New Delh: The true sex goddess of Bollywood Zeenat Aman aka ‘Zennie baby’ turned 60 today. She was the true female seductress of Indian cinema of her time who was aware of the effect she spelled on men.

Zeenat, who won the title of Miss Asia Pacific (1970), redefined the image of the heroine in Hindi cinema from a simple, demure and virginal to bold sex symbol. The phrase ‘hotness’ was first coined in Bollywood in honour of the gorgeous and sensuous Zeenat Aman.

Surprisingly, the reigning queen of male fantasy had not always been happy with her skin. As a teenager, she was “dismayed and shocked” by her body and would take pains to keep it under wraps. Zeenat, called as Babushka by her parents, used to wear “one sweater and over it, a pullover” even in the humid weather of Mumbai.

Zeenat Aman was born in Germany to a Hindu mother and a Muslim father, Amanullah Khan who was one of the writers of the classic "Mughal-e-Azam", in November19th, 1951.

Her father passed away when she was 13. Zeenat's mother obtained German citizenship, and took her to Germany. But Zeenat returned to India as soon as she turned 18.

A graduate from St Xavier's College, Mumbai, she started her career as a journalist in Femina magazine and was later introduced to modeling by friends. One of the first few brands that she modeled for was Taj Mahal Tea and Television X Debut in 1966 exclusively.

Her most prominent ad-campaign was the Pond's 7 day to better complexion. Later she entered the Miss India contest and was the third runner up, to go to Miss Asia Pacific (1970) a title which she later won. Zeenat is the first Indian to ever win that title. After a successful modeling career, Aman's filmy journey began with a cameo in O P Ralhan's Hulchul in 1971.

Emergence of sex icon

Her first major break happened in Dev Anand’s cult movie Hare Rama Hare Krishna where she played the marijuana-smoking, commune-living, rebellious “hippie” sister of Dev Anand, named Janice and there was no looking back for her after that.

Before the release of Hare Rama Hare Krishna, she had given up her movie career and was all set to move back to Germany. Dev Anand persuaded her to stay on till the film released and she did. The film made her a huge star and she won the Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress.

Zeenat then teamed up with Dev Anand again in Heera Panna (1973), this time playing his love interest. The film is best remembered for her bikini moment.

She did not shy away from capitalizing on her sex appeal or playing unconventional and potentially unsympathetic characters-a happy-go-lucky prostitute (Manoranjan), an adulterous who is trying to get rid of her husband (Dhund), an ambitious career woman wanting an abortion (Ajnabee), an opportunistic girlfriend who deserts her jobless boyfriend for a millionaire (Roti, Kapda aur Makaan) and a courageous rape victim (Insaaf ka Tarazu).

Throughout the 1970s, the Dev-Zeenat pairing was seen in half a dozen films: Ishq Ishq Ishq (1974), Prem Shastra (1974), Warrant (1975), Darling Darling (1977) and Kalabaaz (1977). Of these, Warrant, was the biggest box-office success.

Zeenat was one among the actresses to introduce the image of women who like to put on stylish clothes and show off their toned body. Yaadon Ki Baaraat saw the popularity of Zeenat Aman reaching new heights and her on-screen image with a guitar crooning the song ‘Chura Liya Hai Tumne’ which wooed her fans.

Despite roles which would have referred her to the category of actresses playing vamps in earlier Hindi cinema, Zeenat became a major star and played the romantic lead opposite the top male stars of the 1970s and 1980s.

Then came the role that was to define Zeenat Aman forever – Raj Kapoor presented female sexuality in all its glory in Satyam Shivam Sundaram (1978).

Though Raj Kapoor’s Satyam Shivam Sundaram (1978) did not do well in box-office, Zeenat was able to break barriers by kissing her leading man on the mouth for the first time on the Indian screen post-Independence.

The year 1978 could have been a disaster for her, because of the diminishing box office returns of Satyam Shivam Sundaram and Shalimar, but it was Don opposite Amitabh Bachchan that came to the rescue and set her career soaring again.

Her role of a Westernized revenge-seeking action heroine contributed to the film's huge success, and her fans reconnected with her again.

Zeenat was the first Indian actress who wasn't a good dancer, who cropped a bob at the height of her career and hardly appeared in saris and bindis. Zeenat’s westernized Hindi accent became her USP and all the efforts made by directors to make Zeenat Aman speak correct Hindi failed.

Zeenat Aman became a style icon. What she wore in her films instantly became the fashion of the times among young girls.

She appeared on every Hindi film magazine's cover during 1970s. In December 1974, Cine Blitz magazine launched Zeenat Aman on its cover. She also became the favourite cover girl of the popular magazine 'Stardust'.

The critics appreciated her performance in some movies with female-oriented themes like "Bandhan Kuchchey Dhaagon Ka", "Yaadon Ki Kasam", "Baat Ban Jaye" & "Namumkin", but none of these films was a much of a success.

Zeenat Aman's entry into Hollywood backfired when Krishna Shah's Shalimar (1978), co-starring Dharmendra and international names like Rex Harrison and Sylvia Miles, proved to be a failure in the USA and in India.

Despite her effort, Zeenat could not shed her sex symbol tag. She tried an image makeover with Insaaf Ka Tarazu (1980) but was partly successful. Her performance as a rape victim seeking justice in Insaaf Ka Tarazu fetched her Filmfare Best Actress nomination.

Her last role as the female lead was in Gawahi, a court room drama, in 1989. Zeenat came back to the silver screen after a decade doing a cameo role in the film Bhopal Express, and she went on to do small roles in Boom (2003), Jaana... Let's Fall in Love (2006), Chaurahen (2007), Ugly Aur Pagli (2008) & Geeta in Paradise (2009), Dunno Y..(2010).

Hurried Courtship

The actress’ rapid rise up the ladder of professional success was overshadowed by the drama in her personal life.

When Zeenat, the hottest woman in Indian cinema was in search of her Mr right, she came across Sanjay Khan, a married man with three children, on the sets of Abdulla in Jaisalmer in 1980. Their romantic union ended in a bitter divorce. Emotional scars aside, the physical wounds she allegedly received, are visible to this day. On asking about her first marriage she said in an interview, “I was very naïve and vulnerable at that time. It was a few weeks of madness, that’s it.”

She married for the second, this time a minor-actor and 10 years younger to her Mazhar Khan, who fell ill with liver dysfunction. Zeenat spent almost all her savings on his treatment. Mazhar breathed his last in September 1998.

Aman, whose first name means beauty, in Urdu, continues to look as attractive after all these years of being away from the strobe lights, raising two kids, as a single mum.

Zeenat's contribution to the Indian cinema is not fully recognised, but in time to come she will definitely be remembered as the first person to introduce a lot to Hindi cinema and add several dimensions to Indian women.

Trivia: Kanwaljeet Singh and Zeenat Aman Fell in love while shooting "Ashanti" and decided to marry each other, but the relationship ended on a sad note.

Zeenat Aman campaigned for D P Yadav, a politician and local mafia don facing several criminal charges, in May 2007 Uttar Pradesh assembly elections.

Aman was the first actress to bring in fashion designing and make it big business. Her clothes were designed by some of the best known designers in the world who in turn made dress designing a lucrative business.

Zeenat Aman had the privilege of having a perfume named after her in her heydays.

Zeenat had first met Dev Anand when she was 12. He was charming and goodlooking but it was Hollywood hunk Paul Newman who was the object of Zeenat's pre-teen affections.

Thanks to Zeenat’s timeless face, she was roped in to endorse Lux twice. First in the 1970s and then in the '80s.

Zeenat Aman was a book worm. She always carried books with her and kept track of all the best sellers and still does.

The well-known Hollywood actress, Gina Lolobrigida who worked with her in a bollywood film 'Shalimar' called Zeenat Aman 'The most beautiful woman I have seen in the whole of the East.

Zeenat was assaulted by Sanjay and his wife Zarine during a private party at the Taj Mahal Hotel in Colaba so badly that one of her eyes was damaged - none of the guests intervened.

(Deblina Roy)