Zeenat Aman, a symbol of bold beauty in the 70s, turns a year older today. Much ahead of her time, Zeenat was busy breaking conventions throughout her illustrious career. She is still remembered today for her sensuous characters, bold performances, and challenging the status quo.
First Indian to become Miss Asia Pacific 1970
Zeenat started modelling in the 1960s for various brands. Eventually, she went on to take part in beauty pageants, winning the title of Femina Miss India in 1970. In the same year, she became the first Indian to win the Miss Asia Pacific International pageant. After her, the next Indian to bag the title was Dia Mirza in 2000.
Beyond just beauty
In 1978, when beauty was one of the only criteria for a heroine’s characters, Zeenat played the role of a village belle with a partially burnt face in Satyam Shivam Sundaram. Even before she was cast, she went up to Raj Kapoor with makeup of a burnt face.
She told him that it was her interpretation of ‘Rupa’, the lead role in the movie. Kapoor was so impressed with Zeenat’s efforts that he instantly signed her up for the role.
Unafraid and unconventional
In Satyam Shivam Sundaram, she redefined bold and sensuous as she sashayed down the village in a transparent white saree. She was also nominated for the Filmfare Best Actress Award for this film. Even today, Zeenat remains famous this role.
Introducing the western boldness to Indian cinema
Zeenat is credited for introducing a western-style of boldness to Indian cinema as seen in Qurbani (1980), where she wore a bikini. She became a trendsetter for many generations to come with her colourful bikinis in Heera Panna as well.
Redefining perceptions of Indian heroines
Zeenat changed the way a Hindi film heroine looked with thigh-high slights and blouses with deep cleavages, like a messiah of style. She also played several grey characters busting stereotypes of the damsels in distress lead female roles.
She was a wife in an extramarital relationship in Dhund (1973), a woman who aborted her child to fulfil her dreams in Ajnabee (1974), and even a sex worker in Manoranjan (1975).
Joining the digital trend
Zeenat was among the first actors to not sit back brooding about lack of work, joining the digital trend. She starred in web series Love Life and Screw Ups in 2017, portraying a modern woman with an unhealthy dating life.
Zeenat sang in this series for the first time, even though she is not a trained singer. Interestingly, the lines in the song have dialogues from some of her iconic films.
Among the firsts in Bollywood to portray a rape victim
In 1980, Zeenat was among the first heroines to portray a victim of rape on the silver screen in Insaaf ke Taraazu. The film shows how the law is weighted against women so much so that it is almost impossible for a rape victim to get justice.
Zeenat’s character is blamed for dressing in a westernised style, thereby inviting rape. Such topics that were often swept under the carpet, were boldly addressed in the movie.
Over the past years, Zeenat Aman has been felicitated by several bodies with prestigious Lifetime Achievement awards including Zee Cine, IIFA, and DCSAFF.
Here’s hoping for many more achievements for this star. Happy birthday, Zeenat!