When Jiah Khan made her Bollywood debut, aged 18, the stars seemed her destiny. Her first co-star was no less a person than Amitabh Bachchan, in the controversial Nishabd, directed by Ram Gopal Varma. But after making a splash with her first film, Jiah Khan faded away by degrees. She died in her Mumbai home on June 3, reportedly having committed suicide. She was 25.
Jiah Khan, real name Nafisa, was born in London on February 20, 1988. Her mother, Rabiya Amin, was a little-known actress in 1980s Bollywood, best remembered for appearing in Tahir Hussain's Dulha Bikta Nahin. Young Nafisa studied film and literature in London and then moved to New York to attend the famed Lee Strasberg Academy of Dramatic Arts. She quit her acting course after landing a Bollywood role.
Now called Jiah Khan, her first film was meant to be Mahesh Bhatt's Tumsa Nahin Dekha (2004). Then just 16, Jiah backed out of the role of a strip dancer, feeling it was too mature for her, and was replaced by Dia Mirza. She was then cast in Ram Gopal Varma's Nishabd which released in 2007. The Lolita-esque story was reportedly inspired by both Kevin Spacey film American Beauty and Rajesh Khanna's Anokha Rishta. The no-holds-barred Nishabd starred Jiah as a seductive teen who falls in love with her best friend's father, played by Amitabh Bachchan. The film shocked critics and cine-goers with its provocative content but Jiah herself was widely praised for her confidence, screen presence and appeal. She was nominated for a Filmfare Best Debut award and became known as Bollywood's next big thing.
However, the roles were few and far between. Her next film was the superhit Ghajini (2008), starring Aamir Khan and Asin. Jiah played medical student Sunita who investigates and then befriends a mysterious businessman with amnesia. Jiah's third film was 2010 blockbuster Housefull, in which she played the third female lead with Deepika Padukone and Lara Dutta.
Jiah was also cast opposite Shahid Kapoor in Chance Pe Dance and shot a large portion of the film before being replaced by Genelia D'Souza. However, she was signed for a two-film deal by UTV Motion Pictures and a three-film deal by Ghajini producer Madhu Mantena. She had also signed a Hollywood film, according to her website.
Jiah had lately changed her name back to Nafisa Khan and lived in Mumbai with her mother Rabiya. She was a committed PETA campaigner and helped get glass-coated 'manja' banned during kite-flying festivals. Jiah had also recorded six pop songs and sang playback for the song Take Lite from Nishabd. She described herself on her Twitter feed as "actor, poet, singer, musician and dreamer" and spoke of seeing "life through my rose coloured glasses."