celebrities, East and West. What more can one want?

During rehearsals for The city of Djinns, a journalist asked me the source of my energy. Tom Alter, the star of the show, who was also being interviewed simultaneously said, “Zohra’s life is very organized. It is this discipline that gives her the energy.” Apart from a daily kept routine, I have been blessed with an inner spring, a bubbling font of joy that surmounts all tragedies, however heartrending. But the William Dalrymple play took place over two years ago, and the magical source has certainly diminished. However, as Indira ji used to advise people to face everything “with courage and determination”, I hope and intend to go through the remainder of my life with courage and determination, plus a sense of humour, as I have done till now.

Contents

The Third Bell 7
Introduction: Family History 17
1. 1919 – 1929: Childhood and Lahore 25
2. 1930 – 1933: Europe and Dance School 33
3. 1933 – 1935: The First Return 59
4. 1935 – 1938: The Uday Shankar Ballet Company 66
5. 1938 – 1943: The Second Return 76
6. 1943 – 1945: Romance, Marriage and Lahore Again 91
7. 1945 – 1959: Prithvi Theatres and IPTA, Bombay 104
8. 1959 – 1962: Delhi144
9. 1962: Moscow, Baku, Berlin, Dresden, Prague157
10. 1962 – 1973: London: Stage and Screen179
11. 1974 – 1975: Delhi 233
12. 1976 – 1979: The Last Decades 250
Performances by Zohra Segal 288
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