LAST CONVERSATION



"The laws that have creation in their keeping,
Make time so vicious in his reaping........" 

The above paraphrases Robinson's words but indeed, even "now that she's got swallowed by the abyss of time, it seems just the other day that Divya Bharati had called at our office. No, the cherub-cheeked actress didn't want lo flare up for carrying her marriage certificate a few months earlier but she wanted to thank us for not carrying some other story we'd called her up to check out (which subsequently appeared in other magazines). 


She spoke at length to my Editor, bright and spright. Her quotes were headliners. "Yes I'm married. I'm married. I'm married. And why should it affect my career? Wasn't Meena Kumari married too right from the beginning? Besides even if my career  goes  phut, who cares? I can always sit at home and have babies.  I love  babies." Divya arranged to meet my Editor at a party at their common friend, Pooja Bedi's house but she called in sick ('I can't get up to go to the loo")  and  then in  between Divya's countless round of outdoors, the interview never got concluded ...


I really talked to her for the first time a few months later in mid-February. When we were doing a photosession with Neelam at photographer Jagdish Mali's studio. London Hairstylist Dar was doing Neelam's hair and it being Divya's day off, she (most unstarlike) dropped in to meet Dar and Jagdish. Towards me, she was wary and unfriendly and the Press got the rough side.o! her tongue, but gradually as we settled down next to each other to watch Neelam shoot, the archetypical child-woman thawed.

I complimented her on a particularly sulfurous scene in Dil Aashna Hai which I thought she'd handled very well and Divya made a grimace. "Yuck. I was revealing too much in the film..."· She was more excited about a new film with Sunny. "Can you beat it? I'm playing a schoolgirl from the beginning to the end of the film with two cute pig-tails. Sunny's my bodyguard." Her eyebrows did their own little jig as she discoursed on how "I've never put any effort into any of my performances. If it comes naturally, fine. I'm not going to make any great efforts."




Once she'd slipped into the conversational groove, Divya whooshed ahead into various housewifely details as if there was simply no controversy regarding Sajid and her marriage. With a cat-ate-the-canary smile she recounted to me how she'd outwitted her dhobi. "This dhobi thought star-var hai, she won't check the accounts. Both Sajid and I were on outdoors for most of the month, yet he presented me with a huge bill. I told him, 'Tum tees tarikh ko aao." Then she almost gagged with laughter.  "He didn't realize February doesn't have 30 days!"

From there we started arguing amicably over whether a woman should be willing to submerge her identity fora man. Divya'sviewsdefi· nitely wouldn't have glad· dened  any  feminist's heart. "See, when Sajid left our house today, it was in a mess. He told me,   'What  is   this, Divya?  When I come back in  the evening  it should  be all neat  and clean.' So in the morning I cleaned  our  room and  the kitchen.. Now when I go back I'll clean another room, prepare dinner and wait for Sajid." She didn't know what working women blues were. "Sajid also does things for me. He also helps in the house," she said defensively. "And anyway I love doing it," Half-jokingly, I quipped that I couldn't imagine myself wanting to do anything for anybody else.

"Every woman does it," Divya said eagerly."And every woman should. I love taking care of Sajid." Then I said that this being what she felt at 18 (which she told me was her age); she might reel differently, at 28. 
"No," Divya said decisively. "I'll not feel differently even when I'm 28."

lt's difficult not to feel poignant about such a statement today, but at that time, in all honesty, I was unthinkingly more excited that I might get a full-fledged interview. My colleague Sindoo from Lehren who was sitting beside us smiled, "You're lucky. You got an interview just chatting."

Meanwhile it was time for eats. Unlike Neelam who fussed about the oily pav bhaji, Divya dug in heartily. She oohed and aahed over Neelam, especially her hair. Neelam too accepted it as genuine and being the sweet kid she is,complimented Divya back. Divya grimaced and holding aloft a tuft of admittedly rough hair, she shrieked, "My hair is TERRIBLE."



Soon she was persuaded to do a together shoot with Neelam and with every new hairstyle she insecurely asked everyone's opinion. Neelam left and Divya and I sat in the make-up room when she asked me. "Dar's asking me to come to his Oberoi Beauty Parlour (right at the other end of the city). Should I go?''

I remember I was struck and vaguely disturbed by the unrnoored feeling she gave me. She sat removing her make-up with coconut oil. Forget the foreign creams of other heroines, this was straight out of a can.

I remember my ex-colleague Sujata (a great friend of Divya's) telling me how upon her admiring Divya's diamond ring, Divya had immediately whipped it off and pressed it on her. A shocked Sujata had to refuse very strongly. Impulsively, I told Divya that actually she was a very nice person. She shouldn't be afraid to let people see that. Divya reciprocated the compliment and then chattered on, unfajljngly hitting the nerves of several people we both knew. She spat out her lines like live firecrackers; her eyes alive with life.

Till exhausted by her mental agility, I langurously took her leave. The last time I saw her she was jabbering away with makeup artiste Danny, seemingly ignorant of the cross-wired agonies and ecstacies of filmstardom, I said a very casual 'bye'. 'Until next time  then.'  I  thought we all had luxurious reserves of that commodity-Time.


How was I to know?


JITENDRA KOTHARI