Zeenat Aman has always known how to make a grand entry. Decades after she retired from films – having set the screen ablaze at the start of her career with Hare Rama Hare Krishna in 1971 — Zeenat is back to creating a flutter, this time on Instagram. From posting her ramp walk images to family photos, the 71-year-old thespian is living it up and winning hearts as always. With only 18 posts since her Instagram debut on February 11, Zeenat has already amassed 137K followers.
Introducing herself as ‘actor, mother, maverick’, Zeenat made it clear she’s going to treat her Instagram journey as yet another adventure, with the caption: ‘Laughing at the places life takes me.’ In one of her first posts, she posed in the comfort of her home, without makeup, for a young woman photographer. ‘In the ’70s, the film and fashion industry was absolutely male-dominated, and I would often be the only woman on set. Over the course of my career, I have been filmed by many talented men. A woman’s gaze, though, is different,’ the veteran actress explained.
No wonder then that a long list of celebrated women are smitten by her all over again, dropping comments and likes. Zeenat’s admirer list has Shilpa Shetty, Sayani Gupta, Mithila Palkar, Dia Mirza, Zoya Akhtar, Shweta Bachchan, Archana Puran Singh, Tanuja Chandra, Diandra Soares, Sandhya Mridul, Rhea Kapoor, Anita Dongre, Gul Panag, Amruta Subhash, Manisha Koirala and Mallika Dua, alongside Prasad Bidapa, Varun Grover, Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla.
Her elaborate anecdotal captions are striking a chord with many. In this post, Zeenat remembers her mother, Vardhini Scharwachter, as ‘elegant, intelligent, feisty and my pillar of support’ and how, being a Hindu, she married her father Amanullah Khan. After their separation, her mother fell in love and married a German man, whom she called ‘Uncle Heinz’. ‘She was truly the wind beneath my wings,’ Zeenat writes about her mother, who taught her to live life on her own terms. This is one of the few family photographs that Zeenat says had survived the Mumbai floods in 2005.
Taking a walk down Bollywood memory lane, Zeenat posted this picture clicked by JP Singhal during a look test for Raj Kapoor’s Satyam Shivam Sundaram, at RK Studios, in a costume designed by Oscar winner Bhanu Athaiya. She recalls the controversy around her character Rupa in the film and how she was ‘amused by the accusations of obscenity’, emphasising that ‘every move is choreographed, rehearsed and performed in front of dozens of crew members.’
This post is a reflection on the massive change that star appeal and adulation has undergone over the decades. Sharing an autographed photo of herself, Zeenat remembers how big a thing getting a celebrity autograph used to be for fans and how the tradition has been replaced by selfies with the advent of smartphones. She also adds that her mother would print hundreds of her headshots and make her sign each one of them, to be sent out in response to fan mails or handed out to fans.
Zeenat looks back at her interview with the Australian Broadcasting Commission from the sets of Laila O laila (Qurbani) where she speaks about the gender pay gap nonchalantly. ‘In my time, I was lauded as the highest paid female actor, but the disparity in the pay cheque between my male co-stars and myself was so vast it was laughable,’ reads the caption.
Recently, Zeenat opened the show for fashion designer Shahin Mannan at the Lakme Fashion Week in Mumbai. Flaunting her ‘silver bob’, she turned heads with her graceful walk in a red-and-black blazer paired with black pants and tinted shades. Zeenat had started off as a model at the age of 19 and participated in beauty pageants, followed by her foray into films.
‘My pantsuit was comfortable and just a little reckless. I’d forgotten what a whirlwind it is to be backstage! The bustle of a fashion show approaching showtime is unique, and I can’t deny that there was a butterfly or two fluttering in my stomach,’ Zeenat posted, recording her behind-the-scenes moments before the ramp walk.
In this post, Zeenat talks about the ‘speculation’ around her ‘return to the silver screen’. Calling herself a ‘notoriously private person’, she writes about her experience ‘of being misquoted, taken out of context, censored, and gossiped about’ since the age of 16. As a septuagenarian, she wants to enjoy the opportunity to reflect on her life and career on her terms ‘without any pressures from managers or studios or brands’. Displaying her ready wit, she quips that her sons are helping her to understand online lingo such as ‘thirst trap’.
The actress was last seen on screen in a cameo in Ashutosh Gowariker’s Panipat, and there’s a buzz that she will make her OTT debut with the web series Showstopper — a title that aptly captures who Zeenat Aman is.