Zeenat Aman

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It is refreshing to see that Zeenat Aman and her role in the history of Bollywood is finally getting the proper reassessment she truly deserves. For many years it seems Zeenat's image and role in Bollywood had taken an unflattering and exploited turn. After the death of her husband her in-laws attempted to publicly defame her reputation in an ugly estate battle. Revealing photos of her scantily clad voluptuous figure taken from her more risqué sensational film roles of the 70s flooded Internet fan photo sites with captions like, "Zeenat cleavage and huge Bs". The lowest common denominator had pegged her as a 'sex pot' evergreen star of nostalgic times past. The critics often relegated her to the 'B' list when listing the 'important' stars of Bollywood's history.

However, critically and culturally and in terms of impact, Zeenat Aman is arguably the most important Bollywood actress of the last 35 years. Thankfully in the past year or two she is finally getting her well deserved and long overdue critical accolades.

In her heyday during the early and mid 1970s Zeenat Aman created a revolution in the image of the Bollywood Heroine. Her popularity with fans took her to the top echelon of the 'A' list stars. Her portrayals created enduring roles that still reverberate and inspire comparison in Bollywood to this day.

 

 

Erotically charged, Zeenat brushing her face against the just washed Shiva Lingam - "Satyam Shivam Sundaram"

 

It was the 1960s and sexual and social revolution were in the air. Zeenat, was well educated and experienced living abroad as a college student in California before returning to India to work for Femina India as a journalist. At work she was cajoled into entering the Femina India beauty content and ended up winning the title of Miss India and then the larger Miss Asia-Pacific title. Soon after she entered films. By her third film, Dev Anand's "Hare Rama Hare Krishna"(1972) she had become a star.

Zeenat Aman relished her role and power as an actress who could inspire erotically charged fantasies in her fans. It was a role she was unashamed of and felt was needed as part of the changing times in the film industry and society at large. She seemed liberated and unfettered within her body which gave her performances a sensual edge never before seen (and hardly seen since) from a female Bollywood actress. Before Zeenat the face of desire for a female character was either portrayed with nostalgic longing or marriage bed submission. Zeenat gave her interpretation of female desire an empowered self possessed playfulness.

This was revolutionary in itself. A woman who acted emotionally liberated and not just as a caricature of female ideals dictated by the standards of society and conservative propriety. There is a lot to say for this. What actress even today displays the self possessed sexual assuredness and independence in their roles that Zeenat did? Some people are now pointing to Bipasha Basu as the heir to Zeenat Aman. She is the only actress that comes close.

 

 

"Satyam Shivam Sundaram" - It was a film some critics sarcastically called, "More body, than soul".

 

On first glance (even a second) it is a shock to watch just how much skin Zeenat Aman is exposing in some of her films from the 70s. In Raj Kapoor's "Satyam Shivam Sundaram" (1978) Zeenat goes bra-less in a see-through saree five times to small for her. Her clothes in the film give Zeenat the single most 'revealing' performance in Bollywood history. In "Qurbani" (1980) Zeenat romps in the surf and up the beach in a micro bikini smaller than anything before or since seen on a Bollywood screen. The relish and self satisfaction, the pride in her potent physical form are evident in these classic Zeenat Aman exhibitions.

One can see that Zeenat is gamely and playfully pushing the boundaries of female representation. She may have been asked by the director of the film to wear the tiny bikini or see-through saree, but she certainly saw nothing 'wrong' or would state to the effect that it was no big deal in doing so. She felt that the industry and society was uptight and should loosen up a bit. Regressive attitudes towards the female form were just not a part of her reality.

Often she chose roles that were outside the normal formula so she could stretch herself. Because of her intelegence and the visceral sincerity of her performances, Zeenat's liberated modern woman became a new facet on the role of Bollywood heroine. Not to mention that the public loved her and for a period she was the total rage, not only as a film actress but also as a fashion icon.

 

 

 

"Hare Rama Hare Krishna" (1972)

 

There is one more feature about Zeenat Aman ( I never got around to talking about the clothes and her dancing) that I wanted to note.

Of all the actress' who are termed 'evergreen' or from the pre 80s era of Bollywood. Zeenat Aman is the only actress who could slip right off a 70s film screen right into a 2000s movie. All of the other heroines look nostalgic compared to her. Her face is modern and with only slight make-up changes she could be a Bollywood heroine today.

It has been said that Zeenat was the prototype of the modern Bollywood heroine. She ushered in not only a new look and modern attitude but also offered in her portrayals new models and standards of what a Bollywood Heroine could be.

Zeenat Aman is still active in the film world behind and now recently again in front of the camera. See the links below to learn more about her. Also see the Zeenat galleries to see and read more about her style and fashion.

 

'outside' Links:

Zeenat talks about her early days and living in California in her teens to Bhawana Somaaya for screenindia.com

Rediff.com Zeenat Aman profile

despardes.com Zeenat profile

Rediff.com article comparing Bipasha Basu and Zeenat Aman

3to6.com 'trendsetter' article with Zeenat mentioned

Zeenat Biography at giitaayan.com

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Mail to: Byronic501@yahoo.com Folder: Zeenat Aman,Size: 1.3mb one level up: classic_f (evergreen actresses) Directory: bollywood501.com
first uploaded:02.21.03

updated:03.29.03(Satyam Shivam Sundaram gallery)

   

 

 

 

 

 



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