1. Who Was Jiah Khan?
Jiah Khan was born as Nafisa Rizvi Khan on 20 February 1988 in New York City to Muslim parents Rabiya Amin (a Bollywood actress in the 1980s) and Ali Rizvi Khan, an Indian-American businessman. She was, however, raised in London, with her two younger sisters, Karishma and Kavita; her father deserted the family when she was only two years old. She completed her higher education in the United Kingdom before moving to Mumbai to pursue her acting dreams, inspired at the age of six by Urmila Matondkar’s performance in Ram Gopal Varma’s Rangeela.
She formally studied film and theatre in Manhattan, New York, but quit when her first movie offer presented itself.
Jiah changed her name before making her film debut in Ram Gopal Varma’s Nishabd in 2007, where she acted opposite megastar Amitabh Bachchan, as a free-spirited 18-year-old who falls for a 60-year-old man. When it released in 2007, the film garnered mixed reviews but Jiah was singled out for her sex appeal and confidence. She was even nominated for the Filmfare Best Debutant Award for her performance in the movie.
The following year, she acted alongside Aamir Khan in AR Murugadoss's Ghajini, the Hindi remake of the director's own Tamil namesake film, and in 2010, she starred as a supporting actor in Sajid Khan's multi-starrer comedy film Housefull. This was her last film. By then, she had entered Bollywood’s ‘100 Crore Club’ with top-grossing films like Ghajini and Housefull.
In 2012, she changed her name back to Nafisa Khan but had already made her mark as Jiah Khan in the public eye.
Jiah’s promising life and career came to an abrupt end on 3 June 2013; she was only 25 years old. That evening, she had planned to spend time alone at her home in Juhu, Mumbai. Her youngest sister, Kavita, was to arrive later that night at 3 am from London and Jiah wanted to receive her. According to a report, the two sisters were texting continuously before Kavita had to board the flight and turn her phone off.
Rabiya Khan, Jiah’s mother who had moved from London very recently to come live with her daughter, left the latter alone at around 9 pm that night to have dinner with friends. At 9:37 pm, she spoke to Jiah. “I said the typical mummy-ish things about how she mustn’t forget to eat. She needed to gain weight for a film role. We laughed about how she could have any food she wanted. She sounded relaxed and happy”, claims Rabiya.
Less than two hours later, Rabiya returned home to find her daughter dead; her body was still warm. She tried to support Jiah’s weight by lifting her ankles, but it was too late. When Kavita finally landed in Mumbai, her phone wouldn’t stop ringing. She finally heard a voicemail from a friend offering her condolences and then “everything around [her] went black”.