The “inspiration” for VEERANA (a.k.a. LONELINESS; 1985) was reportedly Jose Larraz’s 1974 erotic vampire fest VAMPYRES, although the film also lifts from THE EXORCIST and SUSPIRIA. The Bombay-based Ramsay family (including directors Tulsi and Shyam, producers Kanta and Anjali, screenwriter Kumar, sound recordist Kiran and cinematographer Gangu, all working under the auspices of the family patriarch F.U. Ramsay) had already scored a huge success with the enormously influential PURANA MANDIR the previous year.
Indian horror films are subject to strict censorship, and for VEERANA the Ramsays elected to amplify the sex quotient to compete with Western horror fare. The resulting film was rejected by Bombay censors, and had to wait until 1988 before it was finally released in a reedited version (during the intervening years the ever-prolific Ramsays cranked out four more films). I’m assuming it’s this version that’s now available on VCD/DVD in India and in the US by Mondo Macabro (and thus the subject of this review).
A pretty young woman named Jasmin lives in a castle owned by the wealthy head of a lumber company. One night Jasmin is drawn into a dark underground chamber where a sinister warlock presides over a group of freaky mask-wearing cultists. The object of their worship is the corpse of a hanged witch, whose spirit seeks to resurrect itself by possessing Jasmin.
When Jasmin returns to the family castle she finds she has a split personality: when she looks into a mirror a snaggle-toothed demon stares back. She also develops psychic powers, which she demonstrates by telepathically smashing a fish tank.
Around this time a scruffy man comes to stay at the castle. The man immediately notices that something’s wrong with our seemingly sweet and innocent heroine when he spies her performing an erotic musical number in the bathtub. He’s right to be alarmed!
The following day Jasmin comes on to a randy gas station attendant. He ends up following her to a lake where she strips down, and then back to the castle. There the two have sex, after which she turns into the ugly demon seen in the mirror and stabs the guy to death.
The following night another horny dude picks Jasmin up. This guy’s a motorist who passes her on a lonely highway; she doesn’t wait around this time, offing him right there in his own car!
By now Jasmin’s family is growing concerned. Her sister spots her in demon mode and gets freaked out. A hypnotist is called in to attend to her, only to have her swear at him in an EXORCIST-like demon voice and telepathically make him crash his car.
Let’s not forget the scruffy man staying in the castle, who has long-held suspicions about Jasmin. He ends up tied to a log in Jasmin’s father’s factory and sawed up. It’s clear that something needs to be done—a raid upon the cavern where all the trouble began is clearly in order, with a magic trident in tow!
While this film is trashy and derivative in the manner of most Bollywood horror films, directors Tulsi and Shyam Ramsay lavished an unusual amount of care upon it. VEERANA has a bold Mario Bava inspired color scheme that’s compelling and eye-pleasing, and above-average special effects.
Excess is a prime ingredient of Bollywood cinema, horror or otherwise, and VEERANA is nothing if not excessive. The wild climax is particularly over-the-top with its non-stop cavalcade of martial arts, fire, exploding heads and an extremely active statue of the Goddess Kali.
I’ll have to say, though, that Mid-eighties Bollywood standards of beauty were evidently quite different than those of today. This explains why the protagonist’s “seductive” behavior never seemed all that alluring. Still, the erotic content was unprecedented for the time, and helps make VEERANA the standout effort it is.
As for the song and dance numbers, they did little for me, but at least the Ramsays made an effort to integrate them into the main body of the film. The result is a grade-A Bollywood blast that will never displace THE EXORCIST or the original TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE in anyone’s mind, but which taken on its own terms is a small classic.
Sai Om Productions
Directors: Tulsi Ramsay, Shyam Ramsay
Producers: Kanta Ramsay, Anjali Ramsay
Screenplay: Shyam Ramsay
Cinematography: Gangu Ramsay
Editing: Shyam Ramsay
Cast: Jasmin, Hement Birje, Sahila Chaddha, Kubhushan Kharbanda, Satish Shah, Rajesh Vivek, Kamal Roy, Vijayendra Ghatge, Gulshan Grover, Rama Vij