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Heartbreak snuffs out Nafisa - Model hangs herself after wedding is called off

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CHANDRIMA S. BHATTACHARYA Mumbai Published 30.07.04, 12:00 AM

Mumbai, July 30: A broken engagement drove Nafisa Joseph to kill herself.

The former Miss India-cum-television host hung herself from a ceiling fan in her Juhu-Versova Link Road flat last night around nine. She was 26. Her body was cremated this evening.

The post-mortem report said she had committed suicide. “Nafisa died due to hanging and no other reason,” deputy commissioner of police Amitabh Gupta said.

Nafisa was to get married to a Mumbai-based businessman, Gautam Khanduja, next month. But she went into depression after he reportedly called off the marriage.

Khanduja, who was married previously, is said to have broken off the engagement after there was an altercation two days ago over his divorce. Nafisa’s parents wanted to ensure that the divorce papers were in place before the wedding, and the model and her fiance fell out over that.

Last night, she had a heated argument with her mother, Usha, who had flown down from Bangalore to clarify the matter of Khanduja’s divorce.

In a fit of anger, Nafisa is said to have latched the door of her bedroom from outside with Usha and a friend, Poonam, inside, and asked her maid, Durga Bisai, to go out of the flat and wait. Then she closeted herself in another room.

The maid rang the doorbell and then called the watchman, who climbed up to the third-floor flat from outside and got in through the opening for air-conditioning. He opened the door of Nafisa’s bedroom and, in the presence of her mother, friend and neighbours, broke open the door of the room that was closed from within.

They found her hanging from the ceiling fan with a dupatta.

She was still alive, but when they reached Nanavati Hospital in Vile Parle, she was declared dead.

Her father arrived from Bangalore last night.

Nafisa, who started to model at the age of 12, won the Miss India crown in 1997 at 19. The Bangalore girl became a popular veejay on MTV, where she worked till last year. Currently a programme hosted by her, called Style, is on air on STAR World.

Nafisa’s death comes just a year-and-a-half after the suicide of Rakhee Choudhari, the 23-year-old winner of 2002 Gladrags Mega Model, in the city. Rakhee, too, hanged herself in her room. She was said to be suffering from depression due to a thyroid problem and because she was gaining weight.

The modelling and entertainment world, which gathered around Nafisa’s family today, is shocked by the death of a bright, beautiful, promising young woman. “She always appeared to be a level-headed person. And she had everything going for her,” a friend said, sobbing uncontrollably as she waited at Cooper Hospital for the post-mortem report. “Great looks, personality, intelligence, everything — why did she have to kill herself?”

Actor Sanjay Suri — who was with Nafisa’s family till the last rites, along with a large group of others from the fashion fraternity like model and actor Amrita Arora — said he could not believe Nafisa was driven to this.

“I cannot imagine this happening to Nafisa. She was trained by me along with people like Dino Morea, and the whole bunch appeared to be so stable and secure,” said Bangalore-based designer Prasad Bidapa.

But one of her friends said Nafisa was also temperamental and prone to depression. She had not been successful in her personal relationships — she had been in two serious relationships before — and that rankled.

In a world of instant fame that could be followed by instant oblivion, finding emotional and social security, which marriage seems to offer generally, often becomes a necessity.

Designer Rohit Bal said he knew Nafisa very closely and was not in a position to speak about her death.

People who worked with her remember her fondly. “All of us will find it difficult to accept that she is no more. She was well loved at MTV and it is especially tragic when one so bright, talented and capable is unable to realise her dreams…We will always remember Nafisa as a warm, friendly and cheerful person,” said Alex Kuruvilla, managing director, MTV India.

Nafisa looked for love, marriage and security, and till about a month ago, was excitedly discussing her trousseau with her designer, but what she looked for eluded her.

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