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
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
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,
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.
Click link For More Photo Galleries - See All Actress and Actor Photo Galleries