She’s in a nothing-left-to-the imagination sheer lacey outfit. Waiters at a club lounge aren’t sure to what to make of us, ushering me with concealed smiles to a French glass-fronted table.
Their glinting eyes convey.. aha whatta dirty old guy. Take a hike fellas.. Keeping my straight-as-an-arrow profile intact, I order our drinks.. she has a lemon tea (boiling hot!), I succumb to my practised poison vodkatini. Attempting to look quite the man of the world, I ask:
Is Jiah Khan your real name?
No, my name’s Nafisa. Jiah’s sexier. I got it from the Angelina movie Gia.. I changed it a bit to sound more exciting as in Ji..aah.
Okay, so how did a London girl get here?
I’m New York-born, brought up in London. Chelsea, you know. I was wild about the Bombay movies. As a kid I’d wear salwaar kameez and drive my teachers mad by speaking in Hindi.
Then I hopped back to New York to study acting at Lee Strasberg. I quit because I got a role here. They said, “Go! You have a life membership at the school anyway.” I was so inspired by Rangeela.
Oof, you’re plugging Ram Gopal Varma.
Seriously. I have a video of me dancing like Urmila (Matondkar) with my two younger sisters.. we have different fathers.. they’re as beautiful as I am, if not more.
Great! Who is your father?
I attach very little importance to my father. He’s an American Indian Muslim. He left my mother when I was just three months old. I know his name – Ali Rizvi Khan – I even know where he lives in New York. He has never bothered to meet me, neither have I. That would have hurt if he had left at an age when I even knew how l.i.f.e is spelt. I don’t have any memory of what he looks like.. but it does bother me that I still have his name on my passport.
You never wanted to meet him in New York?
The thought did cross my mind.. when I was a bit bored..
Is this Mr Ali Rizvi a wealthy man?
He’d better not be. Then I’d really make sure that he gave us maintenance money because he didn’t. Look, all men who desert their daughters should be shot. From what I know, it was with another woman. This irritates the hell out of me.. perhaps if I was a boy it would have been different. I would have missed him, we girls are tougher.
What about your sisters.. your stepfather?
My stepfather deserted us too in London. My sisters were two and four years old, I was seven. He took every penny out of the bank, also our house. We were homeless.
Mum hopped around from house to house.. subsisting on low rents. Before this, she’d hosted lavish parties.. her friends vanished into thin air. We lived on McDonald’s burgers.. which was fun for us kids.. but how long could this go on?
Why don’t you mention your mother’s name?
Rabia Amin. She writes.
Scripts for television in the UK and concepts for BBC.
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Didn’t she act in Tahir Hussain’s Dulha Bikta Hai?
Yes and in Ankush, Locket, Vijay Anand’s Hum Rahe Na Hum and Subhash Ghai’s Meri Jung in a special appearance with Anil Kapoor. She had longer hair than mine and a super sexy voice.
What about the insistent reports that you’re Tahir Hussain’s daughter?
If such sick stories are spread, so be it. Look, my mum was an orphan. She was a Christian girl who came from Agra to Bombay to act. He discovered her when she was in Dehra Dun.
She was then housed with Aamir’s family, Aamir’s mother Zeenat aapa taught her how to conduct herself as an actress and to speak in Urdu. Mum converted to Islam.
Honestly, I’m not related by blood to Tahir Hussain’s family. I’m not his daughter.
Are you in touch with Tahir Hussain?
No. Mum meets Zeenat aapa occasionally.. and that’s it. I’ve never even met Aamir.
Say that again.
I have never met Aamir. I don’t even look like Aamir Khan remotely. All this sounds very complicated. Ha! I cannot imagine how it would have been with a perfect family or a father. If he had dominated me, I would have died of suffocation. Who are these men anyway? Okay, so maybe I’m a bit bitter. Perhaps this happens in India less often. In London, more couples get divorced and live separately. It’s no big deal.
In Bombay, men hit on girls in a devious way, one can’t fathom what’s going on in their minds. In London, they’re straight, they’ll say, “How about going out for a drink?” If you tell them to take a hike, that’s fine.
How come your mum encouraged you to join films here?
She didn’t. I had to prove that I could make it, in any case every profession can be manipulative. I was in Bombay for a holiday.. I just walked into RGV’s office wearing the sexiest hot pants and heels. I was trembling like a leaf.
Can you just walk into a filmmaker’s office?
(Delightedly) You’d be surprised!
Could you walk into the Yashraj office?
(Tongue in chic) I wouldn’t but I could.
You’re avoiding any mention of Tumsa Nahin Dekha.
PLEASE! I was all of 16. Mahesh Bhatt had seen my photographs. I did a screen test, I shot for two weeks in Dubai. It was a struggle, the character was far too mature. (Director) Anurag Basu and Mr Bhatt could see I wanted out.. it would have been a wrong first film.
But hello, I heard there was much hassle over a swimming pool scene.
I had to wear a swimsuit for a song sequence. All kinds of remarks were being passed, I was totally confused.. crying inside while trying to emote. Today, I can handle that – I would slap those guys. An under-age girl couldn’t.
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In Nishabd, it seems you’re extremely aggro..
Nope. I did far more daring stuff in Tumsa Nahin Dekha, 200 per cent.
What if with your wet look, you end up becoming the sex symbol of 2007?
That would be weird. I just want to entertain.. I could even become the Kiss Girl.. have you seen the promo in which I kiss Mr Amitabh Bachchan on the cheek?..that’s so cool.. so sweet and innocent.
Without a doubt. I’ve had loads of crushes though, I was mad about a Chinese boy when I was a kid.. last year there was a student in New York whom I dated, which never went beyond the teenybopper stuff.
What did RGV expect from you?
To be like a kitten..he pushed me always to get the effect he wanted.
Just like Nisha Kothari?
(Pauses) I’m just gonna laugh at what you’ve just said.
Aha, let me come full circle in this interview. Do your mother and you ever meet Tahir Hussain?
Sure on occasions my mum does, like for lunch on Eid.
Could they ever have been in love?
No way. See, today he’s 80, she’s 40.
How would you describe Amitabh Bachchan?
And yet there’s as much of an age difference.
That’s because there’s a difference between cinema and real life. In fact, it’s strange that I’m a girl in love with a man old enough to be my father in my first film. (Looks away) Maybe RGV saw the buried emotion about my father..it’s written on my face for those who can see it.
Jiah what would you say if your real life father said, “I’m sorry for what I did?”
(Pause) I’d be confused. No choices. Then I’d say , “Eff you. You have the nerve to think you’re a man. But dammit there’s no difference between a coward and you.”