indian cinema heritage foundation


  • Real Name: Yasmeen Joseph
  • Born: 30 July, 1963 (Meerut, U.P.)
  • Primary Cinema: Hindi
  • Spouse: Dr. Kagyur T Rinpoche Thakur

The light-eyed actress Mandakini is most popularly associated with her performance in the 1985 Raj Kapoor blockbuster directorial, Ram Teri Ganga Maili, for which she also earned a Filmfare Best Actress nomination. The film became controversial on account of two near-nude scenes in which she featured, which not only survived the scissors of the Censor Board but in spite of which the film was also granted a U (Universal) age rating. Later amended to U/A, the film continued to raise eyebrows. While Mandakini went on to star in successful films such as Dance Dance (1987) with Mithun Chakraborty, Kahan Hai Kanoon (1989) with Aditya Pancholi, and Pyaar Karke Dekho (1987) with Govinda, her career did not scale great heights again. Acting in Hindi, Bengali, and even the South Indian film industry, she featured in approximately 48 films in her 17 years long career. She was last seen in the Bengali film Se Amar Prem (2002) and is said to be keen to make a comeback playing a central character in the film or OTT space. 

She was born Yasmeen Joseph on 30 July 1963 in Meerut into an Anglo-Indian family. Keen to pursue a career in films, she was apparently rejected by at least three filmmakers, before she bagged a break in the industry. It was Ranjit Virk, producer of films such as Krodhi (1981) and Mera Faisla (1984) who signed her on for his film Mazloom (1986). However, before the film could release in 1986, she was discovered at age 22 by the ‘Great Showman’ Raj Kapoor. Kapoor launched her in the lead role in his romantic drama Ram Teri Ganga Maili which was released in 1985, opposite his youngest son, Rajiv Kapoor. 

A love story set against the backdrop of moral decadence, social corruption, and political intrigue in the over-populated city of Calcutta, Ram Teri Ganga Maili was one of the highest-grossing films of the 1980s, alongside Kranti (1981) and Maine Pyar Kiya (1989). It won a clutch of Filmfare Awards namely Best Film, Best Art Director – Suresh Sawant, Best Director – Raj Kapoor, Best Editor – Raj Kapoor, and Best Music Director – Ravindra Jain. A certified Diamond Jubilee hit in Bombay, and a Golden Jubilee in other major cities, the film is also included in the 'All-Time Blockbusters' list of Indian cinema.

Mandakini’s fame was tinged with controversy over two scenes, namely one in which she was picturized bathing under a waterfall clad in a transparent white sari, and another in which she was shown to be breastfeeding a child. While some critics claimed that the scenes were vulgar and exploitative, and circumvented the Censor Board's strict rules against nudity, director Raj Kapoor himself claimed that the scenes were necessary and tasteful. It was the last film directed by Raj Kapoor.

Mandakini went on to feature in moderate successes such as Dance Dance, Kahan Hai Kanoon, and Pyaar Karke Dekho but did not again enjoy the high level of success of her debut film. Among the many films she featured in are Aag Aur Shola (1986), Apne Apne (1987), Hawalaat (1987), Commando (1988), Maalamaal (1988), Naag Nagin (1989), and Ladaai (1989). Post1989 she stopped signing films, though the films she previously shot for such as Naya Khoon (1990), Deshwasi (1991), and Pyar Ka Saudagar (1992) continued to release in the new decade. Eventually, her career drew to a close. 

In the early 90s, she was linked with underworld don Dawood Ibrahim; however, she denied reports of any romantic involvement, claiming that while they were on friendly terms and did not know each other personally. 

Later, she made attempts to reinvent herself, releasing two pop music albums – No Vacancy and Shambala. Marrying a former Buddhist monk, Dr. Kagyur T Rinpoche Thakur, she went on to conduct classes in Tibetan yoga and became a follower of the Dalai Lama. She also ran a center for Tibetan medicine, along with her husband. She revealed that she had been initiated into Tibetan yoga years ago when she was seeking solace from the rigors of the film industry. She also revealed that her teacher was her husband, who was deeply into spirituality. Mandakini has a son Rabbil and a daughter Rabze Innaya Mandakini.

In July 2021, news emerged that the actress is planning a comeback and is looking for central characters in films or web series.