The tragic news of Jiah Khan’s suicide shocked Bollywood yesterday. Reports spread quickly after her the 25-year-old star’s mother found her body in her Mumbai apartment. The public response was understandably one of dismay.
Amitabh Bachchan, who costarred with Khan in Nishabd, tweeted: “WHAT …!!! Jiah Khan? What has happened? Is this correct? Unbelievable!!!”
“Never ever seen a debutant actress with more spunk and more spirit than Jiah when I was directing her in Nishabd,” tweeted filmmaker Ram Gopal, who acknowledged that Khan was depressed about her future prospects.
According to police, Khan was heartbroken after her relationship reportedly failed with Suraj Pancholi, the son of actors Aditya Pancholi and Zarina Wahab. Suraj was the last person Khan spoke to on Monday night. Khan’s mother told police that her daughter had auditioned for a film in Hyderabad on Sunday night, but felt down about the outcome of the audition.
Khan, born Nafisa Khan in New York, grew up in London. After moving to Mumbai to launch her Bollywood career, her breakout role came in 2007 when she costarred with Bachchan in Nishabd (translated: Silence), a controversial take on Vladimir Nabokov’s novel Lolita.
The film, which ruffled feathers in India, explores the consequences of a relationship that forms between Khan – who played a spirited teenager – and Bachchan, who plays her best friend’s father. “It was quite a controversial subject in a country which is still closed on sex and relationships,” Khan said of the film.
Her other film credits included the 2008 psychological thriller Ghajini, a Hindi remake of the original Tamil version of the same film which costarred Aamir Khan, and the 2010 comedy Housefull. She was also a versatile dancer, trained in opera, campaigned for PETA, modeled for Wrangler jeans and represented the Taj hotel group. But her main passion was acting.
But controversy did not define her reputation in the world of Indian cinema. The description, “once Bollywood’s brightest young thing”, is apt. More than anything, her vitality and spirit won over those she worked with, who unanimously felt that she went too soon.
"RIP Nafisa (Jiah) Khan,” tweeted Bollywood star Dia Mirza. “You were too young and beautiful…"