Patcy N in Mumbai
Jiah Khan, who ended her life by hanging herself in her Juhu flat on June 3, was all of 19 when she made her acting debut in Ram Gopal Varma's Nishabd in 2007.
Cast opposite the legend Amitabh Bachchan in her very first film, the then 19-year-old English literature graduate made the industry sit up and take notice of her confidence and raw sex appeal.
In a candid conversation with Patcy N around the time her debut film was up for release, Jiah Khan gave us a peek into her life.
This is Jiah's story, in her own words:
"I was born in New York but when I was two years old we shifted to London. My parents were divorced when I was a little child. I never asked my mom anything about my dad because I felt it might hurt her. My mother Rabia Amin has acted in about five movies like Meri Jung and Locket. Now she is a producer and a writer.
I always loved India. I have been coming to India for holidays since I was three years old. I think I am still very Indian, though I live in London. I watch a lot of Hindi movies.
I have two sisters. They are more into Hollywood movies. My mom divides her time between us -- they are studying in London and I am working in India.
I chose acting because films take people away from their own life and problems and give them happiness in a fantasy world. Acting doesn't take problems away, but what you can't do in real life you can do it on celluloid. That's what fascinates me. I like watching movies, irrespective of genre.
'I wanted to be a professional actress ever since I was 13 years old'
After graduation, I joined a one-year acting course. When I went to New York for the course, it was the first time I stayed alone. It was a learning experience for me. In London, you are exposed to all types of things at a very small age -- be it drugs, sex or alcohol. If you don't have a firm head on your shoulders you will ruin your life.
I never went through any of these things; I had my Indian mother to guard me.
London is good for partying, going crazy and no one knowing about it; New York is good for taking you back to reality; India is good for working and being a good girl.
I watched Rangeela when I was six years old, and fell in love with it. I have been dancing to Rangeela's songs ever since. I have a lot of respect for Ramu (Ram Gopal Varma) I am very grateful to him. Working with him was an enlightening experience. He is not at all strict. He is so chilled out!
I have been acting since I was five years old. I have done commercials for UNICEF.
I wanted to be a professional actress ever since I was 13 years old. I wanted to give up my studies. My mom wanted me to do my masters and get into a nine-to-five job. We used to argue over this. I finally convinced her when I was 16.
Now I feel she was right all the time.
'Men have tried to hit on me even when I was much younger'
I don't think acting is easy -- especially if you are playing a role completely different from what you are in real life. It is also difficult to get out of a character.
I got my first assignment in India when I was in school and had come here for holidays. Mahesh Bhatt knows my mother so he had come over to our house. He saw my photographs and he cast me in his movie Tumsa Nahin Dekha -- which later Dia Mirza did. I shot for two weeks. I remember one swimsuit scene that I shot for. I was totally upset that people were staring at me.
Now, when I think back on why the project didn't work out, I feel I was not mature enough. I was just 16. And the role he gave me was quite serious.
I think it is harder for women in every profession. If you are attractive and you work in a hospital, even there people would try to take advantage of you. Men have tried to hit on me even when I was much younger. You should just know how to handle it.
'I did not believe that Amitabh Bachchan would do take up the controversial role'
How Nishabd happened
Six months into my acting course, I got the Nishabd offer. I could have tried in Hollywood, but I always wanted to do Bollywood films.
I went to Ramu because I admire him a lot as a director. I met him as a fan. He asked me whether I am an actress and I said I am aspiring to be one. After a few weeks, I got a call from his office. I met him again and he told me about the role. He also said he was considering Mr (Amitabh) Bachchan to play the main lead.
I did not believe that he (Bachchan) would do take up the controversial role. But things happened just too fast! Ramu spoke to me in May and we started shooting a month after that.
Nishabd is the intense love story of an older man and a younger girl. It is loosely based on Lolita. There are no sexual scenes in the movie. It is about a man who is stuck in his routine and when a fresh and fun-loving girl comes to his life, he is totally blown away by her.
The character I play is of a high school girl. She is very similar to me. She is carefree. She is sensual without realising it.
We shot the film in 23 days. Ramu is such an intelligent director that he had everything in his head and things materialised very fast.
When I would finish shooting and come back to my hotel room, I would always wish I could shoot two more hours.
I was very sick during the shootings -- I had high fever and was even admitted to a hospital. But even when I was on the drip, I was raring to go back and shoot.
'When I first met Amitabh Bachchan I didn't know what to do!'
Meeting Big B
When I first met Amitabh Bachchan I didn't know what to do! I didn't know whether to cry or laugh! I was shaking, sweating and feeling really unattractive.
But he made me comfortable. He can talk on any subject as he is so exposed to the world. He has so much knowledge and he is so intelligent -- that blows me away!
When you see him dancing on the screen you can never imagine that this guy can talk to you about anything. That, for me, is sexy.
I don't usually laugh at jokes. I don't understand half the jokes that people crack (laughs). Even if I watch a comedy film and my sisters are laughing, I am quiet most of the time. But Mr Bachchan made me laugh.
I used to say to every guy I dated that I would become his slave if he made me laugh. Only Mr Bachchan has been able to do that!
He helped me a lot as this is an emotional love story and there are quite a few emotional scenes. He had lots of patience and that too with a newcomer like me.
He showed me how to deliver the lines and how to do a scene with a lot more impact. I learnt more from Mr Bachchan than my acting school. But I will not share his acting tips with anybody because they are for me and me only!
I find it amazing when people write -- 'Amitabh Bachchan romances 19-year-old Jiah.' It is so wonderful!
'I had the biggest crush on Shah Rukh Khan!'
I haven't spoken to any producer or director yet. I am keeping a low profile as I am waiting for Nishabd to release.
I would love to work with Mani Ratnam, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Subhash Ghai and Rakesh Roshan.
I would love to act with Abhishek Bachchan, Saif Ali Khan -- I like him because he plays the guitar and I find men who have hobbies like that very sexy -- Salman Khan.
And of course I had the biggest crush on Shah Rukh Khan! He is becoming sexier as he is growing older.
I am waiting to see Don. I want him to play serious roles.