Zeenat & Neetu: How Both Went From Traumatic Relationships To Solo Happily Ever Afters! 

Zeenat Aman and Neetu Kapoor are very different actors and even more different as women. There is no doubt in my mind who the real winner is.

While I’m yet to watch all the episodes of Koffee with Karan Season 8, there was no way I was going to miss the episode featuring Zeenat Aman and Neetu Kapoor.

Both the actors have been strong household favourites. Zeenat Aman is my father’s favourite actress in that era. I remember his face swelled with pride when I danced to “Dum Daro Dum” in my first company’s annual cultural event. He’d watch my dance video on repeat and share it with his friends. And my mother bore a strong resemblance to Neetu Kapoor in her heydays.

I found both of them, along with Parveen Babi, an enigma. They had a distinct Westernised image, a stark contrast to most of the sanskaari heroines back then. A secret confession: It’s why I preferred the vamps back then, as I found them more interesting, relatable and human. The likes of Helen, Aruna Irani, Kalpana Iyer, Bindu seemed to have a ball of a time on-screen as opposed to the perennially ‘damsels in distress’ mainstream leads.

Zeenat Aman, Parveen Babi and Neetu Kapoor changed the face of the Bollywood heroine forever and blurred the lines between the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ girl. They blended what the vamps did, from wearing short clothes to dancing with free abandon and keeping the goodness of the mainstream heroine intact.

There’s nothing like a good dose of nostalgia and this episode filled in that sweet craving.

Different stories yet similar experiences

I found it intriguing how, despite the starkly different life choices Neetu Kapoor and Zeenat Aman made, they both bore the bitter brunt of patriarchy.

While Neetu Singh married into privilege and held forth the institution of marriage strongly despite alcoholism, infidelity, and even domestic violence, Zeenat Aman made some terrible choices when it came to men, only to grow wiser and stronger with each experience.

Of course, Karan Johar stayed away from all the unpleasant questions that could trigger his guests. But their veiled answers revealed glimpses of their pain.

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Neetu Singh started as a child artist before bidding adieu to movies at 21 years when she got married. It was a Kapoor Khandaan diktat that the women in their family will not work in the movies. Neetu has also maintained though it was her choice to quit movies. Karisma Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor broke the norm and continue to work to this day.

She casually mentioned about being stuck with a strict mother in the early part of her life. And then, with a strict husband, who was also non-expressive and held on to his male ego and pride until the last year of his life. As for Neetu Kapoor, she did her part as a dutiful daughter, loyal wife, and doting mother.

Having worked in hundreds of movies in her career, Neetu Kapoor rued, “What career did I have?” Did it speak of her remorse at leaving the industry so early?

It’s no surprise to see her in a happy place today as she’s all over the place in TV shows and movies. I realised how Neetu Kapoor is actually a free-spirited person whose wings were clipped until now. It was good to see her finally breathe and live life with no cares. Better late than never!

She also said she wasn’t qualified to give any marriage advice to Ranbir and Alia, which I felt was sensible. Every marriage has different dynamics, and it’s for the partners to figure it out unless they ask for help.

Pretty Privilege or Pretty Curse?

We often talk about pretty privilege and how some women get more work because of it. While it might seem like an advantage at the outset, the lives of Zeenat Aman and Parveen Babi prove otherwise.

While there was no mention of Zeenat Aman’s relationships at all (and understandably so), she spoke about being raised by a strict mother too. I wouldn’t exactly fully blame the mothers for being so protective, knowing how the entertainment industry is filled with the big, bad wolves.

I also remember an earlier interview of Zeenat Aman where she wished she would have listened to her mother, especially with her relationships.

When Zeenat Aman spoke with love, fondness and sadness for her peer, late Parveen Babi, I couldn’t help but think how Zeenat Aman came out stronger and is today living her best life.

With her string of abusive relationships from Sanjay Khan to Mazhar Khan that also damaged her face and health, Zeenat Aman stands as a powerful testimony for all domestic violence victims. Her life story is also an example of how patriarchy exists across all spectrums of our society and no woman’s really safe.

While she might have let her heart rule her mind initially in her relationships, she learned her lessons the hard way and walked out of her abusive marriage before it was too late.

There are mostly three paths that victims go after repeated abuse. They become abusers themselves. Or they end up losing their sanity, health, and even life. Or they introspect and learn from their experiences and become wise, empathetic people who make the world a better place. We all know which path Zeenat Aman chose and how! With absolute grace, forgiveness and wisdom. Of course, for most common people, it’s an intersection of these paths given their lack of privilege in making some much-needed choices for their well-being.

Talking of ‘Pretty Curse’, good-looking women attract all kinds of men, especially narcissistic men who want them as arm candies—to boost their ego and image. If these women are young, lack the wisdom that comes from life’s experiences, they fall easy prey to abusive men. And if these men come with power and privilege, it’s like playing with fire that can burn them and extinguish their lives for good.

Also, as Zeenat Aman spoke about not being given the opportunity to explore nuanced and layered characters because of beauty stereotypes, pretty women are often dismissed as being less intelligent and superficial. This is tragic, as it serves the male gaze and is so far removed from the truth.

Is the Internet and social media empowering women?

Social media is a double edged sword as it amplifies everything in the real world including the bad (read patriarchy, misogyny, abuse and more).

However, we’ve seen how internet and social media use has given an avenue for women to express themselves, find work, and set up businesses.

In the entertainment world, who can forget how Neena Gupta made an epic comeback seeking work via her Instagram post. She continues to set the gram ablaze with her free spirited posts and is going strong in Bollywood.

Neetu Kapoor has been active on Instagram for a while and she continues to be, giving her a fresh lease of professional life.

Badass Zeenat’s extraordinary Insta posts say it all

The latest entrant is Zeenat Aman but what took the whole country by storm was how she shattered all stereotypes. For the first time, the nation sat up and realized that here’s someone who was labelled a sex siren who thinks, reads, and articulates so well. Even Karan Johar seems still bemused when he spoke about Zeenat Aman’s Instagram presence as he went from being oily to salacious to fawning to obsequious.

Zeenat Aman’s Instagram posts speak of her writing prowess, intellect, wisdom and empathy.

I remember watching one of Parveen Babi’s last interviews before her death and being shocked, as she was not like anything that the media and movies portrayed her to be. She spoke with so much clarity, sense, and intelligence that I wondered who the hideous troublemakers were behind her distorted public persona. The same goes for Marilyn Monroe, who’s often portrayed as this melancholic, seductive bimbo when she was anything but that in real life. She was an intelligent woman who loved literature and had diverse layers to her personality. These are imaginative brush strokes painted by wicked, narcissistic men that like to control pretty women and overturn their gifted beauty and intelligence as some sort of curse.

Thankfully, we have women like Zeenat Aman who’ve surpassed patriarchal norms and horrific experiences, serving as shining examples for other women.

The Hot Tea In this episode

It was wholesome watching the two legendary superstars on the couch. There was nothing new that Neetu Kapoor offered on the show as she continues to lead an active life in the public eye.

While the focus was less on Zeenat Aman, hers was the only interesting part about this episode. From spilling the tea on how one of the Kapoor men proposed to her back in the day, much to Neetu Kapoor’s shock to giving the most classy and sassy answers, it was Zeenat Aman supremacy all along.

We know how biased Karan Johar can be, and this episode was no different. While one of the competitive rounds was biased towards Neetu Kapoor with how the questions were framed, Neetu also won the rapid fire round through an unfair audience poll.

Zeenat Aman ate the rapid fire round. Sample this –

Karan Johar: What is the one thing that Neetu has that you don’t?

Zeenat Aman: The Kapoor tag (a mighty pleased Neetu Kapoor blushes and swells in pride)

KJo: What is the one thing that you have that she doesn’t?

ZA: “I am Zeenat Aman.” (A completely shocked and numb Neetu Kapoor)

Another answer that Zeenat Aman gave I loved was how she chose Priyanka Chopra to play her in a biopic. Given PC’s ample sex-appeal, intelligence and Western worldview, I thought that was a great pick. May I also suggest Sushmita Sen because I find she shares Zeenat Aman’s classiness, honesty, intelligence, and effortless style too? Zeenat Aman chose Deepika Padukone to essay Rupa if Satyam Shivam Sundaram were to be remade. Another great pick and it shows how clued in Zeenat Aman is with today’s times.

It was also amusing watching Neetu Kapoor’s reactions as she listened intently to every word Zeenat Aman spoke. Especially her expression when Zeenam Aman spoke about raising feminist sons. Tsk, tsk! Compare this to Neetu Kapoor’s archaic thoughts on how men should not be ‘Joru ka Ghulam’ and women being of two types – Scissors and Needles. We know who Zeenat Aman is, as per Neetu’s ingenious classification.

Curiously, Neetu Kapoor sang everyone’s praises from Raha to Ranbir to even Deepika Padukone and Anushka Sharma. She mentioned how she taunted Alia Bhatt for not being too happy that the baby is saying ‘Mum-Mum’ as it means ‘food’ and not ‘Mama”. And she predicted how Raha’s first words are going to be ‘Dada’ referring to Ranbir Kapoor. Spare us, please!

On the whole, Zeenat Aman just came out more self-aware, intellectual, eloquent, classy, empathetic, and self-assured. Irrespective of the show’s format and hamper prizes, she was the clear winner for me..

Did you watch the episode and agree with this take? Tell us!

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Tina Sequeira

Author, poet, and marketer, know more about Tina Sequeira here: www.thetinaedit.com read more...

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