Zeenat Aman's crowning glory
By MovieTalkies.com, 22 November 2007
Born on 19th November 1951, some 56 years ago to a Muslim father and a Hindu mother, Zeenat Aman was a trailblazing star of the Seventies, who could just as well fit into recent times as well. Our bold and beautiful heroines of today have much to thank Zeenat Aman. It was not just her histrionic abilities which made Zeenat an overnight star with Dev Anand's Hare Rama Hare Krishna (1971) but it was her unconventional ways. In her own way, Zeenat changed the concept of the Hindi film heroine. There was never any question of her playing the obedient wife or coy, pure heroine. She was always the woman in charge, and quite happy to play the less-than pure heroine. The audiences of course lapped it all up, scanty costumes (Qurbani, Satyam Shivan Sundaram), and all. But there was more to Zeenat than her terrific figure. She somehow managed to bring a more realistic representation of the Indian woman on the Hindi screen. She ably portrayed the less-than-perfect heroine in many of her films, Hare Rama Hare Krishna, Ajnabee and Roti Kapada Aur Makaan and still managed to carve a place for herself with the audiences.
Zeenat was also one of more educated actresses to hit the Hindi screen. She completed most of her education abroad and came back to India and worked as a journalist for a while with Femina before she entered the world of modeling and beauty pageants. She was crowned Miss Asia-Pacific as well. Her film genes probably go back to her father, Amanullah, who was one of the writers of the epic classic Mughal-e-Azam.
Her first foray into Hindi cinema was not through Dev Anand but OP Ralhan. She did a film called Hulchal with him before she was picked up by Dev Anand for the role of the rebellious Jasbeel in Hare Rama Hare Krishna. In fact, so powerful was her impact, that she eclipsed the heroine Mumtaz in the movie. The entire nation rocked to ‘Dum Maro Dum' with Janice in that summer of 1971. The critics approved as well and Zeenat won the Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress. Ironically, Zeenat was not the first choice for the role. Dev Anand wanted his heroine of Prem Pujari, Zaheeda to play the role of his sister. But she refused as she wanted to only play the heroine. Well, Zaheeda's loss turned out to be Hindi filmdom's gain.
Zeenat went on from success to success. She and Dev Anand formed a formidable jodi and did quite a few films togther like Heera Panna, Darling Darling, Ishq Ishq Ishq and Warrant. Their association broke up when Zeenat was seen to shift loyalties as she starred in Raj Kapoor's Satyam Shivam Sundaram. But that did not seem to faze Zeenat. She may have lost Dev but she had others like Manoj Kumar, Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh Bachchan, Shashi Kapoor, Rishi Kapoor, Vinod Khanna, Feroz Khan and Sanjay Khan. She even worked with struggling actors like Vijay Arora in Nasir Hussain's Yaadon Ki Baaraat, Deepak Parasher and Raj Babbar in Insaaf Ka Taraazu. Films like Roti Kapda Aur Makaan, Qurbani, The Great Gambler, Don, Laawaris, Dharam Veer, Hum Kisie Se Kam Nahin, Ram Balram, Pukar, among others, were her many hits. There was also the ill-fated Shalimar, where Zeenat was more than a match for the aging Gina Lollobrigida in the oomp department.
But if Hare Rama Hare Krishna won her fame, it was with Raj Kapoor's Satyam Shivam Sundaram (1978), that she reached the zenith of her career. Raj Kapoor's film about true beauty, which is beyond mere physicality and is akin to goodness and truth, was what the film Satyam Shivam Sundaram was about. In fact, the story by Jainendra Jain is a beautiful one but the showman seems to have faltered in putting across the message. It is believed that Lata Mangeshkar and her golden voice were the inspiration for the character of Roopa. Raj Kapoor is said to have approached the Dream Girl Hema Malini to do the film but she turned it down because of the skin show required. As for Zeenat, the actress dressed herself as the character and went to meet the showman at his studio and convinced him to cast her. The dichotomy of the whole film and its entire message comes across in the manner in which Raj Kapoor fixates on the physical aspect of Roopa's beauty. She may have been carrying a scar on one side of her face, but her being clad in the skimpiest of costumes, all artistically designed to reveal than to conceal, of course were no help, except perhaps in garnering many millions of eyeballs for the film.
The film's story centres around the Roopa, the daughter of the village pandit, whose wife dies in childbirth. The girl is considered unlucky and it proves to be prophetic as one side of her face is scarred by a burn injury. The girl-child Roopa, played by Padmini Kolhapure, grows up to be the absolutely luscious looking Zeenat Aman. The scar is the only thing that mars her beauty. Roopa has no friends her age and lives out her life at the temple, fetching water, cleaning etc. What Roopa does have is a heavenly voice. It is this voice that totally enthralls the young engineer Rajeev (Shashi Kapoor), who comes to the village to work on a dam. He is besotted by her and believes that she is as beautiful as her voice. Following many encounters with Roopa, where she manages to hide her disfigurement with her dupatta, the engineer asks for her hand in marriage. But disaster unfolds on the wedding night itself when Rajeev sees the scar. He is unwilling to accept that she is the same Roopa that he loved and wooed. He is absolutely sure that he has been duped. He rejects her and goes about in search of Roopa. The rejected Roopa goes out and meets him, masquerading as his lover. Roopa gets pregnant and Rajeev disowns her as his wife. It takes a disaster like the bursting of the dam which makes Rajeev realize his folly, and he sets out to save his love.
Zeenat has a role of a lifetime here as Roopa. The actress manages to transcend the mere physicality of playing Roopa and actually delivers quite a sensitive performance. She manages to capture the vulnerability and pain of being Roopa. Shashi Kapoor as Rajeev, is his usual dashing self. But the film truly belongs to Zeenat and Lata Mangeshkar.
If it is an RK Film, the music just has to be superb. Laxmikant-Pyarelal gave a fantastic score for Satyam Shivam Sundaram, with each number turning out to be a gem. Lata's songs in the film, beginning from the bhajan, Yashomati Maiyya, to Bhor Bhaye Panghat Pa, Saiyan Nikas Gaye, Suni Jo Unke Aane Ki Aahat, and of course, the title song, are without par. Rarely has the singer sounded so crystal clear and so magnificent. Lata's golden vocals have rarely been used in the manner as used by Raj Kapoor in this film. This is not to undermine the two songs sung by Mukesh in the film, Chanchal Sheetal and Woh Aurat Hai Tu Mehbooba. Being an RK movie, there is little scope to complain about technical glitches. The film looks voluptuously beautiful. One may or may not agree with the story but the showman knows how to keep the interest going. The film, as well as the heroine, have been lusciously captured by cinematographer Radhu Karmakar.
Satyam Shivam Sundaram may have done average business at the box office. But what it did do was immortalize the touching portrayal of Roopa by Zeenat Aman.