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Zeenat Aman is barefoot, grey-haired. Her first week on Instagram is all chill

There is an unmissable ease to her posts. She creates a warm and casual space that is open to all.

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The Laila Main Laila star Zeenat Aman is barefoot, grey-haired and riding auto-rickshaws. Her life on Instagram is a stark contrast to her glamorous, uber-Western image from the 1970s and 1980s. And she has reinvented ‘chill’ in her own way. She isn’t thirsting for likes and followers. She is content, and that is her content.

When Aman joined Instagram earlier this month, it was quiet. There was not much fanfare–she still only has about 52.8 thousand followers, a paltry number compared to the celebrity stature she enjoys. It makes sense. There is an intimacy to each of her posts—almost as if she is giving you access to parts of her only few get to see.

In her first post, Aman is barefoot. She is wearing a striped linen co-ord set. Her hair falls softly on her shoulders, and her makeup looks minimal. “Laughing at the places life takes me. Why hello there, Instagram,” reads the caption.

Old face, fresh take

Celebrity social media is tailored for performance, carefully curated by efficient marketing teams. This is not unique to a younger generation of actors—from Neena Gupta to Amitabh Bachchan, they all morph into their most consumer friendly-selves. Everything is for sale: Their clothes, hotel rooms, and accessories.

This is not to say that Aman’s Instagram feed isn’t at par with her yesteryear colleagues. But there is an unmissable ease to her posts. She creates a warm and casual space that is open to all. It is almost as if you’re sitting next to her, listening intently as she regales you with stories of her past and present and gives insights on the issues accompanying all-consuming fame.

To the generations that grew up seeing her as a paragon of beauty and the embodiment of every ideal, Aman’s most discernible feature is her short and perfectly styled silver hair. In a society and industry where women will exhaust every possible means to resist ageing, her grey locks make a statement.

“I was initially reluctant to stop dyeing my hair, and was strongly advised against it. Some well-wishers even said it would negatively impact my work opportunities. It was only once I contemplated upon my own hesitations that I realised I really don’t care to buttress our society’s idolisation of youth,” wrote Aman in a caption to one of her posts, where she is seen lounging at a “friend’s home near Alibag.”

Aman’s other captions are similar—graceful, reflective ruminations of an icon who has spent decades in the public eye and knows how to play to her audience. She’s keeping it real in the success-flaunting hyper-sharing age of Instagram.

“Before beauty and pageants and cinema and becoming ‘the’ Zeenat Aman, I was just a determined school girl who happened to have a photogenic face,” says Aman, against an ad she shot for Taj Mahal tea at 16 years of age. Advertisements like these, and pictures where Aman looks stunning (as always), are spread across Instagram. However, joining the platform has allowed Aman to take control of her narrative and carve it as she wishes; to not have it be subsumed by paparazzi or journalists, which has presumably been the case her entire career.

Aman’s latest post is a masterclass in celebrity behaviour – as she straddles the line between life as a public figure and the right to privacy. Accepting their coexistence, she calls the invasion “a drag for everyone involved that keeps us from approaching new ideas and a higher level of conversation.”

Also read: Zeenat Aman, diva who dared Bollywood conventions on screen but believed in them off it

Carving her space in the sea of sameness

Aman calls herself a “notoriously private person” who has deliberately steered clear of attention. “I have intentionally stayed away from social media. It’s been an informed decision. But I had my fair share of trolling with all these magazines in my time. Every month there would be something really weird to deal with,” she told PTI.

At certain levels, her Instagram account leaves her vulnerable to public scrutiny. She shares anecdotes from her career that would be every greedy interviewer’s dream. The comment section can serve as an open invitation for trolling. But surprisingly, the remarks on Aman’s posts are mostly positive, a far cry from what one generally witnesses on celebrity social media accounts.

Instagram is much like today’s glamour magazines. After all, public perception hinges on how much stars spend on themselves—an often brutal exercise. Despite all their fancy outfits, celebrities are exposed and vulnerable, and their ‘fans’, akin to vultures, are ready to consume whatever is left of them. Aman’s debut, thus, is a testament to what Instagram was supposed to be: An all-inclusive space where people could fearlessly share snippets from their lives.

Aman’s hesitancy was understandable. But all said and done, she is a ray of sunshine on a platform saturated with sameness.

(Edited by Zoya Bhatti)

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