Zeenat Aman Marriage: The Troubled Love Life Of Bollywood’s Original Diva

Zeenat Aman made her first Bollywood appearance in 1970 with the film Hulchul, which was such a disaster at the box office that she packed her bags set to leave India for ever. It was a few days before her tentative departure that the legendary actor and filmmaker Dev Anand paid her a visit to offer a role of his hippie sister in his upcoming film Hare Rama Hare Krishna. Aman decided to give Bollywood one last shot but little did she know that her performance in the character of Janice would win her a barrage of awards, and the film itself would develop a cult following. There was turning back after that 1971 film, and Zeenat Aman stayed back in India forever, and in 1985 went on to marry the unsuccessful television and film actor Mazhar Khan. This was only after she had closed her doors to Sanjay Khan, her abusive ex-flame. But did Zeenat find her paradise after marriage? Not exactly. Let’s take a closer look at the turbulent love life of Zeenat Aman.

Zeenat Aman – The Model And The Actress

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Zeenat Aman was born Zeenat Khan on 19th November 1951 to scriptwriter Amanullah Khan who would write under the pen-name of ‘Aman’. It was later that Zeenat adopted it as her second name on-screen. When Zeenat was still a teenager, she lost her father, and her mother remarried a German man, which eventually led the family to move to Germany. Zeenat later returned to India when she was 18, and did her higher studies from Panchgani, Maharashtra and the University of California. Upon returning to India this time she took the job of a journalist at the popular film magazine Femina. But her good looks did not go unnoticed, and she soon started receiving modelling offers to which she obliged.

She was eventually spotted by film producers and made her debut with the film Hulchul followed by Hungama; both released in 1971. The films were grave failures, and it was only when Zeenat had given up all hope that she was offered the role of Janice in Dev Anand’s film Hare Rama Hare Krishna. The film gained critical acclaim, and Zeenat went on to work in over 50 films in her career spanning over four decades.

The Man She Loved Madly

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Zeenat was at the top of her game by late 1970s, and it was during then that she happened to meet Sanjay Khan, actor Feroz Khan’s brother. Just like Feroz, even Sanjay was an actor, and although not as popular as his brother, he was still adored by many for his good looks. Zeenat and Sanjay hit off almost a few weeks after seeing each other despite the fact that Sanjay Khan was married with three children. While Sanjay was attracted to Zeenat’s ethereal beauty, Zeenat’s affection was infused with obsession for a handsome married man for whom she would do absolutely anything. “I was very naive and vulnerable at that time. It was a few weeks of madness, that’s it,” she later shared in an interview.

In 1978, she signed for Sanjay Khan’s directorial film Abdullah and the two took off to Jaisalmer, Rajasthan for its making. It was during this phase that their infatuation towards one another reached it culmination point, and the duo took an impromptu decision to get married. The already married Sanjay Khan and Zeenat Aman had a private legal marriage in the presence of two witnesses at their Jaisalmer hotel on 30th December 1978. While Sanjay Khan always denied his second marriage, Zeenat acknowledged it in an interview much later. The news of their marriage though never remained within the doors of their hotel and soon tabloids were brimming about their alleged wedlock. The mounting media scrutiny and family pressure soon made Zeenat and Sanjay split their paths, and the two split in 1979.

The Ugly Incident That Changed It All

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In spite of walking away on different paths, the two always had the feels for one another. The possessive Sanjay Khan would often call Zeenat whenever he would hear rumours of her alleged relationship with some actor or industrialist. The distance added more fuel to the fire, and it reached a tipping point in 1980. The story goes that Zeenat was busy shooting at the hamlet of Lonavala when she received a call from Sanjay Khan, who demanded her to be back to Mumbai for a re-shoot of a song in the film Abdullah. In spite of having pledged dates to a different producer, Zeenat still came to Mumbai (since she still loved Sanjay). When she reached his home she learnt that he is at a party, and therefore Zeenat decided to meet him there. When she reached the party, Sanjay was in an inebriated state, and got infuriated on seeing her. He dragged her to another room where he made a slew of allegations against her for having multiple affairs. Before Zeenat could speak something he struck her, and she fell down. Sanjay then hit her repeatedly, and it was only when the hotel staff heard Zeenat’s wails, and barged into the room, that he stopped. Zeenat was rushed to the hospital with grievous face injuries. She never filed a legal complaint against Sanjay but needless to say it marked the end of the squalid relationship she had with Sanjay Khan. After all his request for extra dates was just an elaborate excuse to have a final showdown to end his relationship forever.

After that incident, Zeenat Aman was physically and emotionally battered, and needed a shoulder to rest her head for some time. Her desperation and depression led her to Mazhar Khan, a film and TV actor who had just a fraction of success Zeenat Aman had.

The Turbulent Marriage

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Zeenat Aman tied the knot with Mazhar Khan in the year 1985, and the news came as a major surprise for many of her admirers. Mazhar Khan was a small-time actor and although he had worked in a Hollywood film, his work was mostly obscure or just unnoticed. Later in an interview Zeenat shared that even she was not exactly prepared for what happened, and in fact her decision to marry a relatively unsuccessful actor came as a surprise to her mother, who strongly opposed her daughter’s decision. She shared the following words about her decision to get espoused with Mazhar Khan-

“In our lives, you may be ready for certain things… you may be ready for certain changes. And the person who happens to be there at that point of time in your life, you try to fit into what your needs are.”
– Zeenat Aman on her decision to marry Mazhar Khan

It can be said undeniably that Zeenat was still in a state of shock, which clouded her decision-making skills to the point of severe disorientation. No one knows when and how she met Mazhar Khan, and in fact even till today she does not know what attracted her towards Mazhar. But the fact that she was in emotional distress, and wanted to heal her wounds with the joys of motherhood, made her fall in the arms of Mazhar Khan.

“I was ready for motherhood, more than anything. I felt my biological clock was ticking… And truly that was the chief reason I got married.”
– Zeenat Aman on marrying Mazhar Khan

But just a year down the line, Zeenat realised the grave mistake she had committed. In spite of marrying one of the most beautiful woman in Bollywood, Mazhar continued to have unhindered extra-marital flings. For poor Zeenat it was deja vu. She was back to square one, yearning for the love and attention for someone who would for once treat her as a normal human being. While she did experience the joys of motherhood twice, when she had two sons, her marriage still remained on the rocks due to lack of romance and mutual respect.

Things went haywire in her life when in 1993, Mazhar was detected with a pancreatic problem. It was a moment Zeenat played the part of the doting wife with complete devotion, and she took Mazhar to some of the finest hospitals in the world for treatment, fortunately due to which he completely recovered. But sadly Mazhar fell addicted to painkillers at the end of the ordeal. Zeenat would often plead to him to stop damaging himself but all her efforts would go in vain. She was already an emotional exhausted woman and was at the brink of nervous breakdown when she decided it is time to think for herself, once for all.

End Of One Marriage, Beginning Of Another?

In 1997, Zeenat Aman filed for a divorce from Mazhar Khan and the two were granted their formal separation the same year. Zeenat was finally on her own, and in an interview she shared that she was not given even the custody of her children by her ex-husband’s family, and she had to fight for a right to have her children by her side.

In 2013, there were rumours that she is planning to get married to a certain 37-year old Mumbai-based businessman. In an interview, that year Zeenat acknowledged that she fancies the idea of tying the knot again but definitely not with the gentleman she is being linked-up. Since then she has put a hold on her matrimonial plans, and is focused on securing the future of her two sons, who now live with her.

The Woman With The Large Heart

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Zeenat Aman is often regarded as the original diva of Bollywood, admired for her flawless sensuous persona. But beyond all that external lush appeal lied a beautiful soul and a wonderful large heart, which accepted every blow and jolt with a smile, yet never harboured any hard feelings. Even after her divorce with Mazhar Khan, Zeenat never spoke ill about him, and would stay in touch till his death due to renal failure in 1998. She was left with a slightly disfigured face after Sanjay Khan’s battering but never spoke a word of criticism against him. Guess nothing better sums up the life and times of Zeenat Aman than the heart-hitting words of Zeenat’s friend Simi Garewal.

“Zeenat never shared her life. She just gave it away…”
– Simi Garewal about Zeenat Aman

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