Divya Bharti Death - Farewell to a Friend

She was always a blithe spirit. Flighty, tempestuous, temperamental, impulsive and yet enigmatic. She lived life on the edge, flirting with danger. Tempting desirous Death. Until HE claimed her as his own. She made a splash in life. She was just as tempestuous in death. One minute before the fatal hour she had the world at her feet. Top heroes, top banners, hit films, a multi-talented girl miles ahead of her lot. Number three in the ratings game; right after Sridevi and Madhuri Dixit. Her popularity undoubted, going by the magazine covers she adorned and sold in seconds. She had the trappings of a big star. The next Number One, maybe. But that one minute made all the difference. Everything ended for her. The race, the life, the breath itself. Divya Bharati was DEAD!

DEAD??? Not DEAD??? The finality of the word rocked me as I cradled the phone at one a.m. that cruel night. It couldn't be. It was someone else surely. With the same face, and a similar name? Of course. That was it. After all Divya wasn't even in town. She was away in Hyderabad, shooting for a South Indian film. I verified that with people then and there. She wasn't even supposed to be in town. Fate had other plans.

But then the ominous ring of the phone made my heart sink at 1.30a.m. It was a tomcat - who had rushed to the hospital. "Yes, it is her. She's dead. She fell from the fifth floor ..." I was flooded with details. But nothing registered. I sat down in the dark and tried to make sense of all the ghouls of Hades unleashed upon my imagination. 'Why her? WHY HER??!!' a voice kept screaming into my ear, threatening to hammer my sanity into a madness that wouldn't accept Divya as dead. Throughout the night I sat awake as l passed on the gory, terrible vision to others. And throughout the night the phone rang mournfully with people calling me to tell me about it. "You know .... " "You know what happened... ?" the voices were excited. It gave everyone something to talk about. Everyone wanted to be the first to pass on the 'news'. It was 'news' to them. To me it was a grievous loss.

Not that Divya and I had been the best of inseparable friends really. But there was an unspoken bond that is either there from the first meeting itself, or it isn't. With Divya the bond had established itself right away. I do believe in vibrations. And those that Divya emanated when she first stepped into the 'Stardust' cat-house first were positive .

I remember the pale pink salwar-kameez, the pink bindi, accentuating the pale face. It was deathly; pale even then. She had come with her mother and the P.R.O. who was promoting the film she'd signed. "Hi! I'm Radha", she'd smiled impishly while introducing herself. It was May 1989 and the girl was only fifteen. But in the eyes there was a wisdom that by far belied her age. "She's Kirti Kumar's heroine in 'Radha Ka Sangam'!", the P.R.O. interrupted my reverie. She smiled again and handed me her photographs.

I looked at them and noticed 'a spark few newcomers have. The spark of latent stardom. This girl was going to be a star I told my colleague who was the one going to interview her. But she wasn't impressed. I put it down to girlish envy even as Divya naughtily suggested, "I'll only do the interview at 'Invitation 365'(It was a posh restaurant at Juhu). I love the food there'," I couldn't help laughing at the irritation on my colleague's face. I knew Divya was baiting her.

She reverted back to her original name, 'Divya',when she found herself out of 'Radha Ka Sangam' thanks to a non-compromise over certain issues. But she had laughed, "So what? Maybe it's for the better. Maybe I'm lucky." The words turned out to be prophetic when the much-touted film sank like a stone at the box-office. Divya only laughed,"I told you so."

I remember when she was reintroduced to me as 'Divya' when she was signed for 'Vishwatma'. I kept meeting her on and off. At the mahurat of the film. At the shooting. Then at Rajiv Rai's various get-togethers.

She would always look right into your soul with an intensity that didn't go with the rest of her bubbly nature. Like at one shooting she looked right into my eyes and said,"I want to do an interview with you. No one else." We never got around to doing it of course.

Later, it was 'Stardust' which was instrumental in getting a reconciliation between her and Govinda (after their fallout over 'Radha Ka Sangam') by getting them together for a photosession for one of our Annuals. It was the beginning of a new friendship. 'Shola Aur Shabnam' followed 'Vishwatma' and Divya became top contender in the cat-race among the new lot. She grew as a person and as an actress. But unfortunately even her impulsiveness grew.

I was happy for her when she met Sajid and married him. Because for once she was so happy, she never denied it to me though she didn't say it in print. "I'll talk about it when the time is right," she would always laugh away the probe. She was a child that way. Ready to sulk, ready to fight but would feel bad just as quickly.

I recall when I spoke to her when I heard of the rumour about her breaking off with Sajid. "If you write it I'll never speak to you again, or to 'Stardust'!", she said impulsively. I had to tell her very patiently that she could decide that only after she'd read the story and found it derisive. How could she be so sure that it would be negative? She agreed.

The very next day she left for Bikaner to shoot for 'Kshatriya' and I joined the shoot there a couple of days later. She was apology personified. And youth.Especially when all the Rajasthani folk dancers would come across every night to perform in the hotel's (converted from a palace) palatial halls. Divya was the only one singing and dancing there with a gay abandon. Pulling people onto the floor. Even the dance-shy Sunjay Dutt was forced by her enthusiasm to dance. She was the life of the do as she pulled everyone from unit-hand to producer to director to join in her merry making. She even pulled me to pose for pictures with her. I couldn't help but admire her zest for living it up.

It was back in Bombay again that we drifted away slightly. She got caught up in her schedules and her life. I got involved with my work. Until I met her again at Filmistan Studios for my first ever interview with her. I didn't know that it would also be my last. And, if I'm not wrong, also the last interview ever given by the beautiful Divya Bharati.

It was after a long time that the now publicity-shy actress was giving an interview and she was very excited. She snatched my dicta-phone from my hand and held it close to herself, speaking her replies directly into it. It was a great interview. When I was leaving she looked at me beseechingly,"I have a habit of talking too much. Please protect me," I did.

The actress was thrilled when it hit the stands. She called up the world to tell them how much she loved it. "No wonder 'Stardust' is my favourite," she gushed. Then she told Shabbir (Rajiv Rai's friend-cum colleague) about me. '"I want to get friendly to him. As friendly as he is to Sonam. If not more. I'll give all my interviews only to him. You must invite him to the sets everyday when I shoot with Rajiv,"I was touched.

It was during the noon of February the 25th that I last set eyes on a living breathing Divya. It was her birthday and she was cutting a cake at Mehboob studios. Everyone clapped as she cut the cake. Then she called me to feed me a slice. But all of a sudden she smeared it on my face and burst out laughing. "Look look," she clapped in child-like glee. I couldn't even get angry because I knew she meant fun.

Then she suddenly became serious,"Tonight I'm having a small get together at RGs. I'm only calling very close people. You must come. For if you don't I'll never ever give you an interview again for as long as I live. That's my promise." Even Sajid standing beside her nodded as if to affirm what she'd said. I left her with that vision. Which is the last I ever saw of this most promising actress. Something within sent out a message that something was wrong. I couldn't put a finger on it.

I couldn't make it for her party that night. Not realizing that her words would turn out to be prophetic. Divya Bharati would never ever give me an interview again. I'd thought that I would be able to manao her if she sulked with me for not attending her nineteenth b'day bash. But I can't manao her from her eternal sleep. No one can. A gem called Divya is lost forever.

The day following her death filled me with depression and despair. And disgust. I saw no genuinely bleeding heart outside of those few who genuinely loved the girl. There was talk of ten crores being blocked in her incomplete films. Talk of who'll replace her. Talk of suicide and accident and murder. Talk of cremation, or burial. Talk of everything except the heart of gold that was Divya. And even as her mortal remains bedecked in full bridal finery were consigned to the holy flames, the industry went back to normal at once. Shootings, dubbing, parties. It sickened me as I stood there and watched the flames turn Divya to dust. I saw a handful of people from the industry whispering and looking slyly at the video cameras and the lens-men there. They were there for the cameras. How many were there for Divya Bharati herself?

I returned to the Cat-house, engulfed in dark depression and I replayed the tape on which I had recorded her interview. Hauntingly the voice rang out, crystal clear.

"There's so much I want to say. So much I want to do. But people around me keep telling me to be diplomatic. I-prefer being honest. It's better. It's a short life after all." Truer words weren't ever said and once again Divva's words were to be prophetic.

It's a short life. But no one deserves to die the way Divya did. Life was too short for her. It was too cruel. The world was at her feet already and yet she had so much to achieve. Why did the end come for her so soon?

Or is it a new, happy beginning? I don't know the answers to that yet. But I'm sure she's happy wherever she is up there. I'm sure she's charming the angels up there.

My good wishes. Shall always be with her.

- Omar Qureshi