I met Jiah Khan a few years back when I had gone to interview her and Deepika Padukone for an assignment. They had come to Delhi for an event. I distinctly remember one moment from that encounter which has stayed with me since then – because that moment was a lesson in life itself.
Both Jiah and Deepika entered the venue together. The mediapersons present there rushed to Jiah and jostled and pushed each other to get sound bytes and reaction from the actress whose film ‘Nishabd’ had just got released. After all she had made her debut opposite mega star and legend Amitabh Bachchan. How many people in the film industry get a break like that? Everyone wanted to know what it was like working with the Big B.
Meanwhile, Deepika was standing in a corner and was not really being paid much attention. She too was about to have a dream debut opposite the ruling star of the day, Shah Rukh Khan. But her film ‘Om Shanti Om’ was in progress and was yet to be completed and released. So at that time, she was really not a star and an actress of the big league that she is today. But who knew that soon it would be Deepika whom people would flock to, with Jiah slowly being erased from consciousness and mindscape.
As years went by, Jiah just managed a few films here and there in Bollywood and had been off the radar for almost three years now. Her film career was not going anywhere and in all likelihood it didn’t look like it could be revived. Meanwhile, after the release of her film ‘Om Shanti Om’ Deepika catapulted into a different orbit. Even though she is not exactly in the league of Katrina Kaif and Priyanka Chopra, she is definitely in the top league of actors working with big stars and big banners. On the contrary, Jiah kept slipping into oblivion.
How times change and how things change. Wish one could also gaze into the crystal ball and know as to what would happen to our dreams that we nurture so painstakingly since childhood.
The moment I heard Jiah Khan had committed suicide in her Juhu home in Mumbai by hanging herself on June 04, 2013, probably depressed on encountering failure on all fronts – professional and personal - my encounter with her kept coming back to me. I had witnessed people flocking to her and wanting to get her attention. She was on a high at that point of time – a teenager with stars in her eyes, working with one of the biggest names in Bollywood and probably harbouring the dream in her heart that she would make it big one day. But then the harsh truth was that all the attention she was getting was just momentary and would soon fade away.
There are some other small things that I remember from my meeting with her. The moment I set my eyes on her, two things crossed my mind. First, I found her extremely thin, in fact underweight (though she didn’t appear in the movies as such) and second, I was taken in by her hair. She had long, lustrous hair. I remember asking her if she did anything in particular to take care of them. She told me that she had been bestowed with naturally good hair; it was in her genes and she really did not fuss over it much.
Ironically, the women who had changed her name to Jiah at the age of 16 when she entered Bollywood decided to end her life at 25, just when she had changed her name back to Nafisa Khan, a name that her parents had given her.
Dreams may not always come true and one’s innate talent may also not always be in tune with what we want to achieve in life. However, it’s also a fact that reality check is not something that one is able to do with rationality at all time. How many of us can accept the failures that we encounter and how many of us have the inner strength and courage to take life head on. For Jiah, life probably had become too unbearable to live. But then, at the age of 25, she was too young to die too - an age when people are starting their lives.
Yes, it’s bitter but true - life can be unpredictable and stardom can be slippery.