The effervescent Zohra Sehgal touched the 100 year old mark recently and everyone in Bollywood can’t stop remembering this firebrand of an actress who still exudes liveliness in spite of being so old. After Amitabh Bachchan sang praises for this lady, Sanjay Leela Bhansali too felt obliged to let the world know how age is just a figure for people like Zohra Sehgal.
Bhansali shares that perhaps he is the only fortunate new age filmmaker who got the opportunity to work with Sehgal in two films Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and Saawariya. He knows he will always remember those moments spent with her on the sets. There was 10 years gap between the making of his two films but she was the same free spirited and naughty Zohra Sehgal that he worked with in the first one. Her love for life and passion for cinema makes him feel like an amateur director.
Talking about the youthful cheer in a 100 year old woman, Sanjay said that when Ranbir and he went to pick her up from the airport to shoot for Saawariya, she saw Ranbir and told him that she will be working with the third generation of Kapoors as she was cast opposite his great grandfather Prithvi Raj Kapoor and grandfather Raj Kapoor. From thereon, she wouldn’t refer to Ranbir as nothing else but Ranbir Raj. They say with age your memory starts playing pranks with you but not for Zohra Ji. She would memorise not her own lines but also of the other characters on the sets with equal ease. She could tell if someone botched up their dialogues. Zohra Ji and Ranbir were the youngest of the lot on the sets of Saawariya.
Another aspect of Zohra Sehgal that enchants Bhansali is the ease with which she used to blend with her characters. In Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, she is the witty, modern and naughty Gujarati daadi of Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and in the other; she is a spirited catholic woman (Saawariya). She did have airs but in a very constructive way. She despises incompetence and sluggishness. Even at the age of 84, while doing HDDCS, she was very powerful and in one scene pulled Salman and Aishwarya’s ears so hard that they turned red. Even though his actors complained about it, but Bhansali couldn’t go and correct her.
At the end, the legendary director wishes to complete his hat trick with this fascinating woman who lives life to the fullest and accepts whatever it has to offer to her. For him, she will always be close to heart no matter what.