Zeenat Aman

Zeenat Khan (born 19 November 1951), better known as Zeenat Aman, is an Indian actress and model. One of the highest paid actresses throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, Aman is best known for her work in Bollywood films, and is widely considered to be a highly influential actress in Indian cinema. Before acting, Aman began her career as a short-lived journalist for Femina magazine. She also began to take up modelling, and at the age of 19 went on to participate in beauty pageants, winning both the Femina Miss India pageant and the Miss Asia Pacific International pageant in 1970. Continuing in fashion, she had also appeared in many magazine and magazine covers throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

Zeenat Aman
Zeenat Aman at the Society Achievers Awards 2018 (cropped).jpg
Aman in 2018
Zeenat Khan

(1951-11-19) 19 November 1951 (age 68)
Alma materUniversity of Southern California
  • Actress
  • model
Years active1971–1989, 1999–present
TitleFemina Miss India Asia Pacific 1970
Miss Asia Pacific 1970
m. 1978; annulled 1979)

m. 1985; died 1998)
RelativesRaza Murad (cousin)

Aman began acting in 1970, and her early works included the films The Evil Within (1970) and Hulchul (1971). Her breakthrough came with the film Hare Rama Hare Krishna (1971), in which her performance was praised, and she won the Filmfare Best Supporting Actress Award for her performance. She next starred in the film Yaadon Ki Baaraat (1973), for which she received further recognition, and established herself as a leading actress in the seventies with starring roles in Roti Kapada Aur Makaan (1974), Ajanabee (1974), Warrant (1975), Chori Mera Kaam (1975), Dharam Veer (1977), Chhailla Babu (1977), Hum Kisise Kum Naheen (1977), and The Great Gambler (1979), all of which were successful. In 1978, Aman starred in the film Satyam Shivam Sundaram, which has received critical acclaim, and for the role, she was nominated for the Filmfare Award for Best Actress. She also starred in Don (1978), a film which spawned the Don film series.

In the 1980s, Aman was caught in an abuse incident with the actor Sanjay Khan, where she'd been beaten brutally and hospitalized for several weeks. After recovering, she had leading roles in five successful films in a row, Abdullah (1980), Alibaba Aur 40 Chor (1980), Qurbani (1980), Dostana (1980), and Insaf Ka Tarazu (1980), the latter of which Aman received praise for her performance, earning her another nomination for the Filmfare Award for Best Actress. She continued starring in films throughout the 1980s, starring in the successes Laawaris (1981), Mahaan (1983), Pukar (1983), Jagir (1984), and also had roles in the films Teesri Aankh (1982), Hum Se Hai Zamana (1983). Following her marriage to actor Mazhar Khan in 1985, Aman began appearing less frequently in films to focus on her marriage, and took a hiatus in 1989, appearing in her last film for that period, Gawaahi.

In 1999, Aman made a comeback to acting, appearing in the film Bhopal Express. She didn't continue acting until 2003, appearing in the film Boom, and has since starred in Ugly Aur Pagli (2008), Dunno Y... Na Jaane Kyon (2010), Chaurahen (2012), Strings of Passion (2014), Dunno Y2... Life Is a Moment (2015), Dil Toh Deewana Hai (2016), Sallu Ki Shaadi (2017), and Panipat (2019). Aside from coming back to Hindi cinema, she has made her theatre debut in 2004, appearing in the play The Graduate in Mumbai, and in 2020 it was announced she will appear in a play based on Kasturba Gandhi. She also led the 2017 web series Love Life & Screw Ups, for which she received praise for her performance.

Aman has starred in over 80 films, many of which that have been deemed classics, and throughout her career has won various and been nominated for various awards, and has also won various lifetime achievement awards, such as the Zee Cine Award for Lifetime Achievement, the Society Achievers Award, and two contribution awards from the IIFA Awards. She has been noted for being one of the few to play more unconventional roles in Bollywood, breaking the traditional taboo and revolutionising the Bollywood industry.

Life and careerEdit

Early lifeEdit

Zeenat Aman was born as Zeenat Khan in Bombay on 19 November 1951.[1][2] Her mother, Scinda Vardhini Karvaste, is from Maharashtra. Aman is the cousin of actor Raza Murad and niece of actor Murad. Her father, Amanullah Khan,[3][1] was related to the Bhopal State ruling family. Her mother was Brahmin Maharashtrian and her father of Afghan descent. He was a script writer for movies such as Mughal-e-Azam and Pakeezah, and often wrote under the nom de plume "Aman", which she later adopted as her second name on screen. Her parents got divorced when she was young.[4] At the age of 13, Aman's father passed away.[citation needed] Her mother afterwards married a German man called Heinz and also obtained German citizenship.[5] She did her schooling in Panchgani and went to University of Southern California in Los Angeles for further studies on student aid, but she could not complete her graduation. Her first job was as a journalist, writing for Femina magazine. She later took up work as a model, and modeled for various major/minor brands, of which include Taj Mahal Tea.[6]

Career beginnings and breakthrough (1970–1973)Edit

Aman first came to attention for partaking in beauty pageants. In 1970, she participated in the Femina Miss India pageant in which she won the second place (First runner-up) and was titled the 'First Princess'.[7] Following this, she competed in the Miss Asia Pacific International pageant, which she also won, becoming the first Femina Miss India titleholder to win the pageant.[8] In 1970, after winning her pageants, Aman had begun acting, appearing first in the film The Evil Within alongside Dev Anand, which was commercially unsuccessful.[9]

In 1971, Aman appeared in a minor role in O. P. Ralhan’s Hulchul, and in the same year appeared in Ralhan's other film Hungama, which starred Vinod Khanna, Kishore Kumar, Mehmood and Helen; both films were flops at the box-office,[10][11] and did not help Aman’s career.[12] Due to her films failing, Aman had prepared to leave India and was ready to go to Malta with her mother and stepfather.[10] Before doing so, she changed her mind when Dev Anand approached Aman to star in his movie, after he offered actress Zaheeda the role of his sister in Hare Rama Hare Krishna (1971), which she rejected due to wanting the lead female part, and finding it too bold a role.[13] In the film, Aman, along with her performance in the song "Dum Maro Dum",[14] helped her achieve her breakthrough, and is considered today to be her official acting debut.[15] Her performance and acting in the film was praised, where she then earned a Filmfare Best Supporting Actress Award[16] and BFJA Award for Best Actress,[17] these being her first awards.

Following her success with the film, Aman had continued her career as an actress, and in 1973 starred in Heera Panna yet again appearing alongside Anand. In the same year, Aman then starred in the action film Yaadon Ki Baaraat as Sunita, the heroine to Vijay Arora. The film was idolised, hitting major success at the box-office, being one of the highest grossing films of the year.[18] It was marked as a classic, and was denounced the first quintessential "bollywood" film.[19] The movie's songs and soundtrack were critically acclaimed. Aman's performance in the song "Churaliya hai tumne jo dil ko" was famed, as she became known at the time as the "girl in white carrying a guitar".[20] Following the film, she also starred in Dhund alongside Sanjay Khan and Danny Denzongpa. The film was inspired by the Agatha Christie novel The Unexpected Guest.[21] The film was praised by critics for the films screenplay and the cast's performance,[22][23] and was declared an average-grosser.[23]

Major successes and established actress (1974–1979)Edit

In 1974, Aman began the year starring as Sheetal in Manoj Kumar's critically acclaimed film Roti Kapda Aur Makaan. She had been in more of an unconventional role, rather than playing the generic housewife role, she played an opportunist who deserts her jobless lover for a millionaire.[24] The film had been declared a blockbuster, and was the highest-grossing film of the year.[25] Soon, the son Cine Blitz magazine was launched, with the first issue having with Aman on its cover,[26] which helped her career and further verified her credibility.[11] Aman had starred in a few films alongside Dev Anand in the year, and following Roti Kapda Aur Makaan, she next starred in Prem Shastra starring alongside Anand and Bindu, and also starred alongside Anand in Ishq Ishq Ishq as well as appearing along with Shabana Azmi and Kabir Bedi. She then starred in the Shammi Kapoor directed film Manoranjan as Nisha, which had been panned by critics due to the abundance of prostitution, which at the time was considered taboo.[citation needed] Following this, Aman had been cast in the film Ajanabee as Rashmi, an ambitious girl who considers having an abortion in order to pursue a career, starring alongside Rajesh Khanna. The film was a major success, and became one of the highest-grossing films of the year.[27]

In 1975, Aman appeared in two films - she first starred once again alongside Dev Anand in the film Warrant as an assassin, and as Sharmali in the film Chori Mera Kaam. Both films were successful.[28][29] She'd starred in two films the year following as well, appearing in Deewaangee alongside Shashi Kapoor, and in Balika Badhu in an uncredited voice role.

Aman (left) portrayed the fictional character Roma in the original Don film in 1978. In the reboot series, which began in 2006, Roma is portrayed by Priyanka Chopra (right).

In 1977, Aman started the year starring in Paapi alongside Sanjeev Kumar once again as she'd did in Manoranjan in the main role, and also starred in Kalabaaz working alongside Dev Anand. Aman then starred in the movie Dharam Veer alongside Dharmendra, Jeetendra, and Neetu Singh as a princess. The film was the second highest-grossing film of the year, and was clarified as one of the biggest hits of the decade.[30] She was seen in Darling Darling again alongside Dev Anand, and then had a role in the film Chhailla Babu where she'd starred again alongside Rajesh Khanna once again as Rita Verma. The film was a commercial success, and was one of the highest-grossing films of the year.[31] She then starred with Khanna again in the film Aashiq Hoon Baharon Ka. Following this film, she then starred in the film Hum Kisise Kum Naheen as Sunita, the lover of Rishi Kapoor. The film was a major success commercially,[32] and was the third highest-grossing film of the year.[33]

In 1978, Aman then attempted to make an entry into Hollywood, which backfired when Krishna Shah's film Shalimar (her first film of the year), co-starring Dharmendra, Shammi Kapoor and international names like Rex Harrison, John Saxon and Sylvia Miles, proved unsuccessful[citation needed] in both the United States and in India.[20] She next starred in Heeralaal Pannalal alongside Shashi Kapoor, Randhir Kapoor and Neetu Singh, as well as starring in Chor Ke Ghar Chor again starring with Ashok Kumar as she'd done before.[34] Following these films, Aman then appeared in Raj Kapoor's film Satyam Shivam Sundaram (1978). The film was a box-office success,[35] however, in spite of this, the film was heavily criticised.[36] The subject dealt with the notion of the soul being more attractive than the body, but Kapoor rather chose to showcase Aman's sex-appeal instead.[37] Despite the controversial nature of the film, Aman then earned her first Filmfare nomination for Best Actress for her performance.[20] Aman next went to star as the famed character Roma in the film Don.[38] Her reasons for accepting the role in Don were altruistic, and refused to take remuneration for it due to wanting to help the producer of the film, Nariman Irani, who was losing money and eventually died midway through filming.[39] The film was a major commercial success,[40] and has become highly influential throughout Bollywood, spawning a reboot series and the Don franchise.[41] Also in 1978, Aman married actor Sanjay Khan.

In 1979, Aman appeared in a single film, The Great Gambler as Shabnam. At first, the film performed unsuccessfully, before eventually turning into a commercial success.[42] The film has been widely acclaimed for its choreography and direction, and songs in the film were popular at the time, with Aman's performances in the songs Raqqasa Mera Naam, Do Lafzon Ki Hai Dil Ki Kahaani, and Tum Kitne Din Baad Mile being idolised.[43] Aman's last role in 1979 was a guest appearance in the film Gol Maal. Her appearance was made alongside many other actresses and personalities who'd also made guest appearances in the film as well, which included Hema Malini, Rekha and Lata Mangeshkar. The film was a major commercial success,[44] hitting the top-grossing film of its year.

Abuse incident and consecutive successes (1980–1981)Edit

In 1980, Aman was involved in an abuse incident where she'd been beaten by actor Sanjay Khan.[45] Aman had received a phone call from Khan asking to discuss specifics for the film Abdullah, where she then reluctantly decided to meet him at the hotel he was staying at, where she was then taken into a separate room of the hotel as there was a private party going on at the time she arrived. Aman was then beaten, resulting in many injuries after the incident.[46] This had been witnessed by his wife, who had allegedly cheered him on to keep beating Aman.[46] This incident was also the cause of damage in one of her eyes, leading to a lazy eye. Hotel security later intervened, stopping the incident. Aman has said that she pretends it never happened.[47]

In 1980, Aman first starred in the film Takkar as Sapna, with Sanjeev Kumar and Jeetendra. She then starred as Madhu in the film Ram Balram, alongside Dharmendra, Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha. The film was deemed a box-office hit, and was one of the highest-grossing films of the year.[48] She also starred as Radha alongside Vinod Khanna once again and along with Shatrughan Sinha in Bombay 405 Miles. Aman next starred as Zainab in the Sanjay Khan directed film Abdullah, starring along Raj Kapoor, Danny Denzongpa and Khan himself. The film had one of the highest budgets of the year, and was a risk taken by Khan for its success.[49] Despite underperforming in India,[50] the film achieved success in the Soviet Union.[51] Aman next starred as Fatima in the Indian-Soviet produced film Adventures of Ali-Baba and the Forty Thieves, commonly called Alibaba Aur 40 Chor, alongside Dharmendra and Hema Malini. The film is one of three film adaptations of the story, the other two being a 1954 film and a 1966 film, and was also one of the first movies that starred actors of other nationalities. It was a huge hit at the box-office,[52] and became the biggest Indian-Soviet success yet.[53]

Aman next starred in the Feroz Khan directed film Qurbani, in which she starred with Khan and Vinod Khanna. Aman was cast as Sheela, a singer and dancer. The film was a major success at the box-office,[50] and the soundtrack was internationally acclaimed,[54][55] in which it emerged as platinum.[56] The song Aap Jaisa Koi, which had been sung by Nazia Hassan and performed by Aman has achieved cult status, with the song topping all the charts in that year and with Hassan later winning a Filmfare Award for the song.[57] Aman starred as Sheetal in the film Dostana alongside Amitabh Bachchan. The film turned to be the fourth highest-grossing film at the box office that year,[55] and achieved cult status for its story-line and soundtrack.[58] Aman was next cast as a rape victim seeking justice in B. R. Chopra’s Insaaf Ka Tarazu. The film had been one of few to focus on story rather than soundtrack. The film had been critically acclaimed, and Aman's acting was critically acclaimed, which led to Aman receiving her second nomination for the Filmfare Best Actress Award. It was a major hit at the box office.[55]

In 1981, Aman appeared in four films - she first starred as Sonia in Professor Pyarelal, as the heroine to Dharmendra, starred in the film Katilon Ke Kaatil as Jamila, and also appeared in the film Krodhi as Neera. Aman then starred in the film Lawaaris alongside Amitabh Bachchan.[20] The film was the highest grossing film of the year, and was declared an "All Time Highest Earner",[59] which was out of 13 films at the time that achieved that status.

Career fluctuations, marriage to Mazhar Khan and retirement (1982–1998)Edit

In 1982, Aman starred in the crime film Ashanti, which was one of the highest grossing films of the year.[60] In 1983, she starred in the film Mahaan as Rita, which was considered a unique film as it was the first to feature a triple-role. The film turned to be an above-average grosser.[61] In the same year, she starred in the film Pukar as Julie, which had an average performance at the box office.[61] The film has been remade in various recreations, including the 2000 adaptation, which had also performed average the box-office.[62] Also in 1983, she starred as Nisha Thakur in the film Hum Se Hai Zamana. In 1984, she starred in Jagir as the main heroine Sima, along Dharmendra, Mithun Chakraborty and Pran. The film was a commercial success in the Soviet Union,[51] turning to be the highest-grossing film of its year.[63] It was an international success, grossing both in India and the Soviet Union.

Aman married actor Mazhar Khan, from 1985 to his death in 1998. She had two children with Mazhar Khan, and was married for a total of 13 years. Aman has two sons with Mazhar Khan; film director Azaan Khan,[64] who directed the heist film Bankster,[64] and composer Zahaan Khan.[65] He has also made a cameo appearance in the 2000 film Gang. She lives with her sons, since Mazhar's death in 1998.[66] In her marriage with Mazhar, Aman stated she was unhappy.[67] She commented on her marriage with Mazhar Khan in 2014, telling Times Of India:

Mazhar never wanted me to grow as an individual or as an artist. He always wanted me to be with the kids and be at home. During the very first year of marriage I realised I had made a huge mistake, but I decided to live by it and make it work. I tried to make it work for another 12 years. There was no light at the end of the tunnel for me. There was not a single moment of happiness or joy during those 12 years. But I still tried making it work.

Eventually, Aman had her last role in the film Gawahi, a courtroom drama in 1989. She then made a temporary retirement from the film industry to focus more on her marriage with Mazhar Khan.

Acting comeback and theatre debut (1999–present)Edit

Aman in 2012

After 10 years of being inactive in the industry, Aman appeared in a cameo role in the film Bhopal Express (1999). However, she didn't appear in another film until 2003, when she appeared as Alice in the film Boom. The film turned to drastically under-perform at the box-office,[68] creating a set of financial problems for the film's crew, including the producer Ayesha Shroff, who had discussed about it.[69] In 2004, she appeared as Mrs. Robinson in the play The Graduate staged at St Andrew's auditorium in Mumbai. She had also made an appearance along with actress Hema Malini in the popular show Koffee with Karan hosted by Karan Johar.[70] Aman then had roles in the films Maksham (2005), Jaana... Let's Fall in Love (2006) as Raju's mother, and in Chaurahen which was released in 2012 but had originally been filmed and shelved in 2007.[71] In 2008, Aman starred in the feature film Ugly Aur Pagli in a special appearance. In the year following, she starred in the film Geeta in Paradise (2009).

In 2008, Aman received a Lifetime Achievement Award during the Zee Cine Awards function in 2008 as a recognition of her contribution to Hindi Cinema. She also received an "Outstanding Contribution to Indian Cinema" award at the IIFA awards 2010 held at Colombo, Sri Lanka. In 2010, Aman starred as Rebecca in the film Dunno Y... Na Jaane Kyon. The film was originally aired at film festivals nationwide, and drew an immense amount of controversy. The film had been panned by critics for its gay stereotypes,[72] however, the film achieved success throughout festivals and achieved a theatrical release as well throughout many other countries.[73] The movie was also the first to have a gay kiss and lovemaking included. In the film, Aman performed her hit songs Aap Jaisa Koi and Chura Liya Hai Tumne Jo.[74] It won various awards, and later spawned the sequel Dunno Y2... Life Is a Moment which was released in 2014, which Aman had also starred in. In 2012, Aman was cast as the main role of Roma in the film Strings of Passion.

Aman had roles in the films Dil Toh Deewana Hai (2016) and Sallu Ki Shaadi (2017). Sallu Ki Shaadi was a tribute to the actor Salman Khan,[75] and later received highly negative reviews, criticised by critics for its B movie elements.[citation needed] In 2017, Aman was cast in the short-lived web series Love Life & Screw Ups, in which she played the main role of Joanna, a spinster with a drastic love life and personal problems, who frequently mingles with younger people.[76] The show was featured in international film festivals, being the first Indian web series to be shown at a festival in Poland.[77] The series, being viewed negatively at first,[76] was eventually received positively, with Aman's performance being praised.[77]

In February 2018, Aman filed a rape case against businessman Aman Khanna, better known as Sarfaraz.[78] After stalking, harassing, and robbing Aman, as well as allegedly raping Aman various times, charges were pressed against Khanna in which he was then incarcerated.[79] The incidents described were said to have taken place between 2011 and 2016.[78][79] In June 2019, it was announced that Aman joined the main cast of the film Panipat as Sakina Begum, alongside Sanjay Dutt, Kriti Sanon, Arjun Kapoor and Padmini Kolhapure.[80][81][82] It was released theatrically on 6 December 2019 in India, but was commercially unsuccessful.[83][84] In February 2020, it was announced that Aman is staging a comeback in theatre, appearing in a play on Kasturba Gandhi. [85]

Image and artistryEdit

Aman's roles and characters were more unconventional at the time. She portrayed more strong characters, and had varying roles rather than consistently playing the average girl stereotype. Aman had a big part in breaking the taboo and rules of Hindi cinema, and is considered a revolutionary actress of her time, influencing other well-known actresses such as Rekha, Sridevi, Parveen Babi, and others.[11]

In March 2016, an exhibition created by artist Mina Siddique was launched in Dubai, which featured various works and arts in dedication to Aman, which was titled as Zeenat Aman, with the tagline "Redefining Beauty".[86][87] The event was attended by Aman herself, as well as members from various countries, including UAE and Pakistan.[88]

In April 2019, Bollywood Hungama listed Aman as one of the "10 Hottest Bollywood Actresses Of All Time".[89] She has frequently been cited as the original sex symbol of Bollywood, and is notorious for her figure and looks.[90] However, Aman has stated that she didn't take the term seriously,[91] and rather felt restricted by it.[92]


Aman has starred in over 80 films total. Her most critically and financially successful films are:

Awards and nominationsEdit

Zeenat Aman at BIG Awards Jury Press Meet
Year Award Category Work Result Ref.
1972 Filmfare Awards Best Supporting Actress Hare Rama Hare Krishna Won [16]
1973 BFJA Awards Best Actress Won [93]
1979 Filmfare Awards Best Actress Satyam Shivam Sundaram Nominated [16]
1981 Best Actress Insaf Ka Tarazu Nominated [57]


  • 2003 - Bollywood Awards 'Award for Lifetime Achievement' - Lifetime of Glamour.[94]
  • 2006 - "Outstanding Contribution to the Motion Picture Industry of India Awards" at the eighth annual Bollywood Movie Awards.[95][96]
  • 2008 - Zee Cine Award for Lifetime Achievement
  • 2010 - "Outstanding Contribution to Indian cinema" at the 11th IIFA awards
  • 2011 - "Best Contribution to Indian cinema" at the 11th IIFA awards
  • 2018 - Society Achievers Award - Lifetime Achievement

See alsoEdit


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