Zeenat Aman was born to a Muslim father . Her father, Amanullah, was one of the writers for the blockbuster movies of Mughal-e-Azam and Pakeezah . He died when Zeenat was just 13. Zeenat's mother was a German citizen, and took her to Germany - where Zeenat was very unhappy, returning to India as soon as she turned 18.
Aman graduated from St. Xavier's College, Mumbai and went to Los Angeles for her studies. Upon returning to India, she first took a job as a journalist for Femina and then later on moved on to modeling. One of the first few brands that she modeled for was Taj Mahal Tea. She was the second runner up in the Miss India Contest and went on to win the Miss Asia Pacific in 1970.Aman was credited with bringing the Western heroine look to Hindi cinema, and thorughout her career has been considered a sex symbol.
Aman's sultry persona was a contrast to many of the more conservative stars of the era. At a time when heroines were obedient wives and lovers on screen, Aman was drawn to more unconventional roles - she was cast as the opportunist who deserts her jobless lover for a millionaire (Roti Kapda Aur Makaan), the ambitious girl who considers aborting her baby to pursue a career (Ajnabee), the happy hooker (Manoranjan), the disenchanted hippie (Hare Rama Hare Krishna), the girl who falls in love with her mother's one-time lover (Prem Shastra), and a woman married to a caustic cripple but involved in an extramarital relationship (Dhund). She managed to balance these roles with acting in more conventional films such as Chori Mera Kaam, Chhaila Babu, Dostana and Lawaaris, which is considered by many to be a landmark in Indian Cinema.
In Hare Rama Hare Krishna, Aman, aided by R. D. Burman's song "Dum Maro Dum" (Take Another Toke), won over the audience as Janice. She earned a Filmfare Best Supporting Actress Award and BFJA Award for Best Actress. Throughout the 1970s, the Dev-Zeenat pairing was seen in half a dozen films: Heera Panna (1973), Ishq Ishq Ishq (1974), Prem Shastra (1974), Warrant (1975), Darling Darling (1977) and Kalabaaz (1977). Of these, Warrant, was the biggest box-office success.In December 1974, Cine Blitz magazine was launched with Zeenat Aman on its cover, a testimony to her popularity at the time.
In 1978, she starred in Raj Kapoor's massively publicised Satyam Shivam Sundaram (1978), however, the film was not much of a success. The subject ironically dealt with the notion of the soul being more attractive than the body, but Kapoor chose to showcase Aman's sex-appeal. The actress was highly criticized for her exposure but somehow, the film had a great deal to do with her later fame. She also earned a Filmfare nomination as Best Actress for this film.
Aman's entry into Hollywood also backfired when Krishna Shah's Shalimar (1978), co-starring Dharmendra and international names like Rex Harrison and Sylvia Miles, proved to be a failure in the USA and in India. Zeenat possessed a convent schoolgirl accent and a penchant for revealing dresses. She matched Sophia Loren in the battle of oomph at Shalimar's launch. 1978 could have been a disaster year for her, because of the diminishing box office returns of Satyam Shivam Sundaram and Shalimar, but it was Don that came to the rescue and set her career soaring again. Ironically, her reasons for accepting the role in Don were altrustic, and she didn't even take any remuneration for it, because she wanted to help the producer, Nariman Irani, who passed away midway filming. Her role of a Westernized revenge-seeking action heroine contributed to the film's huge success, and her fans reconnected with her again. Westernised heroines like Parveen Babi and Tina Munim now followed in her footsteps, by the late 1970s. Aman continued to act in hits like Dharam Veer and Dostana.Unlike her breakthrough roles in the early 1970s, Aman was increasingly asked to just provide sex appeal in hero-oriented, multi-star films. In contrast to this trend was her performance as a rape victim seeking justice in B. R. Chopra's Insaaf Ka Tarazu (1980) for which she received a Filmfare Best Actress nomination. This film was followed by success in the love triangle Qurbani (1980). Aman enjoyed a phase of renewed fame when she associated with Sanjay Khan during Abdullah (1980), a colourful costume drama set in the arid desert.
Zeenat Aman allegedly had a long relationship with director Feroze Khan but when he refused to leave his wife & marry her, she married his alcoholic brother Akbar Khan. This marriage barely lasted 3 years, and was punctuated by very ugly & public scenes between a drunk Khan & his wife.
However, fixated on "Khans'" Zeenat married Mazhar Khan and had two sons Azaan and Zahaan. She suffered a post-partum ptosis (drooping of the left upper eye-lid, related to pregnancy) which made her very unsightly, and essentially put paid to any chances of her return to the silver screen as a leading lady.
Mazhar Khan - who had an indifferent film career and was a "party boy", & possibly bi-sexual - became ill with liver dysfunction ( possibly due to HIV-AIDS & Hepatitis C ). Zeenat spent a lot of her savings for his treatment. The disease however was fatal. Mazhar Khan died in September 1998 . What followed were five traumatic years when her in-laws defamed her in public, snatched her son and brainwashed him to the extent that he refused to go back to his mother, and even abused her.
Within a span of two years she lost her husband, her mother, and her son got estranged. Zeenat with the help of her old friends like Dimple Kapadia decided to let the world know her side of the story. She called a press conference and clarified all the allegations leveled against her.
Today, Aman lives with her two sons and makes many social appearances. She is seen on screen rarely, in films such as Bhopal Express and the Kaizad Gustad film Boom. In 2006, she acted in the film Jaana - Let's Fall In Love with Rajesh Khanna and recently in 'Ugly and Pagli' which is a 2008 romantic comedy.