Nafisa Rizvi Khan (also known as Jiah Khan, 20 February 1988 – 3 June 2013) was a British American actress, model and singer who appeared in Hindi films. She made her film debut in the 2007 Ram Gopal Verma film Nishabd for which she was nominated for Filmfare Award for Best Female Debut. She was later noted for portraying a modern, independent woman in Ghajini which was the highest-grossing Bollywood film of 2008. Her performance in the latter earned her significant acclaim. She last appeared in Sajid Khan’s romantic comedy Housefull, which was the fifth highest-grossing Bollywood film of 2010. Khan had catapulted herself into the Bollywood 100 Crore Club with Ghajini and Housefull.
On 3 June 2013, she was found dead in her flat in the Sagar Sangeet building in Juhu, Mumbai after apparently hanging herself.
Khan was born into a Muslim family in New York City. She was the daughter of Ali Rizvi Khan, an Indian American and Rabiya Amin, a Hindi film actress in the 1980s from Agra, Uttar Pradesh. Khan grew up in London where she completed her Edexcel O and A Level with five As, before moving to Mumbai to pursue a career in Bollywood. She has two sisters Kavita and Karishma. She was inspired to enter Bollywood after watching Ram Gopal Verma’s former protege Urmila Matondkar’s movie Rangeela at the age of six.
Khan studied at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in Manhattan, though she quit upon receiving a movie offer. She learnt the dance forms of salsa, belly dancing, kathak, lambada, jazz, samba and reggae.
In 2004, at the age of 16, Khan was signed to act in Mukesh Bhatt’s Tumsa Nahin Dekha but backed out when both she and the director felt the role was too mature for her; she was immediately replaced by Dia Mirza. Two years later, in 2007, at the age of 18, Khan made her debut in Ram Gopal Verma’s controversial romantic thriller Nishabd, as Jiah, where she acted opposite Amitabh Bachchan. Despite the provocative content in the film, it performed poorly at the box office, and earned mixed reviews from critics. Nonetheless, Khan received a mostly positive reception for her performance, with critics noting her confidence, attitude, and sex appeal. Raja Sen praised her portrayal of Jia, a seductive, free-spirited teenager, calling her performance “nuanced” and “impressive”. Taran Adarsh agrees, saying that “Newcomer Jiah Khan is supremely confident. Loaded with attitude and sex appeal, the newcomer carries off her part with flourish. Her scenes with Bachchan are superb!” Rajeev Masand adds that she is “perfectly cast” for the film. She was also nominated for a Filmfare Best Female Debut Award, however lost to Deepika Padukone.
The following year, she appeared alongside Aamir Khan and Asin in A.R. Murugadoss’s psychological thriller Ghajini, the Hindi remake of its namesake. She played Sunita, a medical student who investigates the history of Sanjay Singhania, portrayed by Aamir Khan. The film gathered much appreciation from critics, and went on to become the highest grossing Bollywood film of 2008, as well as earn the all-time blockbuster status. Khan’s performance attracted mixed reviews, with critics agreeing that her role was “sketchy”. Despite this, Sukanya Verma compliments her performance, commenting that Khan “continues to strike as an exquisite and expressive actress.”
Khan made her last film appearance in a supporting role as Devika K. Samtani, the ex-wife of Akshay Kumar’s character, in Sajid Khan’s Housefull also alongside Riteish Deshmukh, Deepika Padukone and Lara Dutta in 2010. Housefull was the second time she appeared in the highest grossing Bollywood film of the year.
In the months before her death, she had signed three South Indian films and one Hindi film Aap Ka Saaya (Hindi version of Tamil film Yaaradi Nee Mohini).