Zeenat Aman: The Early Years
Zeenat Aman was born in Bombay on 19 November, 1951 to a Muslim father and Hindu mother. Her father was Amanullah Khan, a writer who co-wrote the script of the fabulously weepy movie 'Pakeezah' and the all time classic 'Mugal-e-Azam'. Now I have no idea about her mom's name. If you google her mother, it returns 'the best guess is Scinda', which I find a bit funny. Who in India names their daughter 'Scinda', is it even a name? I believe her mother was somehow related to the royal Scindia family of Madhya Pradesh. She was fabulously progressive lady who had travelled the world with young Zeenat and her German Husband, one Mr. Heinz. Zeenat was terribly fond of her step father who was a mechanical engineer of sorts. They even lived in Germany for a while before moving back to India. Zeeny baby indeed had a very cosmopolitan upbringing.
Her biological father Mr. Amanullah Khan was a distant figure in her life. He wrote fabulous letters, poetic and loving, to his only child Zeenat. He died when she was only 13. She was a student at a boarding school at that time. She was a model student, fabulous in studies, sports everything. She was also the head girl of her dorm. One day, after a intense sports session, she returned to her room to be summoned immediately to the head mistress's office where she received the news of her father's sudden demise. I can not possibly imagine what would have gone through her head, receiving such a news at such a tender age!!
Zeenat went on to attend St. Xavier's School in Bombay. In her final years in high school, she went to the US as a foreign exchange student. Wikipedia lists that she went to University of Southern California, which I find completely baseless. She did go to Southern Caifornia, but not to the University. She went to a high school in New Port Beach, a fabulously wealthy part of Southern California dotted with picturesque vacation homes, plastic surgery clinics (at least now), happening bars, boats and loads of gorgeous people with Hollywood dreams waiting tables.
The name of the school she went to is Corona Del Mar High. She was there from 1967 till 1968. Thanks to classmates.com, one can actually see the yearbook and Zeeny baby's picture in it! She was 1968 batch. She stayed with a family whose own daughter Hayden Phelps also went to the same school. It was the swinging 60's and the West was a groovy place to be. When she returned, her own mom could not recognize her at the airport with all the hair braids, hippy clothes and hat she had on.
The photo above is taken from her yearbook. She is wearing a saree of all things! I guess her classmates probably found saree to be really interesting and exotic and encouraged her to appear in one. Some of her classmates still remember her till this day and reminiscence how she was a tall, slim and gorgeous girl who taught her American friends how to tackle a saree. She was not into any drama or theater back then. As fate would have it, this girl turned out to be one of the pioneers in Hindi cinema who changed the concept of what an Indian woman should look and behave like forever.
Here is what she said in her yearbook, in case the writing in the photograph is too small for you:
" Everybody is growing some way or other, gaining new ideas, and experiencing and learning new things. I can honestly say that this year has been one of the fullest ever in my life. I enjoy school, but most of all I enjoy my family and friends. The Phelpses are like my own, they have made me feel like one of them, and I know that they will always remain a part of me. I have indeed learned a lot, thanks to A.F.S. Thanks too, to all of you who have made this marvelous year possible for me." Zeenat Aman-India
Now isn't it cool, to have a look at Zeenat's life just before fame found her, before she was Zeeny baby?