Zeenat Aman on her timeless journey

By Neeru Saluja

There are actors and then there are trendsetters. At a time when actresses played the love interest, dutiful wife or doting daughter, actress Zeenat Aman broke the rules of the stereotype 70s’ actress. Glamourous, stylish and sensuous, she ruled the silver screen as she picked roles that were unconventional and bold. 

The Dum Maro Dum girl made audiences turn their heads as she played a hippie in Hare Rama Hare Krishna. She continued to rule hearts as she played the vengeful Roma from Don, the selfish Sheetal in Roti Kapda aur Makaan or the woman who puts her husband’s privilege in check in Satyam Shivam Sundaram. She was not only a pretty face, she told stories that were untold and women could relate to. 

Bollywood legend Zeenat Aman talked to the Indian Down Under about her most iconic role, her timeless journey and her views on the changes in the industry today. 

Your contribution towards Indian cinema is iconic. How would you define your timeless journey as an actress? 

It was being at the right place and at the right time in the 1970s. Without planning, I blurred the lines between the vamp and the pristine goddess called the sati savitri. By accident I was given the cards to create an icon that made my journey as an actress significant. 

As you broke the rules of a stereotype actress with the film Hare Rama Hare Krishna, many actresses were initially offered the role. What made you sign the film that changed your career?

Most of the actresses wanted to play the main romantic lead opposite Dev Anand. To be honest, I didn’t even think about it as I was so excited to be part of the project. It was a very well defined character. I understood this character as I had just returned from Southern California and I had a fair idea what was happening with the hippie movement. It was a story of a girl who ran away from her home in Canada and landed up in Kathmandu, Nepal. She was unhappy with her life and joined this hippie band. I could identify with the character and I was very happy to play the part.

If you had to highlight a milestone of your accomplished film career, which one would it be?

There have been many milestones in my cinematic journey. I have been fortunate to work with directors who were on top of the game, all the wonderful leading men, great producers and films like Don, Qurbani, Satyam Shivam Sundaram, Yaadon ki baarat, Dostana, Roti Kapada aur Makaan

It was an interesting journey with many milestones. I took a hiatus from Indian cinema once I was married and had my first child. I stopped working in films after that.

In your days most of the actresses would leave their acting career after marriage and kids. It’s changed now. Do you think today’s actresses have a prolonged career?

Yes, for sure. The mindset of the audience has also changed. They are more accepting of actors who are married. But of course there has to be different kind of roles. Because at the end of the day the audience takes the character of the main protagonist home. They want a wife like the lead lady, a girlfriend like the lead lady, somehow in our times they never felt comfortable if the lead actress is married. But now it’s different. The stories and characters are different. I’m glad that the actresses have a longer career span. 

While Bollywood is known for it’s glitz and glamour, there is also an unknown darkness that comes with it. How did you manage the ups and downs in your life as an actress?

I was a workaholic. I worked long hours day after day. My life was all about my work. I was happy to hang up my boots when the time came. 

If you were offered a role in a film, what kind of role would you like to play?

Of course it needs to be age appropriate. And the story needs to be convincing. That’s all what really matters. I have recently worked on a web series ”˜Love, Life and Screw Ups’. 

The experience on sets will be different though. Do you miss the golden olden days when everyone was treated like a family?

There is a major difference on the sets now. I do miss the golden olden days. In those days, filmmaking was a family affair. You would hang out with your cast and they would be your friends. Now it’s very dry, straightforward and professional. No home cooked food comes on the sets. Technology has advanced immensely, but there is no bonding anymore.

Last but not the least, how do you still look so fit and glamorous!

Thanks for the compliment, that’s very generous of you. We have to keep working on our health all the time. I hardly do anything except for walking regularly. Even in my younger days I used to walk. I guess that’s the only fitness secret I can reveal!

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