Celebrating Zohra Sehgal: Google Doodle pays tribute to legendary Indian actress

The illustration marks the historic win of her film 'Neecha Nagar' at Cannes Film Festival

Wednesday's Google Doodle pays tribute to Zohra Sehgal. Google 
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Veteran Indian actress and dancer Zohra Sehgal is celebrated in Tuesday's Google Doodle.

People using the search engine in India on September 29, will see a colourful illustration of the celebrated actress surrounded by flower vines and birds, drawn by guest artist Parvati Pillai.

Sehgal was one of India's first actresses to achieve international recognition, thanks in part to her starring role in Neecha Nagar, which was released on this day at the 1946 Cannes Film Festival, taking home the event's highest honour – the Palme d'Or. The win is widely considered as Indian cinema's first critical international success.

Born in Saharanpur on April 27, 1912, Sahibzadi Zohra Begum Mumtaz-ullah Khan moved to Germany as a young woman to attend a prestigious ballet school in Dresden. She went on to tour internationally with Indian dance pioneer Uday Shankar, before returning to the country to study acting with the Indian People’s Theatre Association in 1945.

In 1962, Sehgal moved to London and landed a number of television roles, including parts in Doctor Who and The Jewel in the Crown. She returned to India in the 1990s to continue acting in a number of Bollywood films and on the stage, performing well into her 90s. She also starred in the film Bend it Like Beckham.

Over the years, she was celebrated with a number of India’s highest awards, including the Padma Shri in 1998, the Kalidas Samman in 2001, and the Padma Vibhushan in 2010.

“Zohra Sehgal is admired across generations for her acting and loveable personality. She overcame social and cultural stereotypes with her sheer tenacity and infectious passion from a very young age. She is an inspiration not just for women everywhere, but for anyone who wants to follow their own path,” Pillai said.

“I grew up watching her as the evergreen granny and have been enthralled by her love for acting and dancing, especially in her twilight years. She taught me what it meant to be passionate about my work and to never be afraid of new challenges.”

Speaking of creating the Doodle, Pillai said she drew inspiration from Sehgal’s trademark smile and vintage Hollywood posters to attempt to visualise the nostalgia associated with the star and the country’s “endless affection” for her.

“I really hoped to make a Doodle that would be a fitting tribute to this immensely lovable person. It was an excellent excuse to binge my favourite Zohra Sehgal movies,” she said.