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‘Nafisa was simply unlucky in love'

Namrata Sharma Zakaria

Posted: Jul 31, 2004 at 1153 hrs IST

Mumbai, and the rest of the country, is reeling in shock at the death of model and TV hostess Nafisa Joseph. Yes, she was young and beautiful and is gone too soon. But the real tragedy lies in the fact that Nafisa, unlike most suicide cases, wasn’t a ‘‘loser’’. She was simply unlucky in love.

Nafisa was a Bangalore girl who moved to Mumbai for its arclights. And sure enough, she shone through them. In her hometown, she went to the reputed Bishop Cotton School and was even school captain. At yet another reputed institution, St Joseph’s College, she proved to be bright and talented too.

A tall, lithe and strikingly beautiful girl, it came as no surprise when she started working with one of the country’s top model makers, Bangalore-based choreographer Prasad Bidapa, as early as 14 years old. She did several shows with Bidapa, and until she took her life on Thursday, she had maintained a friendship with him.

In 1997, Nafisa took part in the Miss India contest and won. In the first round itself, she was a clear favourite. Her poise and personality had the makings of a winner. And even though she didn’t win the Miss Universe pageant, she had a successful inning waiting for her at home.

Among several modelling assignments and ramp shows, Nafisa became one of the most popular veejays on MTV. Her most loved show was Housefull, a film-based show. She worked with the music channel for several years and quit it only last year. Although she never acted in Hindi films, she did make news with a serial called Cats, loosely based on Charlie’s Angels. The show wasn’t a success, and the only publicity it generated was due to Nafisa. But modelling and compering kept her in good stead. She travelled to Dubai, Singapore, Nairobi and the USA hosting live shows.

Nafisa had also starting anchoring a primetime lifestyle show on Star World, called Style, only last year.

While her career always had momentum, her love life was always in the doldrums. She was first engaged to model Sameer Malhotra, just after she had won the Miss India contest. At the time, he was a lesser known model and the couple didn’t make it to the society pages. But her next romance, and betrothal, was model and actor Samir Soni. Soni was once married to model Rajyalaxmi Khanvilkar (now Mrs Rahul Roy). Nafisa and Soni were engaged for almost two years of their three-year romance. They were photographed in several society pages, and even posed on the cover of Society magazine’s Valentine’s Day issue.

They split two years ago, and almost immediately, Nafisa began dating actor Rahul Bose. Again, a celebrated relationship, but it lasted only a few months. ‘‘She was a beautiful and intelligent girl, I can’t imagine why she would do this,’’ says Bose.

When Bose left her, Nafisa found love quickly in automobile parts businessman Gautam Kanduja. Like Soni, he was once married too. But apparently, there was something awry in his divorce papers. A few nights before her death, Nafisa and Gautam had a squabble over the legalities of his divorce that led him to call off their wedding just two weeks before the scheduled date. Nafisa’s visibly upset mother, Usha, has blamed her fiancee for the suicide.

‘‘Nafisa was a strong-willed, outspoken and no-nonsense girl. She was kind and helpful, and always gave money to the needy,’’ says Soni. She was passionate about animals. She’s always had pets and gave fun names to them (her dog was called Striptease). Her father is now taking her pets back to Bangalore.

‘‘We should learn from this and teach Indian girls not to be dependent on a marriage and husband,’’ says Bidapa. ‘‘While no one was really pressurising Nafisa, she herself had given paramount importance to settling down and getting married. And she was pushed to the edge when things weren’t working out this time.’’

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