New Delhi, May 20: legendary theatre actor Zohra Segal, who celebrated her 100th birthday April 27, was a difficult mother because of her stubborn and “I-know-best” attitude that came from long years of achievement as a versatile dancer, a stage performer and a screen star, daughter Kiran Segal says.
“Even now, she always wants to be the centre of attraction and hates being ignored. She criticises people but could not stand being criticised,” Kiran said in an informal chat around her mother’s new biography, “Zohra Segal: Fatty” (Niyogi Books), at the Indian Women’s Press Corps in the capital Saturday evening.
The discussion was moderated by noted author Ira Pande, daughter of iconic Hindi novelist Shivani, and was attended by writer and journalist Mrinal Pande, another of Shivani’s four daughters. The session began with a brief documentary on Zohra Segal by M.K. Raina and Anant Raina.
The discussion initially took on a note of a “comparison between two famous mothers – Shivani and Zohra – as they existed in the memories of their daughters, Odhisi dancer Kiran and noted writer Ira Pande”.
Both the mothers were egotists and loved the sense of power that adulation brought, despite the fact they were the most affectionate and firm mothers, Kiran and Ira said.
But Zohra was also whimsy, almost “like a child” which led to arguments, Kiran recounted.
“She loved spicy and hot food. I make bland food with with either ‘hing, jeera or rye ka chong’ and she hated the food I cooked saying it was ‘bakwas’. She loves ‘mirchi ka salan’. But she is also fussy about her weight. I remember at least 10-15 years ago, she would breakfast on half a cup of milk and coffee. But the doctors advised her to eat a slice of toast with coffee,” she said.
She said mother Zohra would often go on diet and compared her slim self “with her daughter’s healthier frame”.
“See how slim I am still,” she said. During her diet stints, Zohra would instruct the cook to cut down on salt, cheese, butter and oil in food”.
Once Kiran was frantically called back from her dance studio by her family because “Zohra had fainted of weakness caused by an extreme diet”.
“The doctor told her to eat normally,” Kiran said.
In the biography, Kiran writes about her mother’s fetish for time and discipline. “lunch has to be served at 12.15 pm. I think living with me has elasticised ‘Amma’ a bit… She is very particular about her figure like a 16-year-old starlet,” Kiran says in the book.
Kiran, who says she has seen her mother through all the patches in her life, laments the fact that Zohra still has a special place for “her ‘beta’ (son) who lives in South Africa”.
“It is always beta bechara (poor son),” Kiran said.
Zohra is preparing for her final journey as if she knows the inevitability of death, Kiran said.
She often refers to those times when “she will not be there”, Kiran said.