Her 62nd birthday today is as good an excuse as any to write about Zeenat Aman. And who better than Dev Anand to reminisce about how she came to be Zeenat Aman?
Here is how he describes in his autobiography ‘Romancing with Life.’ He talks about a party his friend Amarjeet had hosted one evening.
“Zeenat came very appropriately dressed for the party, looking chic and mod and casual, just the image I had of my Janice in ‘Hare Rama Hare Krishna’. After the formal introduction, I got to know that Zeenat was a product of Panchgani convent, before she went to California for a year on a scholarship.
As she set in front of me, she was a picture of self-confidence, radiating a devil-may-care attitude. She was wearing a broad belt in front. I was wondering what was inside it, when her hand went there.She took out a pack of expensive cigarettes. Her other hand went into her handbag to take out a golden lighter. She had a style all her own, not bothering who was looking at her. She took out a cigarette and put it between her lips. That was the moment her eyes met mine, for I was constantly watching her and her bearing. She smiled an attractive girlish smile and stretched her hand towards me, offering me a cigarette as well. I smoked very occasionally but I decided to take one on that occasion. Before I could pull out a cigarette from the pack, she had already taken one out for me. I put it straight into my mouth, still looking at her. She now ignited the lighter with a single flick and put its flame on my cigarette, looking straight into my eyes. The flame of the lighter lit up her smiling eyes, putting an extra glow into them that said:
“I am your Janice, Dev.”
I puffed out the smoke on to her face which she quite liked and instantly got busy lighting her own cigarette, smiling a broader smile.
“Zeenat!” I said. She raised her eyes towards me. “Are you interested in doing films?” I asked.
Now she blew her smoke on my face and said, “Only if it’s a special one.”
That movie was in 1971. She was 20 then. So I am guessing that when the two met she must be 19 to his 48.
The way Anand described the encounter to me in 2000 during a visit to San Francisco was more or less the same except his emphasis was on the way she had puffed a ring of smoke out of her “luscious” lips. The attraction, at least from his side, sounded instant to me and remained for a while. However, knowing him I think he relished the idea of love more than the love itself. When I first asked him about Aman, he chanted with his trademark breathlessness “Zeenat,Zeenat, Zeenat”, paused and flashed his trademark smile and said, “Yes, Zeenat.”