Whenever the chronicle of Indian films would be written, name of Zeenat Aman would emerge in a bold motif as the actor who single handedly catalyzed the way the Indian female actors were being portrayed in the Hindi films. When she celebrates her birthday today she would have a great sense of satisfaction that she was able to change the demeanour of the Indian heroine from being a touch-me-not to an actor who could take the cudgels with the males in their own turfs on their own terms and conditions.
From this perspective her career graph can indeed be considered as watershed event. Though Devika Rani and Fearless Nadia had initiated this approach in the Black & White era, the odds were stacked against them and as such their legacy could not be carried forward till advent of Zeenat Aman. Fortunately enough, the time during which Zeenat Aman made her debut was the time when the sense of rebellion against the system had taken ground firmly in different parts of the country and the Woodstock generation was really firing the imagination of the youth all over the world. With her debut in HARE RAMA HARE KRISHNA Zeenie baby was able to portray the angst of a generation fed up with the system in an impacted manner. It was probably for the first time that an Indian actress had the confidence to be among a group of men without being disguised as a man, as was shown in the Hindi films in general.
Through out her career she continued to have the western orientation or the spirit of liberty in various roles that she played in her illustrious career. Fortunately for her, she had a godfather in Dev Anand who groomed her and was a catalytic factor in shaping her image as an actor who represented the progressive woman of the country. Be it YAADON KE BARAAT or QURBANI or DOSTANA or DHUND, or CHORI MERA KAAM, or HUM KISSI SE KAM NAHIN in most of the films Zeenat Aman continued to cultivate her image as the heroine with a Western image. Even in DON and DOSTANA the same streak was evident and for her the acme of her career after being identified as a heroine with a western outlook was in QURBANI, which set the whole nation on fire and gave a new lease of life to her career.
It is not however that she could not portray roles of an Indian girl, she gave the spark of the same in ROTI KAPDA AUR MAKAAN, and with Raj Kapoor's SATYAM SHIVAM SUNDARAM she could demonstrate to the world that she was indeed an actor who could portray the Indian female with panache as well. Needed however was a director of the caliber of a Manoj Kumar, a Raj Kapoor or a B R Chopra. B R Chopra indeed deconstructed her image in INSAAF KA TARAAZU, which was one of the first films where the female actors took law into their own hands for the cause of justice.
While she has now taken the back seat, the space that she carved out for herself is being emulated with zeal by her illustrious followers.