Legendary Theatre Actress Uzra Butt Dead At 93

Legendary Theatre Actress Uzra Butt Dead At 93
Legendary theatre personality Uzra Butt, sister of Indian actress Zohra Sehgal, has died in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore at the age of 93.

Butt, whose last performance on stage was in 2008, had been ailing and bed-ridden for some time, her friends said. She celebrated her 93rd birthday with friends and family on May 22.

Born in 1917 in Rampur, India, Butt began her stage career as a dancer with Uday Shankar's ballet company in 1937 and went on to become the leading lady of the famous Prithvi Theatre in the 1940s and 1950s.

She also taught dance before joining the Indian People's Theatre Association in 1944 as an actress. She acted in Khwaja Ahmad Abbas' play Zubaida in Bombay and appeared as a leading lady opposite Pirthviraj Kapoor in the productions of Prithvi Theatre.

During her many years with Prithvi Theatre, Butt appeared in plays like Shakuntla, Pathan, Kisan, Ghaddar and Dewaar with her sister Zohra and travelled across undivided India with the troupe.

Butt migrated to Pakistan with her husband Hameed Butt in 1964. She led a quiet life in Rawalpindi and decided to stage a comeback when the Ajoka Theatre group introduced alternative theatre in Lahore.

She joined Ajoka Theatre in October 1985 and later went on to serve as the group's chairperson. Butt's first play with Ajoka was Chaak Chakkar. Other plays she acted in with the group included Barri, Dukhini, Dukh Darya, Takey Da Tamasha, Talismati Tata, Teesri Dastak, Kali Ghata, Adhuri and Surak Gulaban Da Mousam.

It was in Aik Thi Nani that Butt finally came together with her sister Zohra in 1993. The two had started their careers in Mumbai in the 1930s, acting and dancing together with Uday Shankar and Prithviraj Kapoor.

"It was inspiring to see Zohra and Uzra performing together with their grand-niece Samiya Mumtaz. It was a play which brought together an extraordinary family of performing artists," said Madeeha Gauhar, creative director of Ajoka Theatre.

Butt and Zohra performed together on stage after a gap of almost four decades in the play, which was written by Ajoka's Shahid Nadeem as a tribute to the two grand dames of subcontinental theatre.

Aik Thi Nani was subsequently performed across India, Pakistan and Britain, and Butt was awarded the Sangeet Natak Academy award in 1985 by the President of India.

"Uzra live a full life and had no regrets. She was a constant source of inspiration for the entire Ajoka team and her younger colleagues. We will miss her, but her spirit will remain with us forever," said Gauhar.

Butt, who died yesterday, was laid to rest in a graveyard in Lahore's Gulberg area. Her qul will be held tomorrow, her family said.
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