12.18.11 3:00 PM ET
Veena Malik, FHM Cover Model, Found Safe After Disappearance
After riling Muslim extremists with a topless cover shoot, Veena Malik gave her fans a fright when she suddenly disappeared. Asra Q. Nomani reports on the strange case.
UPDATE, Dec. 18, 2011: In Urdu and Hindi, languages of India and Pakistan, the word for "drama" is "tamasha." We don't quite call folks "tamasha" queens, but the Veena Malik disappearing "tamasha" is over for at least the moment. Malik's publicity and management team made contact with her Sunday morning, Mumbai-time.
"We made contact with her this morning. She's safe and sound," said her British publicist Nisha Sahdev. "I think she's not very well at th moment. She decided to do it her way without telling anybody. It just happens that she's safe and sound. She's in Mumbai. She's not in Pakistan. She's in India. She just wanted to do her way. The main thing is she's safe and she's being looked after."
Dec. 17, 2011: "The phone number you have called is currently unavailable," says the automated Vodaphone operator's response, answering a call from The Daily Beast to the controversial Pakistani actress Veena Malik's mobile phone in India.
According to reports coming out of Mumbai, India, actress Malik has been missing since Friday morning when she left the set of the Bollywood movie she's currently filming. Of Malik's disappearance, her publicist in Lahore, Sohail Rashid, told The Daily Beast: "Yes it's true dear."
What happened to her is still unclear. What is known is that in recent days, Malik has drawn fire from many fronts of the "ghairat brigade," or "honor brigade," in Pakistan, because of a topless photo spread she did for FHM India, a men's magazine, sporting a tattoo that spells out "ISI," the name of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate.
Over the last year or so, a brigade of pundits, opinion shapers, former military officers, and other talking heads has taken to the airwaves in Pakistan and the blogosphere to defend Pakistan’s honor, or ghairat. While they slam Malik’s sexy photo shoot, calling on her citizenship to be revoked, they blast the U.S. for daring to challenge Pakistan's "sovereignty" by killing al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
A press statement by Malik's British publicist, Nisha Sahdev,reported:
We can confirm that actress/model Veena Malik has been missing for the past 36 hours. She was shooting for a Bollywood movie, Mumbai 125 kilometers, at Film City in Goregaon in northwest Mumbai where Malik left in a car after pack-up Friday morning and has not been reachable since.
‘’We have tried to contact Veena since yesterday morning, this is not like Veena to turn her phone off. We are usually constantly in touch via Blackberry messenger and phone calls. we hope and pray she is safe, I would also like to add this is not a PR hoax, police complaints have been filed from our Mumbai team and we are trying our very best to trace her,’’ said Nisha Sahdev CEO, Sahdev Media, Veena’s UK Publicist.
Veena has been under severe depression and stress for the past few weeks with the FHM and Family issues alongside a very busy work schedule.
We will inform press and media as soon as we know more.
Sahdev told The Daily Beast she last spoke with Malik the Thursday night before she disappeared and typically talks to her half a dozen times a day. "I can assure you nothing has been done for publicity," she said, reached early Sunday morning, Mumbai time. "I'm hoping for the best. Maybe she'll come back rejuvenated and ready for work," she said, noting, however, that Malik typically doesn't even turn off her phone when she is at work. "I don't know where she is."
She said, "It's been a difficult couple of days for us. We've been calling that phone over and over again." It's not clear if Malik had a bodyguard or not.
Veena left after the pack-up yesterday (Friday) morning. In the afternoon, I received an SMS from her where she apologised for not being able to concentrate on the shooting, stating that she was disturbed," the film's director Hemant Madhukar said.
"I called her immediately, but her number was not reachable. I have not been able to get in touch with her since," he added.
Malik's manager Pratik Mehta also confirmed the development. "I have been trying to reach her since yesterday, but have failed. I have approached the officials at Bandra police station and have sought help in finding the whereabouts of Veena."
However, the Bandra police denied they have registered a missing person's complaint for Veena Malik.
A few days ago, Malik said she doesn't expect to reach a lot of people resistant to reform. “I don’t know if they are ready to change. I don’t think they are ready to listen."
Indeed, according to reports, Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistani militant group behind the brutal 2008 rampage attack on Mumbai, has set its sights on her, issuing a statement: "She has made fun of all Muslim women and brought shame to the entire nation. Veena Malik will be dealt with accordingly on her return to Pakistan."
The group's spokesman, Abu Usama, or "father of Usama," added a thinly veiled threat: "Our faithful are prepared to welcome her."
Mahesh Bhatt, an Indian director, warned that the disappearance could amount to a publicity stunt.
Truly, in this case, that would be the best-case scenario.