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When Moral Police Followed Zeenat Aman

June 17, 2024 13:02 IST
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IMAGE: Zeenat Aman in Manoranjan. Photograph: Kind courtesy Zeenat Aman/Instagram

Zeenat Aman gives the world another interesting slice of her life, as she discusses her sexy and flirtatious outfits in the movies, a feature that almost defined her career.

It resulted in the moral police being her close companion.

Sharing pictures from Shammi Kapoor's directorial debut Manoranjan, where she played a sex worker, Zeenat writes, 'If I've had a steady companion through my career, it's been the moral police. And, my goodness, did they have a field day with this one!

'Manoranjan defied existing conventions. It was an adaptation of the fabulous 1963 American comedy Irma Le Douce, and it featured me in the starring role of Nisha. A sex worker with a sense of dignity, independence and humour.'


IMAGE: A Manoranjan poster. Photograph: Kind courtesy Zeenat Aman/Instagram

'Filming Manoranjan was a 'haste-haste, khelte-khelte' affair. It was Shammi Kapoor's directorial debut, had RD Burman in the role of music director, and Sanjeev Kumar as the leading man. The producer F C Mehra was a family friend. We shot the film entirely in studios in Mumbai, and it released in 1974.

'Nisha was no damsel in distress! Her outfits were flirtatious and sexy, but more importantly, she was unapologetic about how she earns a living. This was a character that I could have fun with: Sexually liberated, financially independent, and fully capable of locking horns with, and turning down, any man.

'I've always maintained that I am a 'director's actor', and I do believe Shammiji coaxed out one of my better performances with this film. The music and costumes were also a hoot. In Aaya hoon main tujh ko le jaoonga we dance upon gigantic musical instruments, Chori chori solah singar (sung by Ashaji) has a titillating shower sequence, and Dulhan maike chali is pictured entirely in a police van full of sex workers being taken to the police station and was sung by all three Mangeshkar sisters! If you're interested, you can watch these on YouTube.'

IMAGE: Zeenat Aman, Shammi Kapoor and Sanjeev Kumar in Manoranjan. Photograph: Kind courtesy Zeenat Aman/Instagram

'The 70s were a wonderful time to be alive! Despite the moral police (they're always around) the atmosphere of experimentation, freedom and fashion was unmatchable!

'I wonder if some of my older followers remember this film? I'd love to hear your memories of watching it or any discussion it may have provoked.

'Enjoy your Monday and have a lovely week, everybody.

'The three images here include a movie still, a hand painted film poster, and another still that I have borrowed from nfai.'

Film folk were quick to comment:

Priyanka Chopra: 'Moral police is still around and wil continue to be around it seems! But you are beyond.'

Archana Puran Singh: 'Of course I remember watching this absolutely amazing film in the small town theatres of Dehradun! And big what an experience it was. Even though I was very young I was enthralled by the world that was created and my parents thought nothing of sending a young girl to watch a film on this subject (I wonder if it had an A certificate and that somehow I was still allowed! Those times were different and parents were not very well informed I guess. But I'm happy I got to watch a film that has endured in my memory till date!)

'This is one of your films Z which has had a lasting impression on me (the other being Hare Rama Hare Krishna) and I became your hugest fan... the costumes, your styling and your entire presence was such an inspiration for me at the time and when my brother came to know that over the years you and I became friends he was like "Wow, you got to make your dream of meeting your icon come true". So yes, Manoranjan and you played a big part in my own aspirations and realisation of becoming an actor myself.'

Anil Kapoor: 'Loved the film the song picturisations and performances .. screening of the film/picture ka pehla trial show was at the iconic R K studios auditorium with friends and families of the warm, gracious and generous Krishna Aunty/Mrs Raj Kapoor.'

Padmini Kolhapure: 'OMG the songs were epic .. cannot be recreated .. and youuu were Thee stylish Zeenie baby ..heart throbs of God know how many.'

Tanuja Chandra: 'You look gorgeous, I'm going to go back and check these songs out. Don't remember them and they sound amazing!'

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