Zeenat Khan, better known as Zeenat Aman, is a veteran Bollywood actress and former modal. She ruled Bollywood with her movies in the Bollywood era of the 70s. She gave many hit movies like Hare Ram Hare Krishna, Roti Kapada Aur Makaan, Dharamveer, etc. Zeenat also won the Femina Miss India pageant twice.
Zeenat was highly criticized for her bold scenes in some of her films. She has also performed in theatre plays. Although Zeenat had a short tenure career and did around 100 films, she performed well enough to register her name in the history of Indian Cinema.
Zeenat was born on 19th November 1951 in Mumbai (then Bombay). Her father, Amanullah Khan, was Muslim, and her mother was an Anglo-Indian. Her mother's name was "Scinda Vardhini Karvaste". Her father was a screenwriter and has written for a few famous acts and movies, including Mughal-e-Azam and Pakeezah.
Zeenat did her schooling in Panchgani. She got the chance to pursue her graduation from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, USA.
Her father died when she was just 13 years old. Aman was her father's pen name, which she later adopted in her name, making it Zeenat Aman.
Zeenat started her career as a modal. She loved modelling and had no hurry for entry into Bollywood. In 1970, she came second in Femina Miss India 1970 and was given the title of First Princess. Then in the same year, she became the first Femina Miss India to win the Miss Asia Pacific International Pageant at the age of 19 years. By winning all these pageant titles at that age, she made her name recognizable in India and the world.
Initial Years in Bollywood
Her modelling presence helped her enter Bollywood. Zeenat made her debut in 1970 with Dev Anand in the film The Evil Within, which was a big flop. It wasn't the perfect start she was hoping for.
In 1971, she made a small appearance in the movie Hulchul, and the same year she appeared in another movie named Hungama. The result of both films was the same. They performed terribly at the Box office. Consecutive failures demotivated Zeenat, and she decided to quit acting and get back to modelling.
Then in 1971, Dev Anand again approached her and convinced her to act in his film Hare Rama Hare Krishna. He told Zeenat that if the film didn't go well, she could quit acting and do whatever she wanted in future. This film proved to be the turning point of her career. It was a blockbuster movie and the most significant breakthrough for her. She was awarded Filmfare Best Actress in Supporting Role that year. This film paved her way and drew her mind back to acting.
In 1973, she did Heera Panna and Yaadon Ki Baraat, both the films made good earnings. The song Chura Liya Hai Tumne Jo Dil Ko of movie Yaadon Ki Baarat featured Zeenat. Audiences recognized her as the girl in white with a guitar, which was her get-up in the song.
Years of Rising
The phase between 1974 and 1979 was the rising period in her career, and she gave all-time evergreen hits in this phase. In 1974, she performed in the star-packed movie Roti Kapda Aur Makaan along with Manoj Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan, and Shashi Kapoor. It was one of the highest-grossing films of the year.
Then in the same year, Zeenat did Prem Shastra and Ishk Ishk Ishk, both with her first hero Dev Anand. Both films were moderately successful. Her last two films of that year were Manoranjan and Ajanabee; both made average earnings but didn't majorly impact the audiences.
In 1975, she starred in just two films, Warrant with Dev Anand and Chori Mera Kaam with Shashi Kapoor; both were moderate in terms of earning and impact.
In 1976, she only did Deewangee opposite Shashi Kapoor, which was a love story. That year, she also did the voice-over for the adult female character Rajni in the movie Balika Badhu.
In 1977, she played the role of a princess in the famous movie Dharamveer, with Dharmendra, Jeetendra, and Neetu Singh. Her next film of the year was again with Dev Anand named Darling Darling, which had the famous song Aishe Na Mujhe Tum Dekho Seene Se Laga Lunga. Her next film of the year was Chhailla Babu, with great actors like Rajesh Khanna, Om Puri, Asrani, etc., which was very successful. It was based on the Hollywood film Charade. Later, she appeared in the superhit film Hum Kisi Se Kum Nahi with Rishi Kapoor, and it was the third highest-earning movie of that year. After that, she faced failure with another unsuccessful movie Shalimar with Dharmendra and two Hollywood actors, John Saxon and Sylvia Miles. It was released in the USA and India but could not grab audiences in both countries. However, its song Hum Bewafa Hargiz Na The gained popularity and is evergreen. Her last two projects were Heeralal Pannalal and Chor Ke Ghar Chor.
In 1978, she did the most memorable role of her career in the film Satyam Shivam Sundaram as Roopa, a village girl with a scar on her right cheek. Shashi Kapoor was opposite her as her lover. This controversial film showed the heroine in a bold get-up and claimed to promote obscenity in society. However, the public loved the movie, and it was a blockbuster. The same year, she did another commercially successful film of all time, Don with Amitabh Bachchan.
In 1979, she appeared in The Great Gambler, which was initially unsuccessful but later gained popularity. Then she made a cameo in Gol Maal, her last film of the year.
Last Years of Success
Her first release in 1980 was Takkar, then she did a supporting role in Ram Balram, and next she appeared in Bombay 405 Miles with Vinod Khanna and Shatrughan Sinha. Afterwards, she appeared in Abdullah, which did not perform well in India, but the audience of the Soviet Union liked it, and the movie did good business there. Then, she was in a film made on the iconic topic Alibaba Aur 40 Chor, made under production by India and the Soviet producers. It was also a moderate performer in India but very liked by the public of the Soviet.
After all these average performances, she got her new blockbuster Qurbani with Vinod Khanna, which had the song Aap Jaisa Koi Meri Zindagi Me Aaye. This song is still popular and heard by many people in India. Her following films of that year included Dostana and Insaf Ka Tarazu.
In 1981, she appeared in a sequence of movies like Professor Pyarelal, Kaatilo Ke Kaatil, Krodhi, and Laawaris. Laawaris was declared a super hit, the fourth highest earning movie of that year and one of the most memorable films of her career.
Later in 1982, Zeenat only did a single movie Ashanti, which performed on average. In 1983, she acted in Mahaan, in which she was the first to try a triple role; this also did moderate earning. Then she did Pukar and Hum Se Hai Zamana, and both of them could make a significant impact. Jagir was her only film of 1984 with Dharmendra and Mithun Chakraborty.
Distance from Bollywood
1985 was the starting year when her problems became hurdles in her career and distanced her from Bollywood. During this period, she appeared less in films due to her married life. After almost five years, in 1989, she did a single movie Gawahi, which remarked her retirement from Bollywood.
In 1999, she did a cameo in Bhopal Express and remained inactive till 2003.
In 2003, she again appeared in Boom with Amitabh Bachchan. However, the movie was a big flop. The following year, she did a play, The Graduate, at St. Andrew Auditorium, Mumbai.
In 2005, she did Maksham, which underperformed. Next year she did Jaana Let's Fall in Love. In 2008, she made a guest appearance in Ugly Aur Pagli and acted in Geeta in Paradise in 2009.
From the starting of 2010, her appearance in films reduced drastically. She appeared in very few movies and got roles of old lady or mother. In 2010, she did Dunno Y…Na Jaane Kyon, and again in 2014, in its sequel Dunno Y2…Life is a Moment.
In 2012, she was part of Strings of Passion. In 2016 and 2017, she did Dil Toh Deewana Hai and Sallu Ki Shaadi, respectively.
In 2017, she appeared with her debut in the web series Love Life and Screw Ups. However, she had small appearances in these web series. Her recent project was the movie Panipat in 2019, in which she played the role of Sakina Begum, but the film underperformed.
Troublesome Married Life
Zeenat married Sanjay Khan in 1978 but divorced within a year. Then in 1985, she again married Mazhar Khan with the hope of happy married life. The couple had two sons, Zahaan Khan and Azaan Khan.
She claims her marriage to Mazhar was the biggest mistake of her life. Mazhar restrained her from acting and wanted her to stay inside the house as a housewife. He never wanted her to continue her professional acting career. After their marriage, Zeenat did significantly fewer films. She says she never felt happy with him, though she maintained her relationship with him until he died in 1998. Now, she lives with her sons in Mumbai.
She had excellent career prospects ahead in Bollywood, but her marriage completely destroyed it.