Jasmine Dhunna: The Vanishing of a Scream Queen

If you’re a fan of retro B-horror movies, you may have heard of the Ramsay Brothers; a family of innovative filmmakers who pioneered a new wave of Indian horror in the 1980s. Horror films are almost nonexistent in South Asia, but the Ramsay brothers managed to churn out a few sleazy low budget hits that caught the eye of cinephiles all over the world. The most famous of their underrated oeuvre is Veerana/ Deserted Place, a colorful and bizarre 1988 horror extravaganza directed by Shyam and Tulsi Ramsay.

The vibrant colour scheme resembles that of a Mario Bava giallo movie.

While most Bollywood movies are tame, PG-rated and reserved, Veerana tried its best to be as lurid and depraved as possible without getting censored. It’s almost like an Indian version of The Exorcist, but with Hindu mythology instead. Shyam claims he was inspired by his own alleged encounter with a witch on a highway in 1984. Featuring trippy neon lighting and a disco soundtrack by Bappi Lahiri, the film tells the tale of an evil witch named Nakita; who possesses a beautiful young girl, played by stunning and mysterious actress Jasmine Dhunna.

The witch Nakita was a memorable monster; grotesque in appearance, and based off the Indian myth of the Churel (चुड़ैल), a demonically-possessed sorceress who lives in the woods and who can shapeshift into an attractive woman. The special effects the Ramsay Brothers used to portray the Churel were supplied by British prosthetics artist Christopher Tucker, who had worked on Hollywood films such as The Elephant Man, The Company of Wolves, Star Wars: A New Hope and The Boys From Brazil. Although their movies were patently low budget, the Ramsays spared no expense on their chilling FX and masks.

Tfw you don’t moisturize…
Source: rhetthammersmithhorror

Jasmine is probably the most obvious reason for Veerana‘s success. In a country where the population is more interested in 3-hour family-friendly musicals than a quickie slasher gore flick, Jasmine packed the theater seats with her seductive dark-haired good looks and charisma. Although she was just a novice actress, her profile blew up after the film’s release, and Jasmine was hot property. So what happened to her career? Why did she just vanish from the public eye without a trace?

It’s because there is scarier shit out there than Churels, and that’s the Bollywood mafia underworld; a group of rather deranged fellows who run the Bombay film industry from behind the scenes. The irony is that in Veerana, Jasmine plays a powerful succubus who seduces and kills depraved men. The movie is one of the rare female-centric Indian films, and it explored uncharted territory in depicting a hypersexual and violent witch who rebels against traditions. But in real life, Jasmine was the one who fell prey to patriarchal misogyny.

Sarkari Mehman (1979)

Not much is known about Jasmine’s personal life. She starred in two little known movies before the Ramsay Brothers cast her in Veerana, which brought her acclaim and attention. For Indian standards, Jasmine’s role was considered very risqué. Full nudity and kissing aren’t allowed in conservative Bollywood, so directors supplant that with thotty outfits and dance scenes. For her role, Jasmine dressed in black silk nightgowns, bright red swimsuits and dresses, and even appeared in nude in a bathtub music sequence.

The haunting song “Sathi, Mere Sathi” was wildly popular upon its release, and still is even now with 10 mil Youtube views racked up by thirsty Jasmine stans. The supernatural lyrics feature the succubus attempting to seduce her victims with promises of otherworldly love. This tune alone cemented Jasmine’s popularity and perfectly captured her mesmerizing beauty; to the point where people are still obsessed with her to this day, even though she only has three acting credits to her name.

She was on top of the world: a bold new star on the horizon of Indian cinema, unafraid to depict her audacious sexuality in a culture that repressed women. What could go wrong? Sadly, everything. Jasmine caught the eye of some unwanted simps who wouldn’t leave her alone. And they weren’t just your average beta orbiters, but legit criminal underworld dons. It was said that they noticed her resemblance to the tragic 1950s actress Madhubala, often called India’s Marilyn Monroe due to her premature death at age 36.

Madhubala

Jasmine had not anticipated this bullshit. In a bravado-filled interview from 1987, she seemed cocky and full of zeal. Her measurements are described as 36-26-36 and her height 5 ft 5.” After Jasmine starred in her first movie Sarkari Mehman (1979) and it wasn’t a hit, she went back to schooling and worked as a model. When the interviewer alludes to her being a has-been, Jasmine matter-of-factly points out that “I was barely 13 then. I wasn’t fully grown and was pushed into the industry. Today I am 18 and know what’s what in tinsel world.” However the timeline doesn’t add up, so she may have been around the age of 21 at that time or even older.

Jasmine in 1978

Jasmine goes on to state that “if the leading man is able to excite me, I don’t mind kissing him. I’m even willing to shed my clothes if I get a director like Raj Kapoor.” In Veerana, Jasmine canoodles with Tarzan star Hemant Birje, which she probably didn’t mind. The article also mentions her doing a film with Dharmendra, but that never materialized. The vibe one gets from this interview is that Jasmine was a free-spirited, open-minded and ambitious girl who was probably too young to be pushed into acting, but who wanted to shoot her shot regardless.

A blinged out Jasmine seduces Hemant Birje.

Sadly, creeps were lurking. After Veerana was released, Jasmine was bombarded with daily solicitous phone calls from the Indian mafia. There was a Bombay underworld figure who was obsessed with her, and just straight up harassed her for sex. Although she contacted Bombay police and asked them to help, the cops were corrupt and useless. Jasmine was on her own and afraid for her safety. And she wasn’t just being pursued by just any two-bit thug. Infamous drug lord, mob boss and terrorist Dawood Ibrahim was after her!

Not every woman is brave enough to turn down Dawood’s advances. Picured above is him and his mistress Mehwish Hayat, a Pakistani actress 27 years younger than him. Methinks she is being held hostage.

Ibrahim and his violent D-Company gang were very well known in India for their lethal brutality and ready willingness to slaughter their enemies. Despite the fact that Ibrahim is only 5 ft 3″ and looks like a silly Mario Bro, he is guilty of some of the worst crimes in Indian history. Through his wealthy criminal empire, Ibrahim monopolized control of Bollywood by providing funding for movie productions. The industry was under his thumb, and actors, producers, and directors all did what they could to keep the manlet thug happy.

Ibrahim clearly had a “type,” and he was enraged that Jasmine declined his calls.

Jasmine was totally repulsed by the situation. If having a Bollywood career came at the cost of being a mob moll escort, she wasn’t interested. It was incredibly brave of her to reject Ibrahim’s perverted advances, as the deranged man was obviously capable of murder. Jasmine clearly had a sense of integrity. Other actresses, however, didn’t mind sleeping with a bite-sized psychopath to further their career.

Desperate to rescue her flailing career, Mandakini turned into a mob moll.

By 1989, beautiful Anglo-Indian actress Mandakini’s career had gone into a downwards slump. She was in her late 30s, and she wasn’t getting roles. In comes Dawood Ibrahim to save the day! He was thirsty AF for her after seeing her in the 1985 movie Ram Teri Ganga Maili. The pair had an affair after meeting at one of his lavish parties, as Mandakini hoped he could help her land some roles with a bit of blackmail here and there. Unfortunately for her, the association with Ibrahim tarnished her career and ended it for good. Within a year of meeting him, she became box office poison.

After his affair with Mandakini, Ibrahim probably felt completely entitled to Jasmine. Her rejection seems to have infuriated Ibrahim, and Jasmine completely vanished from the public eye to avoid his wrath. Veerana was her first hit, and last ever film. It’s impossible to know exactly what happened to her, or where she is today. There are nothing but strange rumours that are impossible to verify. Apparently no one knows her specific whereabouts except for the Ramsay Brothers, who say she is still alive.

In a 2017 interview, Shyam Ramsay allegedly said that “Jasmine is very much in Mumbai. Her mother had passed away, who she was extremely close to, which really affected her, and she took a backseat and no longer associated herself with the film world. In fact, we shall be making a sequel to Veerana, and then definitely I shall get Jasmine to play as a mother to the new girl who shall be playing Jasmine.” Sadly, he died before that could be possible, and Jasmine did not emerge even for his funeral.

However, according to this article, a purported friend of Jasmine claims that “she did not leave the Indian film industry. People distanced themselves from her because of the lies of underworld connection about her spread by the Ramsay brothers.” The friend says that Jasmine was naively pressured into filming a B-movie that tarnished her reputation. So what the hell is actually going on here?

There are also crazy conspiracies and rumours that Jasmine died a long time ago, perhaps in a car crash, that she was murdered by the mafia, or committed suicide. Some speculate that she fled to New York, and married an American man. There are reports that she settled in a Gulf country, maybe Dubai or Jordan. She is said to keep a low profile and is now married with a family. This is very unusual in Bollywood, as most celebrities are attention whores who try to soak up every bit of the spotlight as they possibly can until they’re dead in a gold plated coffin.

It’s hard to tell truth and myth apart in this case, but whatever scared Jasmine away must’ve been serious. She was beautiful and popular, yet she chose to live a life of privacy and isolation due to sexual harassment from thugs and being exploited by filmmakers. She isn’t even on social media either. This could be due to the fact that Dawood Ibrahim is still alive, and just as feared as ever so hopefully he doesn’t kill me for exposing him.

The perks of being a gangster? You can date way out of your league.

Ibrahim’s insanity skyrocketed after the Jasmine incident. He actually committed his most terrible crimes after accosting her. It was a good thing she followed her gut feeling and dipped out of Bollywood and away from psycho Ibrahim before the real shit went down. He moved onto his next high-profile mistress, Pakistani actress and model Anita Ayoob. She wasn’t a shy or quiet woman either. She was kicked out of Miss Asia Pacific Intl’s beauty pageant for stating that “Muslim women should be allowed to have four spouses, just as Muslim men can take four wives at any one time.” Apparently that’s controversial in Asia, I guess.

Anita Ayoob, femme fatale

In 1995, the small-time, hot-tempered actress was rejected for a role in a film by producer Jawed Siddique, so Ibrahim ordered the man shot dead. Like Mandakini, Anita’s career was soon over for associating with a criminal thug like Ibrahim. The gangster wasn’t afraid to have his enemies killed in broad daylight. Gulshan Kumar was a businessman who owned T-Series, India’s largest record label (best known in the West for its beef with annoying Youtuber PewDiePie). He was shot to death with 16 bullets in 1997 on Ibrahim’s orders, right in front of a temple of Shiva.

But Ibrahim’s most evil deed occurred in 1993. Enraged by sectarian violence against Muslims, he orchestrated the Mumbai bomb blasts along with his D-Company gang. 1,400 people were injured, and 257 people died; making it the worst terrorist attack in the city’s history. Ibrahim still remains on the lam today, and is hiding in Karachi, Pakistan with three fake passports, millions of dollars, and control over a massive criminal empire. He counts the late Osama bin Laden and a variety of other terrorists as his buddy. And yet, Bollywood still cannot stop making terrible movies about him and glorifying him.

After the terrorist attack, Ibrahim’s famous friends came under scrutiny. Mandakini was forced to go into hiding, and Anita Ayoob was accused of being a Pakistani spy. Conspiracy surrounds the entire affair. Luckily for Jasmine, she was far away from all of this bullshit and could not count herself as one of Ibrahim’s former mistresses or associates. Bollywood was a corrupt cesspool that she had narrowly escaped. Rather than join his sick and twisted criminal cult of death and mayhem, Jasmine escaped into a life of anonymity.

Divya Bharti: Dead at only 19. Was she killed by Ibrahim’s henchmen?

Other starlets weren’t as lucky. Divya Bharti was a teenage actress who was super popular and highly paid in the early 90s, but whose life was cut short bizarrely and mysteriously due to probable criminal circumstances. In 1993 (the same year as the Bombay blasts) she supposedly fell to death off of her fifth-floor apartment building balcony. She was dead at only 19-years old; perishing from head injuries and internal bleeding as the ambulance rushed her to the hospital. Mumbai police deemed her demise a suicide, but Divya’s parents objected to this. Why would a beautiful teen actress in the prime of her life kill herself?

Divya and her shady husband. Although he was 26, Sajid looked middle aged.

Divya had been married to Sajid Nadiadwala, a cheap hoodlum of a producer who operates on nepotism and mob links. She had even converted to Islam for him. He was also a buddy of Dawood Ibrahim, and Divya had just discovered his criminal connections and disapproved of them. Some say she threatened to reveal his mob ties, and that Sajid or his unsavory pals took revenge. Divya’s childhood maid Amrita who was present the day of her fall and who was the last person to speak to her died 30 days later of a supposed cardiac arrest. Other witnesses from that day are still too afraid to speak.

With all the carnage he left in his trail, Ibrahim remains the most brutal crime figure in India’s recent memory. Who knew the B-movie schlock and camp of Veerana had such a dark shadow lurking behind it? Jasmine managed to escape the whole nightmare unscathed, and probably watched in horror as she read about all the murders, terrorism, and intrigue that surrounded the industry she had once wanted so desperately to be a part of. Thankfully, Jasmine’s sharp intuition had warned her against getting involved with a psychopathic manlet gangster.

This movie is seriously aesthetically spectacular.

The Ramsay Brothers’ weird and wild brand of horror movies unfortunately never took off in the West, but the directors have a small cult following amongst Indian horror fans. Veerana still remains their most watched movie, and viewers are always captivated by Jasmine’s ghostly and eerie performance as a possessed girl. She brought the role to life with her bold ability to be sexy and scary at the same time. And she managed to avoid getting killed by India’s worst and most ruthless mobster, so that’s pretty impressive too. Jasmine may still be out there somewhere, but she remains a haunting specter forever on the outskirts of a sleazy film industry that tried to exploit her; and thankfully failed to do so.

Maharani Jind Kaur: The Warrior Queen Who Fought Back

Maharani Jind Kaur (1817 – 1863) was the beautiful, courageous and tragic wife of Ranjit Singh, the king of the Sikh Empire. The empire fell apart 10 years after his death and was annexed by the British, although she led many military campaigns fighting the colonization.

She was not militarily experienced, but she was brave and determined to retain Punjab’s sovereignty. After the British East Indian company won the First Anglo-Sikh War, they imprisoned Jind Kaur and took her nine year old son Duleep away from her.

Jind Kaur fiercely campaigned for Duleep’s rights as a regent, but the British Crown refused to recognize that he had any and reneged on the treaty they had made with her. They smeared her publicly as “the Messalina of the Punjab,” demonizing her as a “seductress” because she dared to oppose them. 

Duleep and his mother

Her son Duleep was taken to England and was kept under the watchful eye of the Queen Victoria, and was forced to convert from Sikhism to Christianity. Although the British tried to brainwash Duleep into rejecting his mother and her ideals, he missed her throughout his life and yearned to be re-united with her.

Jind Kaur managed to escape prison and hid out in Nepal, where the British envoys surveilled her as they suspected she still had ambitions to revive the fallen Sikh Empire. After 13 years of separation, the British finally allowed her to meet her son again and she died 2 and a half years later.

Jind Kaur did her best to undo the Anglicization of her son and to educate him about his heritage, and wanted the priceless Kohinoor diamond that the British had stolen from her late husband to be returned to Punjab and for her son to rule his father’s great empire once again. This never happened. The only consolation for Jind Kaur was that she was finally reunited with her son after thirteen years of separation from him.

Duleep had requested the Login family (who had housed him in his youth) to provide his mother a home in England. When Lady Login went to visit Jind Kaur, she described her as being aged by stress and suffering partial blindness, “yet the moment she grew interested and excited in a subject, unexpected gleams and glimpses through the haze of indifference and the torpor of advancing age revealed the shrewd and plotting brain of her, who had once been known as the ‘Messalina of the Punjab’.”

Duleep had also negotiated the return of his mother’s jewels, which made her overjoyed. Lady Login claimed that when she visited Jind Kaur after the jewelry’s return, “she forthwith decorated herself, and her attendants, with an assortment of the most wonderful necklaces and earrings, strings of lovely pearls and emeralds.”

Portrait of the Queen in England wearing her jewels, by George Richmond. The painting was sold in 2009 for £55,200

After a life of sorrow and struggle, Jind Kaur died at age 46 in England. The British government refused to allow Duleep to cremate his mother as per Sikh tradition since it was illegal in England. Her body remained in a Dissenters’ Chapel in a rural cemetery for a year until her son was allowed to returned to India to cremate her.

Unfortunately, none of Jind Kaur’s wishes were fulfilled. The Kohinoor diamond was never returned, Punjab would be ruled by the British until 1947, Duleep was only allowed to visit India in two tightly controlled visits, his body was buried in England with Christian burial rites against his wishes, and their royal bloodline eventually died out, just as the British monarchy hoped it would.

Although depressing, Jind Kaur’s story symbolizes Sikh bravery and she remains an inspirational figure in Punjab’s history and resistance of colonialism. She died with honor, never forgetting once that she was once, and would always be, a warrior queen.