By Subhash K Jha
Reacting to Jiah Khan’s death, the Big B Amitabh Bachchan says, “I am shocked! Nishabd was her first film with me.I found her very natural and accomplished. This is just no way for a youngster to end her life.”
Why did Jiah Khan have to go so young?
Apparently, a stormy love affair did her in. But she was also very disheartened by the lack of progress in her career.
A producer friend of Jiah’s who wishes to remain unnamed said, “She got the biggest breaks. In her first film she was paired with Bachchan Saab…Which 19 year old with no Bollywood connections gets that privilege? Her second film was with Aamir Khan…And third film with Akshay Kumar. But nothing happened to her career. She was very depressed by the lack of progress and was trying to understand why even Ram Gopal Varma, known to repeatedly work with his discoveries like Antara Mali and Priyanka Kotahri shunned Jiah after the stunning performace in Nishabd.”
According to this friend, Jiah was specially hurt when she was thrown out of Ken Ghosh’s Chance Pe Dance and overnight replaced by Genelia d’Souza.
“She was trying to make sense of her career. I also heard she was in a relationship that wasn’t getting anywhere. I guess she couldn’t take the pressure. Sad, because she was a really warm and friendly girl,” says the producer-friend.
Jiah made a bold and aggressive start with Ram Gopal Varna’s Nishabd where she played a 19-year in love with a 60-year-old man.
That her co-star was the Big B didn’t intimidate this Londoner in Bollywood at all . I remember how she would exchange jokes on the sets with her mighty co-star. She also told me that Mr B was one of the nicest-smelling guys she had ever met.
When the film bombed, Jiah told me she had no regrets at all. “I agree our audiences are still very conservative and Nishabd was a very bold subject. Even in the West Lolita created a huge controversy although they are no strangers to sex and nudity. For me, Nishabd was a challenge because I got to work with Mr. Bachchan and Mr. Varma so early in my career. And to be doing a central role in a film featuring Mr. Bachchan. It made me what I am. So I am grateful,” she said
Jiah shunned networking practices to further her career.
She told me, “Not that I’m a recluse. But at this age, I don’t want to get unnecessarily influenced by the wrong kind of people. Once I’m 30 and achieved what I’ve set out to, I can visit all the night places that I want to.As long as you’re respectful to people who are older and more experienced, there’s no need to try to fit in.”
Jiah came into Bollywood with no one to advice her. She told me once, “Being so young and coming into the industry with no knowledge of how it worked, I picked an unconventional role as my debut. No regrets. I maintained my distance after Nishabd. I waited for the right opportunity. For Ghajini, I did an audition. It was a long process. And if you consider the fact that I started my career with Mr Bachchan as my hero, I got two generations of remarkably talented co-stars in my first two films.”
Jiah felt equally comfortable with all every generation of actors. “I can get along equally well with someone 16 or 60. It’s a gift, I guess. I really think I’m lucky. As for my so-called audacious launch, I was very comfortable with my role in Nishabd. Maybe other people weren’t. It didn’t affect me beyond a point. If they reacted violently against my relationship with Mr Bachchan in Nishabd, then good. Aggressive reaction is far better than indifference”
She was hurt when she was sacked from Ken Ghosh’s film.
Uncharacteristically subdued she had mumbled, “I’m new to all this. I keep to myself and I’ve no idea what people do in this industry. I am here only to work.”
The last I heard from her was when she was in Patna for an event. I invited her home. She promised she would definitely come home the next time.
That was not meant to be.