I was sitting with a friend of mine at my home when, at around 1.30 am, I got a call about Jiah's suicide. In shock and hoping that it might be a rumour, I made a few calls to confirm the information. When I realised it's true, I just sat there, numb, thinking of what could have caused that beautiful young girl to so abruptly kill herself?
Relationship problems or career frustration or a combination of both? Knowing her the way I do, I think it's more of frustration that brought her to that tipping point.
With tears in my eyes, I started reliving the various memories I had of her.
The first time I saw Jiah was when she came to my office and I was really struck by her unconventional looks. She didn't look like a typical wannabe. There was something really special about her. Later on, I happened to meet Amitji and in the course of our conversation, I had an idea - to make a film on an elderly man falling for a younger girl. When Amitji and I were discussing who the girl should be, I suddenly thought of Jiah and said that I have the perfect cast. Her name is Jiah and she just has to play herself.
Real-life Jiah was pretty much exactly like her character in Nishabd. Throughout the making of the film, the whole unit was enamoured with her. We all could see a cute and beautiful bird waiting to take off into the dreamy world of Bollywood. Everyone, including me, believed that she would be the next big thing. I remember her mother hugging Jiah and weeping with joy after the first trial of Nishabd. She was thrilled when she signed Ghajini, but later on went into a shock that no good offers came to her despite of its tremendous success. When she came to me, I said I was not able to see her fit in any of the films I was working on and asked her to wait. So, after waiting and waiting, except for a guest appearance in Housefull 2, nothing else happened in her six-year-long career, which was strange. But then, Bollywood operates in a strange manner.
So, for a girl who loves to be in front of the camera and who wanted nothing else in her life, to have just done one film, a second lead and then a guest appearance in the course of six long years, was obviously killing. I could imagine her mental state when she kept seeing newer and younger girls streaming in every day while she was just waiting, doing nothing.
The last time she came to meet me was about a month ago and she said she keeps looking into the mirror, trying to understand what's so wrong with her face that nobody wants to cast her. I started explaining to her that's not how things work and she should have patience. But I myself realised how foolish I must be sounding to a girl who has been waiting and waiting and doing nothing for six long years.
Not knowing what else to say and since I was busy, I told her that I will talk to her later. That was the last time I saw her.
A young, 18-year-old Jiah came into the city of opportunity with her eyes full of dreams and I and some others made her believe that her dreams will become reality and she will become big. Our intention of saying that was part belief and in part to give her confidence. But at an impressionable young age, she took the words of senior persons in the industry for granted. And then, when it didn't happen and reality hit her like a sledgehammer and only when she was falling off the cliff of her dreams, did she realise that there isn't going to be anyone coming to her rescue, including me.
Whether it would have helped or not, I so wish I had spent more time with her that day. I wish I had gone out of my way to instill in her a hope for the future with the same vigour and enthusiasm as in the beginning when I made her believe that her dream will become a reality.
Today, I cry not because she killed herself, but for the disappointments, the hurt and the trauma she would have suffered - caused by me and many others for such a long time before she decided on this final solution.
Wherever you are Jiah, please consider this writing as an apology for my part in causing you such distress. I so wish I could have explained to you that there was nothing wrong with you except for bad time and destiny, which more or less controls all of us.
I want to say sorry for being the first of many people who have psyched you to dream big. In our defence, we truly believed in you and will continue to feel this way even now after you are gone.