IN DEFENCE OF DIVYA BHARTI

They can't help comparing Rekha to old...

The overdeveloped voluptuousness at a tender age of fourteen...


The light-hearted attitude towards her work...Her very first producer (Kriti Kumar) lambasted her as an "irresponsible girl" and threw her out of 'Radha Ka Samgham'. The sexy man mania which has enraptured actors, producers, directors...  She is even supposed to have slit her wrists after her break-up with Govinda(like Rekha's alleged suicide bid after Vinod Mehra dropped her, remember?). The tendency to shoot off her mouth, then abuse the press for misquoting, misinterpreting, misrepresenting her...

This was the Divya Bharti I went to meet, but what I found was a nervous, utterly confused child seemingly lost in a world of hostile grown-ups. I tried to talk, but she didn't have much to say. Nothing I said could provoke her out of her silence. I was about to give up and leave, when it struck me, why not try her mother? Mama was equally reluctant at first, but a little coaxing decided her and she started defending her daughter's red-hot reputation step by step. Fortunately, two of Divya's films ('Vishwatma' and 'Dil Ka Kya Kasoor') had been released by then and she had been praised by critics in both. It was a safe topic to start the ball rolling. How did she feel about Divya's success, I asked. mama smiled, " I am happy the audience has recognized her in Bombay and Hindi for Mama went on to relate what a tough time the Bombay film world had given her little girl "Divya had no ambition of becoming an actress or of doing anything like modelling or dancing, “she began. " she was not interested in studies too and was always up to some mischief in school." Her entry into the film world was a rather surprising incident which Divya and her parents haven't themselves got over yet.

One fine day, their neighbour, producer Nandu Tolani happened to notice Divya and immediately decided to sign her for his movie 'Gunahon Ka Devta' (as he wanted to replace Mandakini). Then, Dilip Shankar signed her for 'Rudra Avtaar' and 'Aatank Hi Aatank'. Divya grew excited at the thought of becoming a star and aided impatiently for the film to start. In the meantime Govinda's brother Kriti Kumar was on the lookout for a heroine for his film 'Radha Ka Sangam'. He came across Divya at a video library and felt that she fitted his concept of Radha. So, he managed to get Divya released from Nandu Tolani, his good friend's contract and signed her for his film 'Radha Ka Sangam'. His argument was that Divya would be an ideal Radha where as Nandu could get many other actresses for his films.

Thus at the tender age of 14, hardly out of school, Divya was thrown out amidst the glamorous world. She was raw, inexperienced and she found the going tough. Kirti Kumar laid down a lot of restrictions on her like she should not sign any other movie, she should not model for any ads, and she should not do any TV films." Those were only some of the legal conditions which Kirti Kumar had laid down for my daughter, “declared Divya's mother."The illegal ones were thatDivya should not go out, she should not meet and she ....", she stopped abruptly."arre janne do..It's all over now. Good. he put all those conditions for Divya and made her sit at home for eight to nine months. He did not make a start or even have a photo-session with her. How long can you make a person stay at home without doing anything?" When finally, 'Radha Ka Samgham' did start shooting , Kirti Kumar unceremoniously threw Divya out on the grounds that she was a very irresponsible girl!
Divya's mother protested, "How can you expect a girl of fourteen to be responsible? Right from her childhood, Divya has never been in any sort of trouble. She has not faced any type of disappointment or sorrow in her life. What more can you expect  a girl of that age, you find people enjoying  their lives, going for parties, and making a mockery of themselves. So, what can a fourteen-year-old girl do? The one month shooting stint Divya had, she worked very hard. A dance teacher used to come home twice a day to teach her dancing. Divya was overworking herself. She wanted to do her best but still she was thrown out, “lamented Mama. Words spread like fire and even the few offers she'd got did not materialise. Divya was jobless, and her film career apparently finished, even before it begun! But fate intervened in the form of Suresh Naidu, a producer from South, who was in Bombay in search of a heroine for his film. He saw Divya's screen test at Boney Kapoor's and was impressed by her screen presence. Suresh Naidu signed her for his Telegu film 'Babli Raja'. This time, Mama was taking no chances. "

I told them that the girl was new and had no acting experience," she stated, "But he said that I needn't worry about it as he'd help her with it." He asked them to fly to Hyderabad that same night. Divya and her mother were flabbergasted. "When she signed "Radha Ka Sangam' she waited for nine months before it took off and when it started she was out of it. And here this man was asking us to fly out immediately on signing of the film and he even promised to complete the film in a month."Suresh Naidu kept his word and did complete the film in a month. 'Babli Raja' was a super hit, and Divya became a top heroine in Telegu films. She was flooded with offers as she kept giving one hit after another. She ventured into Tamil cinema and did well there too.

Once she became a hot property in the South, the Bombay producers who rejected her earlier, couldn't wait to get their hands on her. But Divya was in two minds. Should she risk giving up the big banners, the high price, the super success in the South, for ... WHAT? She gave in only when a big banner, Rajiv Rai, offered her 'Vishwatma', where she was one of the three heroines. After Rajiv Rai, many other producers followed suit. Her next film was Mukesh Duggal's ' Dil Ka Kya Kasoor' where she stole whole show from the hero, followed by 'Shola Aur Shabnam' where she was better than 'Dil Ka Kya Kasoor'. Of course in all the films, Divya had to compromise. Wear swimsuits; expose her cleavage, legs, etc. Was Divya game for exposure on screen, I asked. Divya's mother was somewhat embarrassed but took up for her daughter saying, "Divya does not like to expose herself. Even for 'Vishwatma' where she was asked to wear swimsuit, she refused at first. But the producers said that she should wear it as it is a part of the story. Divya does not like to wear swimsuits because she feels she does not have a good figure!" Anyway, the compromises seem to be paying off. Today Divya has eleven films which are eighty percent complete, opposite many top heroes as well as new comers. "I like Jackie, Govinda, newcomers like Shah Rukh Khan, Armaan Kohli, Prithvi and Sunil Shetty," said Mama rattling off the names as if she was the leading lady.


But so did her daughter, for wasn't she said to be a man-eater, like Rekha? I asked about Divya's affairs with her co-stars. When I mentioned the rumours about her suicide attempt because she could not get over her affair with Govinda, Mama was more pained than angry. She said wryly, "There were rumours that Divya had cut her wrist for Feroz Khan's son Fardeen too. But these stories are baseless. If she was involved with Govinda, why would he throw her out of his film?

"These days even if you happen to be standing with your own brother people will point a finger at you and say that you are having an affair, “she explained disgustedly. “If Divya is involved with someone, she'll tell me like she told me about Sajid Nadiadwala, the grandsons of Nadiadwalas." Mama feels that Divya is merely infatuated with him." I don't like the relationship with him," she stated firmly, “not because he is Muslim, but because he is double-timingDivya. Divya does not realise this." Sajid is supposedly also involved with another actress Amita Nangia. Divya's mother went on," When Divya started going around with him, I never went against it. But When I came to know about him double-timing Divya i felt bad and Divya herself said that, ‘if he could leave Anita for me, he may well leave me for another one!' But she is still going around with him, I don't know for how long." Unable to hide her concern, she lamented, “Tomorrow if 'Dil ka Kya Kasoor’ flops or 'Shola Aur shabnam' flops he will leave her. Now Divya has started realising her problems. She is still growing up. She has not yet seen the world. Once she does, she'll understand how bad the world is."

I had put her in depressed mood. Not wanting to add to it, I decided to call it a day. As, I left I couldn't help wondering if Mama attitude of letting Divya burn her fingers to learn the facts of life was a wise one. After all, don't we know what sparing the rod did to Rekha... 

- E. DINESH NAIR