Gurinder, Zohra and the NYIFF


This past Sunday dancer and actress Zohra Segal turned 102.  Having passed the 100 year mark, Zohra-ji now counts among her many other distinctions that of being the first actor from the Dr. Who series who is a centenarian.

Over the course of her remarkable life, Zohra Segal has toured the world with the Uday Shankar dance troupe in 1935 when she was only in her early 20s, later she resided for a time in Britain, acting on stage and television.  She first burst into my consciousness when she played the very savvy Aunt Lili Chatterjee in the acclaimed Granada Television/ITV miniseries The Jewel in the Crown.  Moreover, Zohra Segal has acted in a wide range of films – everything from Merchant Ivory’s The Courtesans of Bombay and their later Mystic Masseur, to  Balki’s Cheeni Kum and Gurinder Chadha’s Bhaji on the Beach and later Bend It Like Beckham.  (Here’s an article I did for Firstpost on her 100th birthday.)

If you live in the tri-state area, you have a chance to catch Bhaji on the occasion of its 20th anniversary – with the director herself, Gurinder Chadha, present for discussion afterwards – as part of the 2014 Indo-American Arts Council’s New York Indian Film Festival.

This year’s festival will include not only the saucy social commentary of Bhaji on the Beach, but also another treat: a line-up of Chadha’s documentaries (I’m British But, A Nice Arrangement, Acting Our Age and What Do You Call An Indian Woman Who’s Funny?) which are rarely seen here in the US and which are not available (legally) anywhere online.  I ran into New York’s own DJ Rekha this morning prior to an interview on NPR, and when we discussed the selection of Gurinder Chadha films that will be on offer, she raved “Acting Our Age is the best!”

If you’d like to learn more about the director, you must see the British episode of the Who Do You Think You Are? devoted to Gurinder’s tracing her family roots from the UK over to Kenya and then on to India.  (Here’s Part 1, then here’s Part 2, and here’s Part 3.)  It’s informative and often very moving.  Have the tissues handy when you hear about Gurinder’s father Bhajan’s early years in the UK, not an easy start at all.

For more details about the full schedule and where to purchase tickets can be found here.

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