Tragic Tales: Zeenat Aman, the bruised and the beautiful

Farhana Farook
·Contributor
·7-min read

In #Tragic Tales, we look back at Zeenat Aman’s troubled relationships.

Zeenat Aman in Dostana
Zeenat Aman in Dostana

She was the perfect 10. Without cosmetology and filters. The gorgeous face of liberation between the ’70s – ’80s, Zeenat Aman triggered a testosterone overspill.

Wooed by superstars, sportsmen and magnates, when it came to choosing her partners, she fatally faltered.

Marriage or mirage, revisiting her tragic alliances.

With Dev Anand in Hare Rama Hare Krishna
With Dev Anand in Hare Rama Hare Krishna

As flower-child Janice in Dev Anand’s Hare Rama Hare Krishna (1971), Zeenat Aman took an entire generation on a trip. Swaying to RD Burman and Asha Bhosle’s chorale of rebellion, Dum maro dum, Zeenat was an exotic find.

Born in India, bred in Germany, educated in Los Angeles... winner of the Miss Asia-Pacific crown, Zeenat’s sensibilities were global just as her sense of style.

Maxis with thigh reaching slits, blouses plunging deep, chic pants and skirts... she revamped the fashion catalogue of the Hindi film heroine.

As an actor too, she blurred the boundaries between virtue and vice. Involved in an extramarital relationship in Dhund, an opportunist in Roti Kapda Aur Makaan, the impenitent hooker in Manoranjan… the radical route was up her alley.

Qurbani
Qurbani

She could drip with Bo Derek-like sensuality in Feroz Khan’s Qurbani just as she could impersonate a Khajurao-esque sexuality in Raj Kapoor’s Satyam Shivam Sundaram. So overwhelming was her charisma that even mentor and co-star Dev Anand, as mentioned in his autobiography Romancing With Life, fell for her.

Hence, what’s baffling is how someone, who exuded such woman power, such confidence, incorrigibly found herself embroiled in one abusive relationship after the other!

A heart-breaking realisation indeed.

THE SANJAY KHAN SAGA

Though there were link-ups aplenty, the first serious relationship Zeenat perhaps had was with the married and father of three, Sanjay Khan.

It was allegedly on 10 December 1978, during the Jaisalmer schedule of his directorial debut, Abdullah (released in 1980), that Sanjay allegedly married his heroine in a secret nikah ceremony.

Zeenat and Feroze Khan in Dhund
Zeenat and Feroze Khan in Dhund

Though the media got a wind of it, there was no confirmation. Facing censure from his family and the growing media scrutiny, the relationship soon hit turbulence. November 3, 1977, was the final nail in the coffin.

Zeenat was shooting in Lonavala, when Sanjay asked her to return to Mumbai for reshooting a song for Abdullah. Zeenat drove down right to the Taj, where Sanjay was attending a hi-profile bash with wife Zarine Khan.

Seeing her at the party, left Sanjay disturbed. Reportedly, in the adjoining room, he first abused her verbally and later turned physical.

Some said the unfortunate incident was triggered because Zeenat showed up with her nikahnama. Others revealed that the actress had brought up the supposed debts taken under her name for completing Abdullah.

Zeenat was rushed to the hospital. Her eye was damaged beyond repair. The gory incident even finds mention in friend and author Shobha De’s memoir Selective Memory where she writes, “One eye was considerably smaller than the other. The rough heel of Sanjay Khan’s boot ground into it… had left its permanent mark.”

Strangely, Zeenat chose not to report the abuse to the police. “I love this man. Don’t you understand? I will back his every move and I will make him a king one day,” Zeenat supposedly told her well-wishers in a classic manifestation of the Stockholm syndrome.

The ‘marriage’ was reportedly annulled on November 24, 1979.

Years later, when Zeenat Aman was asked by host Simi Garewal in her show Rendezvous, about the excruciating phase in her life she shared, “When there’s something distinctly unpleasant, you just close your mind to it and pretend it never happened. You promise yourself that it will never happen again.”

But happen it did… again…

MARRIAGE WITH MAZHAR KHAN

Young actor Mazhar Khan (of Shaan fame) ended his marriage with Rubaina (they had a son Azhar), Dilip Kumar’s niece, when he got involved with Zeenat Aman, 10 years his senior.

The two got married in 1985, leaving even Zeenat’s mother Mrs Heinz upset. Apparently, she suffered a heart attack given her daughter’s unsounded choice.

A reticent Zeenat spoke about it Simi Garewal’s Rendezvous saying, “I was ready for motherhood. I felt my biological clock was ticking… That was the chief reason I got married.”

But the marriage was wobbly from the first year itself. Zeenat claimed that her husband was cheating on her even while she was pregnant with her first-born Azaan.

“Mazhar never wanted me to grow as an individual or as an artiste. He wanted me to be with the kids and at home… I tried to make it work…There was not a single moment of happiness or joy during those 12 years,” she reportedly said.

Manoranjan
Manoranjan

Also, around 1993, Mazhar, began to suffer from problems of the liver and pancreas, as an offshoot of apparently having undergone liposuction.

This also delayed his directorial debut Gang (finally completed in 2000) and added to his financial woes.

Zeenat accompanied him to the finest hospitals in the world for treatment. While he did recover, he was said to have got addicted to painkillers.

“The years between ’93-’97 was a continuous battle for me… From learning how to give injections to how to do the dressing, I did everything single-handedly. I looked after my children, I looked after my husband. But there was no one to look after me. No other woman would have lasted in my situation. But I held onto Mazhar,” she reportedly said in Simi's Rendezvous

In 1997, an exasperated Zeenat, in a bid to reclaim herself, filed for a divorce from Mazhar. She was denied the custody of her children, Azaan and Jahaan. But she fought for it.

In May, 1998, Zeenat’s home in Bandra was reportedly stormed by her irate in-laws, leaving the furniture broken, Zeenat bruised and her 25-year-old friend, Zaheer Aslam battered.

Few months later, on 16 September 1998, Mazhar’s kidneys gave away.

Mazhar Khan in Shaan
Mazhar Khan in Shaan

“His death came as a blow to me. Even after all this I was not ready for him to die. I had fought all the battles for him,” she was quoted saying. Mazhar’s family blamed her for deserting him at the crucial stage of his life. Zeenat was not allowed to pay her last respects.

SINCE THEN

In 2013, there were rumours that she had found love again and was planning to get married to a much-younger Mumbai-based businessman.

In January 2018, the actor filed a stalking case against alleged friend, 38-year-old Sarfaraz Ahmed alias Aman Khanna. Reportedly, a while later, she filed a case of sexual harassment and cheating on him.

Life’s come a long way since then. Her older son Azaan has directed a film titled Bankster. The younger, Zahaan, is a musician and has graduated in culinary art. He’s also done a course at the Stella Adler Acting school.

On her part, Zeenat enjoys exploring the new, graphology (handwriting analysis) and aqua aerobics being her recent fascinations.

“We have our vulnerabilities, insecurities; we actors are highly emotional people. I have made some mistakes in the journey of life. Nobody has a perfect life... Never trust easily. Look before you leap. Don’t listen to your heart always," said Zeenat in an interview

Satyam Shivam Sundaram
Satyam Shivam Sundaram

Still positive about life, she added, “At the end of the day you have to believe in yourself… You are meant for something better.”

Zeenat Aman surely is…

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