At recent meetings of the Academic and Executive Councils of the University, we had decided to confer the degree of Doctor of Arts (honoris causa) on Zohra Segal, doyenne of Indian theatre and cinema. Since she wrote to say she was unable to travel to Hyderabad, this was to have been presented to her daughter at our convocation on October 1 this year (see the correspondence below), but now will be given posthumously.
I had written to her daughter, the Odissi dancer Kiran Segal on 25 June:
Dear Ms Sehgal [sic], I am very pleased to convey the information that the University of Hyderabad wishes to confer the degree of Doctor of Arts (honoris causa) upon your mother, Mrs Zohra Sehgal. We would be most honoured if she would accept this degree at the next convocation which will be on October 1, 2014.
The Departments of Theatre Arts in the Sarojini Naidu School would also like it if she would kindly agree to give a distinguished lecture at the University around that time and interact with the faculty and students.
We do hope that she will agree to be with us in October and I look forward to hearing from you. With regards, etc.
to which I got the very gracious response on 30 June:
Dear Mr. Ramaswamy,
Thank you very much for the honour that your University is bestowing upon me! I am now 102 years old and therefore unable to travel anywhere. I hope you understand.
I still remember my visits to Hyderabad in days gone by & I must say that in each visit I had a lovely & delightful audience. In the past whenever I had visited Hyderabad, the ‘culture’ & ‘sensitivity’ of the Urdu language prevailed but, unfortunately it is rapidly fading!
As a suggestion and if it suits you, my daughter Padmashri Kiran Segal could come & receive the Degree and read out some excerpts from my ‘time spent in theatre’.
With best wishes, Padmavibhushan Smt. Zohra Segal
A suggestion that we are very happy to accept, and we look forward to having Kiran Segal with us at the next convocation.
There is a touch of sadness that she is no longer with us, but in her 102 years, she did so much in so many spheres. As a member of the Uday Shankar Troupe, then the IPTA, and of course the various movies that she acted in, including Bend it like Beckham. The demure photograph on the left dates from her time as a dancer, while the more characteristic one above is more recent, and wonderfully conveys the sense of mischief she brought to many of her acting roles.
Either way, she was a great ambassador for Indian theatre, and we at the UoH salute her several contributions to the performing arts!