Nafisa "Jiah" Khan, the young Bollywood starlet who allegedly hanged herself in her home on Monday, was buried in Mumbai on Wednesday, after police determined that she ended her life over a troubled romance and the shaky state of her film career.
Only 25 years old, Jiah was buried in the Santa Cruz graveyard of Mumbai. Jiah, who made her debut in 2007 in a film called “Nishabd” with the legendary Amitabh Bachchan and performed with various other top Indian movie actors including Aamir Khan, had not appeared in a film since 2010, the comedy “Housefull.”
She was also believed to be involved in a turbulent relationship with Sooraj Pancholi, son of actors Aditya Pancholi and Zarina Wahab, for almost a year. However, the romance ended when Suraj, a student at an acting institute, apparently found a new love interest, sending Jiah into a depression.
Jiah reportedly killed herself soon after speaking to her ex-lover briefly by telephone. Mumbai police are seeking to question Suraj about her death. "Jiah was said to be very possessive about Suraj. [That] night they exchanged text messages on their cell phones. Suraj also sent her a bouquet, which she did not accept," police spokesman told Press Trust of India.
Jiah's career also troubled her – since she had not worked in films for an extended period of time, she told her mother Razia she considered becoming an interior decorator as an alternative to the precarious world of films. A recent audition in Hyderabad for a new part in a film did not go well, deepening her feeling of failure.
"She was not getting many offers. … She auditioned for a Telugu movie on June 2 but did not land the role. This could have depressed her more," a police officer told Indian media. Indeed, other than a small film she did in the late 1990s as a child, Jiah's entire filmography comprised only three movies.
Film director Ram Gopal Varma, who directed Jiah’s first film, “Nishabd,” tweeted: "I don't know the reason what led to this, but Jiah was very depressed about her career and scared for her future. ... The last time I met her, Jiah told me that everyone around her makes her feel like a failure."
Sonam Kapoor, a fellow actress, tweeted: "Nobody should be in so much pain and a state of such hopelessness. I hope her soul should find some respite in her death.” Psychiatrist Samir Parikh explained to the Daily Mail: "Celebrities have a higher level of amplitude between good and bad work days than regular people.”
Parikh added: "One hit and people are running after you for autographs; four flops and no one notices you. Hopelessness, worthlessness and helplessness therefore get augmented for celebrities. Their mistakes are glorified and personalities routinely degraded because they are always in the limelight."
Indeed, Jiah is only the latest in a long line of suicides among Indian film actresses. In 1996, Vijayalakshmi Vadlapati, a South Indian actress better known as “Silk Smitha,” was found dead in her apartment in Chennai. She had poisoned herself, unable to cope with a flagging career, depression and alcohol dependency.
In 2004, Paveen Babi, one of the most beautiful and popular film stars in Indian history, was found dead in her Mumbai flat. She had apparently starved herself to death and had not eaten during the last three days of her life.
In 1993, Divya Bharti, only 19, reportedly committed suicide after an argument with her husband by jumping out of her fifth-story apartment in Mumbai. (However, the circumstances surrounding her demise remain mysterious and unresolved.)
“In the intensely competitive and increasingly high-earning world of Bollywood, suicides are not unusual,” Miriam Chandy, a filmmaker told the Times of London. "It's a cutthroat business and there is so much competition. There are always a hundred other girls waiting in the wings. A lot of these people live their lives on the edge."