Zeenat Aman is the original ‘oomph’ actress of Bollywood. She is credited with having changed the stereotyped role of a Hindi film heroine to give it a bold new avatar. Though her brush with glamour world began very early, she metamorphosed into the sultry sex siren in the romantic era of seventies.
Zeenat Aman was born to script writer Amanullah on November 19, 1951. Amanullah had helped write the script of classic
Mughal-e-Azam. Unfortunately for her, Amanullah died when she was only 13-year-old. Zeenat graduated from St. Xaviers (Mumbai) and pursued further studies in Los Angeles. Her transition from journalism to modelling, and finally filmdom was subtle yet definite.
In 1970, Zeenat was crowned second runner-up in the Miss India contest. Later, Miss Asia-Pacific title made Zeenat a sought after face of the sub-continent. Just when she was basking in her new found glory, a non-descript film Hulchul (1971) happened. Hungama co-starred by Kishore Kumar made in the same year too failed to create a ripple. A last minute change in the cast gave her the opportunity to feature with Dev Anand in Hare Ram Hare Krishna (1972) in a side role. Dum Maro Dum song immediately made Zeenat the high priestess of sex. After HRHK, there was no looking back for her. The film also was a precursor to one of the most effective on screening pairing of Indian cinema of Dev Anand and Zeenat. They featured in Heera Panna (1973), Ishq Ishq Ishq (1974), Prem Shastra (1974), Warrant (1975), Darling Darling (1977) and Kalabaaz (1977).
She became a sought after face as all the known banners vied with each other to sign her up. In an era, when sensuality was still kept under wraps, Zeenat gave a voluptuous performance in Raj Kapoor’s Satyam Shivam Sundaram. To this day, the film, and Zeenat’s role in it remain hot in controversy. Opposite Raj Babbar in B R Chopra’s Insaaf Ka Taraazu (1980), Zeenat played a rape victim. This film too set Zeenat in a class apart—as a crafty actress of iconoclastic roles. However, her Hollywood career failed to take off as Shalimar co-starred by Rex Harrison, Sylvia Miles, and Dharmendra turned out to be damp squib at the box-office. Dharamveer (1977) and Don (1978) are two of her other noteworthy films. Her magic worked in the love triangle of Qurabani (1980) as well.
Her name came to be associated for sometime with Sanjay Khan after she featured with him in Abdullah (1980). Thereafter Zeenat’s career came into stagnation. Films like Teesri Aankh (1982), Bandhan Kachche Dhaagon Ka (1983), Humse Hai Zamaana (1983), and Yaadon Ki Kasam (1985) came, flickered and faded from public memory. None could give her back Zeenat Aman lost charisma. Daku Hasina (1987) was a bold effort to resurrect herself, but the film critics had by then written her professional obituary.
Zeenat Aman married actor Mazhar Khan to lead a happy and peaceful life away from camera lights. They were blessed with two sons and everything went off well till Mazhar Khan, after suffering a prolonged illness died of liver dysfunction. Soon after her husband’s death she was caught in an unfortunate squabble with Mazhar’s family. However, Zeenat Aman was able to restore peace and now she lives comfortably with her sons. Occasionally she makes an appearance on the screen as in Bhopal Express (1999) and Kaizad Gustad's Boom (2003).
Sometimes, she makes and appearance at a social function or an award distribution ceremony, to give a glimpse of ‘Zeenat’ that once ruled the hearts.