I remember being mesmerised while watching her play the guitar, charming as ever, in the song, 'Chura liya hai tumne jo dil ko'. She is yesteryear glam queen, iconic dancer, and path-breaking actor. She was titled the nation’s sex symbol in the '70s. My grandparents introduced me to her as 'the one who was unafraid to experiment with her style and various art forms'. She embodied a different kind of boldness and despite all sorts of criticisms, became a leading and revered actor. And while we’d love to see her take on the silver screen again, we’re stoked about her debut on social media. A few days ago, the actor took to her Instagram account to pen down her thoughts, and we’re in awe.
The actor is the epitome of beauty, grace, and elegance. Through a series of 11 photographs, she speaks about her debut on social media, the evolution of the cultural narrative she’s been a part of, and the gendered lens. She credits a young female photographer in her second post: “In the '70s, the film and fashion industries were male-dominated, and I would often be the only woman on the set. Over the course of my career, I have been photographed and filmed by many talented men. A woman’s gaze though, is different.
This series of pictures was shot by young photographer @tanyyaa.a_ in the comfort of my home. No lights, no make-up artist, no hairdresser, no stylist, no assistants. Just a lovely, sunny afternoon together.
It’s such a pleasure to see so many young women working on both sides of the lens today. I look forward to discovering more such talent on Instagram.”
Aman became an actor at a time when most people looked down upon women working in the film industry, let alone wearing what Zeenat Aman dared to. Her oversized tinted sunglasses and Boho-chic clothes in the song Dum Maro Dum shot her to fame, and she was unstoppable after that. In the '80s, Aman gave one memorable performance after other—remember how she dazzled in Laila Main Laila in the white, sequined, slit dress with a feather boa and a sparkly headpiece? Through it all, Aman was met with controversial remarks about how she carried herself, what she wore, and how she performed.
In one of the posts, she writes about a picture that was taken during a look test for her film Satyam Shivam Sundaram. “Anyone acquainted with the history of Bollywood will know that there was much controversy and brouhaha about my character Rupa in Satyam Shivam Sundaram. I was always quite amused by the accusations of obscenity as I did not and do not find anything obscene about the human body. I am a director’s actor and these looks were part of my job. Rupa’s sensuality was not the crux of the plot, but a part of it. As it is, the set is not even remotely a sensual space. Every move is choreographed, rehearsed, and performed in front of dozens of crew members,” she writes.
Aman writes of her experience in an industry known to be gruelling to its artists; still, her words are layered with compassion, empathy, and grace. In another post, she expresses her thoughts on the disparity in the roles written for men and women. She wholeheartedly speaks the truth when she writes, “I am not, per se, planning a return to the silver screen, but nor am I closing that door. Creativity does not retire, and I would love to sink my teeth into a nuanced and impactful character. I’m of course quite aware that such roles for older women are few and far apart. Some days ago I read about the Annenberg Foundation study that analysed 1,000 Hollywood films released between 2007 and 2017. They found that less than 25% of the women on screen were over the age of 40. The numbers for the Indian film industry are unlikely to be much better. So, in short, I nurture optimism not expectations.”
Her honesty is admirable. A few artists today are as gracious in expression as her, and we can hardly wait for more insights into the woman Zeenat Aman has been, is, and aspires to be.