She was all of 19, when she fell to her death, Divya Bharti will always be remembered as a vivacious young girl who was the queen of millions of hearts. Her life was filled with stupendous success and various controversies. Her beauty was unparalleled and so were her dancing skills. We take a look at the life and times of the Saat Samundar Paar girl.
The 90s would have ended up like any other decade of Bollywood. A lot of controversies, superstars and good and bad films were churned out. But there was something different about this decade. While there were quite a few star sons and daughters who were making their acting debut, we were introduced to the most beautiful actress of our times... Divya Bharti. With no Godfather and no filmy connections, this was a girl who had achieved it all at a very young age with her sheer hard work and dedication. She danced like a dream and was a pretty good actress. She also was a hell of a beauty! In just two years she managed to achieve stupendous success and unmatched popularity. On her 20th Death Anniversary, we take a trip down memory lane and remember the youngest acting legend of Bollywood.
Baby steps into Bollywood:
Aditya Pancholi with Divya Bharti
After being spotted by a producer, there was no looking back for the hazel eyed beauty. In 1988, Bharti met film-maker Nandu Tolani. Upon seeing her, Tolani insisted that she become an actress. At that time, Bharti was in the ninth standard. She was signed for the film to Gunahon Ka Devta where she was cast opposite Aditya Pancholi.
The Radha Ka Sangam episode:
Kirti Kumar (Govinda's brother) noticed Divya at a video library. He was so bestowed by her that he was hell bent to sign Divya for his directorial venture Radha Ka Sangam opposite Govinda. Weeks later, Kirti personally met the makers of Gunahon Ka Devta and managed to release Divya from their contract. Kumar then announced to one and all that he had found his perfect Radha for his film, but the 14-year-old had better things in store and after many months when work on the film ceased to begin she opted out of it after being groomed for two years. She was replaced by Juhi Chawla.
The initial struggle:
She had initially faced many rejections too... Subhash Ghai auditioned her for Saudagar but found her to be too young, then there was a film opposite Aamir Khan that didn't take off, then there was even Dharmesh Darshan's directorial debut Lootere for which she was considered. Boney Kapoor had signed her for Prem but that too didn't materialise. Nothing seemed to work in her favour. Finally she was dejected... And she began to wonder whether her decision to quit school in order to pursue her acting dreams was correct or not.
Super stardom in the South:
Still from Bobbli Raja
A prominent South Indian producer came knocking on the door of the Bhartis. D. Ramanaidu, one of the biggest producers of Telugu films, offered Bobbili Raja opposite his son Daggubati Venkatesh to Divya. Just because her mom insisted she gave him the nod and then began her journey of stupendous success in South Indian movies. From 1990 till early 1992 she did as many as 6 south Indian films: Bobbili Raja, Nila Penne (her only Tamil movie), Naa Ille Naa Swargam, Rowdy Alludu, Dharma Kshetram, Assembly Rowdy
Big Bollywood Break:
Somewhere in her heart she still dreamed of making a mark in the very industry which had shunned her. Rajiv Rai was looking out for a new girl to cast opposite Sunny Deol in Vishwatma. Unlike other stars who did not approach directors due to their egos, Divya went up to him and requested a chance. That was it, the moment Rajiv saw her he knew she was just perfect for the role of Kusum. The entire unit left for the shoot to Kenya and Divya gave the role all she had. It was of course going to be her make or break film. With the shooting almost over, Divya didn't know what awaited her back home. Apparently, a bevy of Bollywood producers had by now started enquiring about her and even before her Bollywood debut; she had as many as 14 films in hand!
Her first Bollywood release was Dil Hi Toh Hai opposite Jackie Shroff. It had released on 1st January, 1992, but it bombed miserably at the box-office. Her second film hit screens after two weeks. It was Lawrence D'Souza's romantic drama Dil Ka Kya Kasoor, opposite Prithvi. The film had amazing songs and Divya's performance in it was widely appreciated but it too failed to make a mark. The film is notable for its tragic ending. Now she had pinned all her hopes on Vishwatma, which released on 24th January 1992, but despite it doing well, it was considered an average fare compared to the stupendous success its predecessor Tridev had enjoyed. The song Saat Samundar Paar made her an overnight sensation! Yes, she didn't get lost in the herd of stars in that film.
'One day Success will be mine'
In an interview to Stardust magazine in March 1992 she had discussed her failures with a deep sadness. But what stood out was her positive approach towards her career and life in general: “I really wanted Vishwatma to do better than Tridev. Ups and downs are a part of life and you have to take it with a pinch of salt. What has disturbed me more is the failure of Dil Ka Kya Kasoor. I had not expected it to bomb so badly. Anyway, what had to happen has happened. Yeah, I did take the failure badly but my tears are not going to get people to the theatres. I wanted to prove myself. But I've fallen flat on my face. Now, I have to begin my climb all over again. Yet I'm positive that one day success will be mine. It will be the day when I'll have the last laugh."
Shola Aur Shabnam and Sajid Nadiadwala:
Her next release Shola Aur Shabnam (SAS) changed her life forever both professionally and personally... By now Divya was fast gaining a reputation as a wild child. There were numerous link ups with several of her co-stars including Govinda. She met Sajid Nadiadwala on the sets of SAS... What a meeting it was! Sparks flew and even before the film was complete they were a steady couple.
Then there were stories about her erratic behaviour, her mood swings, and her constant jokes which didn't go down too well with her co-stars and drugs and alcohol... An 18 year old, who after years of struggle had finally achieved stupendous success, would have lost it but not Divya. There was a lot of negative stuff written about her in various magazines. She cleared the air once and for all by saying: "I fail to understand why people think that I'm not serious about my work. That I'm here only for a lark. Is it because I joke and laugh on the sets? Being arrogant and maintaining a distance does not really mean that a person is serious about his or her work. This is ridiculous yaar. I believe in being happy-go-lucky and spreading laughter. Tears and sadness are meant only for you alone. You cannot share your grief with everyone."
Meet the Bhartis:
Divya with her family
While the whole world gave her all she wanted she was neglected in her very family. Divya was ignored by her loved ones and it was this very fact that made her go out of her way to become friendly with people. She had started to ruffle feathers with the big wigs of Bollywood and still managed to carve a niche for herself. SAS was a super hit and consolidated her position at the box office for ever. But her personal life wasn't that rosy. No one understood that her jokes were a way of hiding her personal pain of her family life. Very few people know this but Divya had quite a disturbed childhood. According to an article in a magazine, her father O.P. Bharti had left his ancestral home, parents, wife and kids to marry Divya's mother Meeta. But the first wife continued to haunt Divya's home. She raved, ranted and cursed them. The Bharti household wasn't a perfect one. Divya grew up in an atmosphere of constant bickering and quarrels between her parents. Her parents got so entangled in the web of their own making that they had just no time for Divya. To add to it was her father's weakness for the bottle, which only ended up making matters worse at home. Seeing all this at a very young age made Divya grown up by many years mentally. "All I will say is that my relationship with my parents is still the same. I mean I am very close to them. Yes, it is true that my dad had another wife and my mother is his second wife. So what? There are ups and downs in everyone's lives and I'm no exception. However, my dad had got divorced much before he married my mother. But the kids from his previous marriage grew up with us. I am very close to both my step-sister and step-brother. They were staying with us till they got married. Even now I still meet them often. They come home on weekends. Where my stepmother is concerned then that is a taboo topic. We have never ever discussed her at home or otherwise. My dad does drink but rarely. He has never ever created a scene. This talk about him is all rubbish."
According to the same article, once Divya's family had forgotten her birthday! She had told a reporter in 1991, "It was my birthday and nobody remembered it at home. My best friend Ushmi had got a cake for me, we sat in my room to cut it. When my mother opened the door, she saw the cake. But she was too preoccupied. She did not bother. Two days later Pahlaj got to know of it and he even had party for me at China Garden but it was not the same."
Divya celebrating her last Birthday
According to most industrywallahs her childish behaviour was only a facade to get attention. But not everyone liked the way she behaved. Fighting hard to control the flow of tears she had stated, "I really don't want to talk about all this. I wish people would leave me alone, and stop talking such nonsense about me. Yes, my parents had forgotten my birthday last year but they remembered it the next day. What I was talking about then was the eve of my birthday. My dad was sick and my mom was busy with my brother's lessons," Divya paused and then continued, "Most kids tend to misunderstand their parents and their behaviour. But I guess whatever the parents do; it is with the best interest for their children. My parents have always made me understand and see things clearly. They have never shouted or raised their hands on me. We are more like friends. Anyway, my mother has never neglected her home and kids. Believe me, we are a very happy and close knitted family."
There were talks about her being on drugs about her excessive drinking among many other things. To all this she had said, "Just when my career had started looking up, there were these vicious rumours about me being on drugs. According to them, I'm supposed to be on drugs for the past three years. If I was on drugs then instead of being like a roly-poly elephant. I would have just vanished by now. Then there were rumours of me wanting to get married to Sajid. And I still have to understand the absurdity of the entire situation. What is the hurry yaar? I'm going to be eighteen now, age is on my side. Let me enjoy my career for another three-four years."
How ironic is her last statement... for she had less than a year left on earth...
Marriage and Deewana
Sajid Nadiadwala with Divya Bharti
Divya did tie the knot with Sajid around three months after this interview. According to Divya's parents the marriage date is 10th June, 1992. The marriage was an open secret, she neither denied it, nor confirmed it. No producer would be willing to put money on a married heroine and also both of them belonged to diverse religions, hence it was mostly kept under wraps. Professionally, she struck gold once again with Deewana opposite Shah Rukh Khan and Rishi Kapoor. The film had released on 25th June, 1992 and was a roaring success. The film was SRK's debut film and the biggest super-hit of Divya's career. Her fan base grew to unprecedented popularity after this film. When a reporter asked about her secret marriage, she had stated: "I think that this is an extremely personal question. Jab bolna hoga, tab bol doongi. I'll never hide anything. But if I think it's not necessary I won't answer it. It's just that I'm not ready now. When the time is right I'll be like an open book. But one thing I'll say, by early next year we'll have a very big bash about, well, whatever... our marriage. It will be a very big, big bash. We'll make an important announcement there. And you'll surely be invited."
By the year 1993 she had more than 10 Bollywood film releases a record no heroine has broken till date. Her last release during her lifetime was JP Dutta's Kshatriya... She won the Filmfare award for Best Debut for Deewana but couldn't go to collect it as she was too busy shooting for a film. Now I wish she had gone for it would have been her last, major public appearance. 6 days later she was dead....
Gone too soon:
On the tragic night of 5th April 1993, Divya fell to death from her 5th floor apartment which she shared with her husband. What was shocking was that all the houses in that building had balcony grills except for her home. She wasn't alone though, dress designer Neeta Lulla, her husband Dr. Shyam Lulla and Divya's maid were present in the same house when this incident took place. Ironically, had Divya followed her schedule, she would have been in Hyderabad where she was supposed to be shooting. She cancelled her trip at the last moment and lost her life forever.
"Everything happened so fast. I had gone to Sajid's place to discuss her clothes for the Mauritius shoot. She had already had a glass of rum and went to sit on the parapet. She was already high. We called out to her to come in. because she was leaning over the side. But she did not listen to us." This was the statement given by Neeta at that time.
Cause of Death: According to the post-mortem report Divya had suffered a basal skull fracture, fracture on the left hip bone and fractured ribs. As she lay on the groud in a pool of blood, the Lulla's rushed her to Cooper Hospital but she was declared dead on arrival.
The balcony from which she fell down and with her father
According to a magazine: Appartently, Divya's mother could not be traced till three in the morning. At the around three forty-five a.m, she arrived at the hospital still ignorant of the fact that she had lost her only daughter. Kunal (Divya's borther ) and her father did turn slightly violent when they saw her. Quite strangely, they both blamed for her what had happened, But Divya's mother did not say a word. She just went towards the trolley, lifted the veil that covered Divya's face, placed her head on Divya's chest and after sometime, she walked out of the hospital. She returned later accompanied by Divya's uncle. The first one to arrive from the film industry was Pahlaj Nihalani who came with his wife and sons. One of Divya's producer's, Raju Mawani also walked in with him. It was then that Pahlaj took charge of the entire situation. The doctors had informed him that Mr. Bharti had suffered a nervous breakdown and so it was he who got Divya's father admitted to the psychiatry ward of the hospital. Meanwhile on the ground floor, the situation was same as before. Divya's father was still hysterical. By now, he was blaming his wife for Divya's action. Sajid's parents, sister and his friends had also arrived. They were obviously tensed about Sajid since her had had a minor heart attack. The entire industry was in for a huge loss both professional and personal. It is said that at that time around Rs. 5 crores were riding on the 19-year-old actress. While many producers were panicking as they didn't know what to do, others began to find quick replacements and some aborted their films altogether. Over 500 hundred people from Bollywood attended her funeral which was held on 7th April, 1993. The beauty, who had once lit up the silver screen with her radiance, was gone forever.
An unsolved mystery:
There were many stories circulating in the media regarding her untimely and shocking demise. Some said she was pushed, others said she slipped while some speculated suicide. The cops closed the case in 1998. There was nothing worthy that the police found out in their investigation.
Divya's parents talk about her marriage and death:
In a very candid interview, the Bhartis look back at the tragic night of 5th April, 1993 and talk about their son-in-law with much warmth and affection.
Stills from her incomplete films
Can you imagine Tu Cheez Badi Hai Mast Mast and Tip Tip Barsa Paani from Mohra without Raveena Tandon, Ruk Ruk Ruk (Vijaypath) without Tabu and Mere Ghulam (Laadla) without Sridevi? Unimaginable it is today right? But 20 years ago, had destiny not played a cruel joke on Divya Bharti it would have been her, not these heroines, who would have broken all the previous records of success by any Bollywood actress till date. In this very rare video, you will see Divya acting in a few scenes of Laadla. According to me she was more natural than Sridevi and had a much better screen presence and dressing sense.
Films released posthumously: Two of her complete films Rang and Shartanj both were released posthumously. Rang had great songs and as usual, Divya lit up the screen with her presence.
Divya talks about herself and her career:
A very rare interview taken on the sets of one of her films. Divya charms us all with her childlike innocence and her charisma.
Bizarre co-incidence – Mention of Divya's death in most of her films:
It may seem very bizarre to some but I have noticed that most of Divya's films spoke about her dying. Sample these lyrics from a song from her film Shola Aur Shabnam: Tu rootha toh rooth ke itni door chali jaaungi... Saari umr pukare phir bhi... Laut ke na aaungi... (If you remain angry with me I will go to a place so far away that even if you call me I won't ever return)
She dies in Dil Ka Kya Kasoor and wishes to be cremated as a bride. The exact same thing happened with her in real life... She was cremated as a bride!
These are some scenes from Divya's last official film released. What gave me goosebumps while watching this was that there is a scene in this film where Divya's character in order to get Jackie Shroff's character to love her stands on top of a building and declares she will jump! On seeing this Jackie tells her they will jump together and both of them jump... On landing Divya asks 'Mai Zinda Hu?' (Am I alive?) Probably the closest that reel and real life have ever come to. However in real life, her fall took away her life.
In Deewana, Mohnish Behl's character Narender states that he will give her such a torment that neither will she live nor die and that she would beg to die. Also there is another scene in the film where Divya's character Kajal, cries to her mother-in-law “Main jeena nahi chahti, mai marr jaana chahti hu” (I don't want to live, I want to die!)
Check out this video of her unreleased film Chal Pe Chal:
This was a film that was probably left incomplete due to Divya's tragic demise. But we managed to get hold of a rare song video of that film.
Saying goodbye is never easy:
I could go on and on about Divya for she happens to be one of my favourite actress. She wasn't fake like most B-town heroines and often spoke her mind. I know one thing for sure that she is truly missed by all her fans. So this in a nut shell was the life of the youngest heroine to ever grace our silver screens. She may be forgotten by Bollywood today, but she will live forever in the hearts of her countless fans. One thing that is also noteworthy is that she just didn't bank on her looks alone, she actually worked very very hard to achieve whatever she did. The number of films she worked in proves it. I request everyone who has read this article, to say a silent prayer in their heart: May her soul Rest In Peace.
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