Night of Abuse: What Zeenat suffered at Sanjay Khan’s hands

Zeenat’s physical agony revisited

When affairs end, it can often get messy. But nothing compares to the horrific trauma Bollywood’s then leading sensation, Zeenat Aman suffered at the hands of her lover, Sanjay Khan.

Sparks had flown between the two and it was during the Jaisalmer schedule of their film, Abdullah in 1978 that their relationship was at its zenith. It was on this outdoor schedule that the good looking Sanjay, a married man and a father of three, allegedly legally married the classy, beautiful Aman, in a private ceremony in the presence of two witnesses at their Rajasthan hotel. “I was very naive and vulnerable at that time. It was a few weeks of madness, that’s it,” was how the actress described this period, although she never did open up about the horrors that later followed.

Despite the legality of their bond, it was never acknowledged by Khan, who always denied his second marriage. Zeenat herself only admitted it in an interview much later. However, news had spread and the gossip columns were full of stories about their secret wedding. Facing increasing pressure from his family and with growing media scrutiny, the couple apparently decided to go their separate ways the following year.

However, it was far from a clean cut. The still possessive Sanjay would apparently call Zeenat up every time he heard of her being involved with an actor or industrialist. In 1980, when she was away shooting in the nearby hill station of Lonavala, she received a call from Khan again, demanding that she return to Mumbai for the re-shoot of a song in the film Abdullah. She informed him that she had already assigned her dates to another filmmaker; he accused her of being sexually involved with them. She nevertheless attempted to meet Khan to discuss the issue further. Back in Bombay, on learning that he was not home but attending a party at the Taj, she reached the five-star hotel. It was a bad decision…

Word goes that Sanjay was already in an inebriated state, and seeing her turn up at the party, left him enraged. He dragged her to another room, where he subjected her to a verbal lashing, accusing her of having multiple affairs. Before she could even respond, the violence turned physical. He struck her, she fell. He yanked her up by her hair and continued to thrash her every time she fell. At this point, Sanjay’s wife Zarine Khan entered the room, and allegedly goaded her husband on, shouting, “Give the bitch what she deserves!” It is said that she started physically attacking Zeenat as well.

Even as Zeenat’s pitiful screams rent the air, every guest at that august gathering stayed criminally silent. Eventually, it was a steward who came to Zeenat’s rescue. Her face a bloody pulp, she was rushed to hospital with grievous injuries. Eight days of medical attention helped her partially recover from the battering, though the scar left on her eye had damaged her vision permanently. The less said about the emotional scars the better…

It later emerged, that while this had been Sanjay’s most brutal assault, he had battered her in the past as well. Her doctor had revealed, “This is not the first time this man has beaten her. Once before she was given a black eye and been kicked in the ribs so hard that I insisted on an X-Ray for fear of a crack.”

And in the name of ‘love’, she chose not to report her abusive husband to the police. When her well-wishers had earlier warned her about Khan, Zeenat had defended, “I love this man. Don’t you understand? I will back his every move and I will make him a king one day.”