Sanjay Leela Bhansali on his experience of working with Zohra Sehgal in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and Saawariya.
"I think I'm the only contemporary director who has the privilege of working in two films with Zohraji. And both the films Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (HDDCS) and Saawariya were made memorable by her presence on the sets. Everything else will fade. But my experience of working with Zohraji is timeless, just like the lady herself. And that reminds me, though there was a decade-long gap between HDDCS and Saawariya, she had not aged one bit in those ten years…not a single extra winkle, not one extra grey hair!!! She is a miracle woman! At 94 when she worked with me in Saawariya, Zohraji was still the sprightly gamine with dancing eyes. Her sheer zest for life and her understanding of the movie camera made all of us look like film students in front of her.
I remember when Ranbir Kapoor and I went to pick her at the airport when she arrived to shoot for Saawariya. She looked at Ranbir and said, 'Do you know I've worked opposite your great-grandfather Prithviraj Kapoor and your grandfather Raj Kapoor? You're the third generation of Kapoors I'm working with.' I don't know how she missed out working with Randhir and Rishi Kapoor. She had come laden to Mumbai with her pictures with Prithviraj Saab and Raj Saab to prove her point to Ranbir. From the first day she insisted on calling him 'Ranbir Raj.' They were the two youngest people the sets. I swear I felt old watching Zohraji's energy on the sets of Saawariya. All of us would be dead tired by evening. But at 6 pm Zohraji would grandly announce, 'Let's have a glass of wine before we got back to work.' She loved her role because for the first time she played a Catholic character in Saawariya. She got a chance to wear her hair stylishly, put on Western clothes and she specially loved the crimson lipstick. Once she had those in place she was in full form. Do you remember that scene where she insists on singing an English-language song for Ranbir? The song was her own. It was something she remembered from the past. And what a memory she has! At 94 she remembered not just all her own dialogues, but every single dialogue of every character in Saawariya and earlier in HDDCS. In fact I remember when I had picked her up from the airport for the first time she rattled off all her lines and then all the lines of all the other characters and warned me, 'Don't you dare change one line.' On the sets if anyone forgot his or her lines, guess who promptly piped in with the correct lines??!!