(She was a star from the very moment she set foot into the industry. Always full of spirit and bubbling with energy, every producer, director and hero insisted on having Divya Bharti in their film. Unfortunately death spirited her away. On February 25, Divya would have turned 21. Instead it was her birth anniversary. It was also the day I visited Archana Kutir – Divya’s residence to meet the Bhartis – Meeta and Om Prakash. We fondly remember the vivacious Divya Bharti.)

“Whom The Gods Favour, Die Young!” – Plautous

Divya Bharti and I had always shared a good rapport, which even her parents will vouch for. So, as I walked into the compound of their building, a chill ran down my spine, as memories of the funeral procession flashed through my mind. I was numb with shock, seeing her lying motionless on the stretcher. She was dressed up in the bridal finery, but instead of her husband house, she was  taken to the crematorium. Visions of the tragedy still haunt me, even as I write about my meeting with sorrowing parents. The sitting room has several life-size portraits of Divya. A large one over the dining table has a beautiful garland and lighted agarbattis.

Both Meeta and Om Prakash Bharti were happy that I had remembered their daughter’s birthday. As usual, Divya’s mother was the first to inform me. Till today, people remember Divya’s birthday. Her fans send us letters, birthday cards letters and see this fan has even written her name in blood.” His eyes filled with tears as he showed every card and letter.  Several were from England and America.
Since Divya’s father wanted to continue, we let him speak first. April 5 is Divya’s second death anniversary. Today,  Rajiv Rai’s  assistant  Shabbir called me. ‘Uncle I’m making a movie on Divya Which will be shown on Doordarshan. I need your permission to use the unused footage from her films nd the films she could not complete, like Mohra, Ladla, Karthvya.

“My daughter was a popular. Where ever I go people say, ‘That’s Divya’s father’. Once they know I am Divya’s father their attitude changes. Even the industry people still remember us. Raju Mawani invited us in the premier of Surakshya. Pehlaj Nihalani still comes over. Sunil Shetty is like a family member. But on our own, we never attend any film functions, so that we don’t feel hurt. Although it is now two years since Divya passed away. It is still difficult adjusting to not having our precious daughter with us. I don’t know why God had to play such a cruel trick. She would have been 21 today.

“Earlier today, Salman’s mother invited us for dinner, Salman too had personally come to invite us to his sister’s marriage. My son-in-law Sajid still comes over regularly and is much sweeter than he was before. Do you know he has dedicated Andolan to his wife Divya’s  memory. He asked me if I wanted to have a trial show for our friends. He told me, ‘Daddy, your Divya has gone, but now you have another son’. Whatever is lost, is lost forever, My own flesh and blood is gone…”

About Divya joining films Om Prakash says, “I was against her leaving school to join films. I wanted Divya to study and make a name of her-self. In spite of not doing the studies, she still made her name. it was fate that made her star and it was her fate that she died so young. People say that she would have become the number one star.

“I remember she had first wanted to become an airhostess. Then she got attracted to films. Sometimes she would ask ‘Daddy, don’t I look like Sridevi’? and she would mimic Sridevi. But when she was in ninth standard people began approaching her to do films. I could do nothing to stop her from joining films. When her first film Vishwatma was released, nobody could say she was a raw actress. Till today people remember her in ‘Saat samundar…’. People from Canada, England write to me to put a flower in her memory on her photograph . Kadar Khan once told me, ‘Why did God take her away? God should take me’. There’s not a single actress who does not mourn Divya’s death.

“Had Divya been alive she would have been a very big star. The films she left incomplete like Mohra, Vijaypath and Laadla were all hits. I believe that on December 31, Doordarshan showed clippings of Laadla with Divya and then with Sridevi. People felt that Divya was better in the same scene that Sridevi did. But then Divya is Divya. Nobody can replace her. Maybe God needed her for something else. My Divya was a good hearted girl. She was always helpful. She was never really money minded and had quite a giving hand, always bought gifts for her staff, gave them money and helped them as much as they could. During the riots, she gave a spot boy 5000 rupees because his hut was burnt down. Our servant Amru had been with us since Divya was a baby, left our job when Divya died. Without Divya we have nothing much to do. We cry whenever we see her films. Now we only have our son Kunal.”

“Regarding the mystery of Divya’s sudden demise… “ there’s nothing new to the investigation. The police say that it was an accidental death. So, we also tell people that it was an accidental death. Probing into the nature of the death won’t bring our daughter back. There’s no need to know. All I know is that Divya is gone forever why he took Divya away at such a young age. If he were to take her so soon, then why did he give her to us? Her room is still kept in the same way. It still has her photographs.  Sajid’s office desk still has one drawer that is kept locked till today as it contains all Divya’s things. Sajid’s bedroom is filled with her pictures.

“Hema Malini was the only one who treated Divya like her daughter. Even Divya treated Hema like a mother. Whatever Hemaji asked her to do in Dil Aashna Hai, Divya did. Dimple and Divya too got pretty friendly. We’ve known Dimple since Divya was a child. So, while they were shooting together, everything revolved around Dimple. Similarly Sunney Deol was also very fond of her. So also were Sunjay Dutt and Anil Kapoor. Govinda cries whenever we meet.I remember Jackie Shroff saying that Divya used to act like his grandmother and fire him at times. Mithum Chakraborty liked her so much that he wrote a story which would suit her.V. Shantaram’s son was the producer. Unfortunately Divya passed away.So, I returned the signing amount. Pehlaj Nihalani was like her father. One director Divya was very fond of was David Dhawan and loved his kids. When Divya passed away, we gave away her dogs and sold off her cars. We couldn’t maintain them.”

Now Divya’s mother,  Meeta  Bharti, takes over, “ I was really surprised that you remembered my Divya’s birthday. You know I am still surprised that I get eight to ten letters every day for Divya. I thought it would stop. This is the second year after Divya’s death, at least it will be on April 5 and they’re still pouring in."

“J.P.  Singhal who was like Divya’s godfather had wanted to introduce Divya and Sunil Shetty in a film together.  Sunil and he share the same kind of relationship as he did with Divya. But by the time J.P. Singhal was ready to launch his film, Divya had already begun signing films. Later on he announced a film with Divya and some foreign body builder. She did not take a penny from him. Like she did with Rajiv Rai who had signed her for Mohra, because he had introduced her in Vishwatma. Anyway J.P.Singhal gave Divya a 500 rupee note and Divya said, ‘Uncle this is the full and final payment. If you even try to give more, I will walk out of the picture.’”

“Divya was always soft-hearted, she would never insist on getting her payments immediately. Sometimes, even after the film was released she was still to get her money from the producer. Oneday I told Divya that in a couple of years she would be working for free for every producer as everyone would be like her brother. She was not money minded at all”.

“Divya was offered Rang, after it was rejected by Karishma Kapoor, nevertheless she agreed to do it. When the producer sent a dress designer, Divya who knew several outfits had been stitched for Karishma, asked for Karishma’s clothes which could be altered insisting that the producer not waste money on new clothes.  One day she told me that Karishma had been saying that Pooja Bhatt, Ayesha Jhulka and she were accepting her rejects. Divya added after rang, Karisma would say,’Divya’s now using my clothes’.”

“After seeing the success of Mohra, Laadla and Vijaypath, I can’t help but feel sad. Had she been alive, Divya have got the credit. She would have been a big star today. Had Divya still been around, she would have given Juhi Chawla stiff competition. Because of her death so many people have stood to gain: Raveena tendon got Mohra, and her career began to rise. Tabu got noticed of Vijaypath. Even sridevi’s career got a boost with Laadla. Puja Bhatta bagged Angrakshak with Sunny. Now it has shaped up so well. Mamta got Andolan because of Divya’s death.  People do things for others when they’re alive. But Divya had helped people even in death. I also feel I shouldn’t say that they were successful because of my daughter.

“Many people still think that Divya lost Darr because she had a problem with Yash Chopra. That wan’t the case. When Sunny was signed, he wanted Divya opposite him. But Aamir wanted Juhi Chawla.  Unfortunately, at that time, we were in America for some shows. Before we left they announced Darr with Sunny, Divya and Aamir. When we returned it was Sunny, Juhi and Aamir. It seemed that Aamir who was also working with Yash Chopra in Parampara, managed to push Juhi and had Divya dropped. After he got Juhi into Darr, he was dropped and  Shah Rukh was taken.

“Divya had always said,’Mama I want to work with all the producers and directors. I also want to work in films, in all languages. Lataji sings in all the languages. I want to be like her and act in various languages’. She had starred in Tamil and Telugu, we were trying to bag a Marathi film. Although she had already got two offers, she wanted to work with Sachin as the director. Unfortunately nothing materlialised. They remained dreams.”

“That very day Boney Kapoor signed her for Prem opposite Sanjay Kapoor. Eight days later, Tabu was signed and Divya was dropped. Subash Ghai met her at the HMV party for Prakash Mehra’s  Jaadugar. Next day he called Divya to do a screen test. Twenty days later, he phoned to say that Divya was too young to act with Dilip Kumar and Raj Kumar. That’s how she lost many films. As a result she began to lose interest. Fortunately producer D. Rama Naidu signed for a Tamil film and Rajiv Rai signed her for Vishwatma. When released both became super hits."

“Can you believe it that even Pehlaj Nihalani had refused to sign Divya. When he saw her photographs, he remarked, ‘Yeh golmatol kidhar se laya’? Later when he noticed Divya’s new photographs at J. P. Singhal’s, he decided that she would do her Shola Aur Shabnam. Divya happened to be the only new comer to have 14 films on hand and not a single release.”

“The greatest moment in Divya’s life was  when Hema Malini approached her to do Dil Aashna Hain. She was so excited that she could not stop talking. When we landed up at Hemaji’s house, Divya wouldn’t say a word. All she did was nod her head. It was really great for an actress of Hemaji’s stature to sign a raw newcomer to play the main role with stars like Dimple, Amrita and Sonu.”

“She was in ninth standard when she began getting films offers. At first she wasn’t interested. Nandu Tolani was constantly after us to let Divya work in Gunahon Ke Devta.  She asked me for advice. So I explained that she could lead a normal life even when she became a star. ‘You are getting this opportunity, take it. If you are successful fine, if you are not you can return to what you want to do’. She was thrilled when I told her that she would have to forget her studies, she said, ‘fantastic, then let me join films’. Divya was 14 then.”

“At the same time Dilip Shankar wanted a new girl for Atank Hi Atank and Rudra- Avatar.  One was opposite  Aamir Khan and other opposite a new boy. So, when she asked her daddy, he said, ‘Karna hain to kar lo’. That’s how she signed both films. This was three months after Nandu Tolani approached us. Then Kirti Kumar noticed Divya at the video library and followed her home. Since Nandu lives next door, he asked him for our telephone number. He came over and talked to us. As he really needed a new face so he requested Dilip Shankar to release her from his films. That’s how she bagged Radha Ka Sangam. When Lawrence D’Souza, the director left the project, Kirti took over. Since he could not handle a new girl, he dropped Divya and took on Juhi Chawla.”

“Divya and Sajid got married on June 10. The moulvi was brought over to Sajid’s home and they performed the nikah ceremony and signed the register. I knew that she was getting married but Uncle didn’t know I insisted on not being present because it would affect Uncle. Sajid visits us regularly, he will be dedicating all his movies to Divya’s memory. His parents insist he get married, but he told me, ‘ I can’t forget Divya. How can I marry someone else’.”

“Among today’s girls, I don’t like Juhi and I don’t like Karishma at all. Raveena may be a star today but she’s not very expressive. She has quite a manly face. When I saw Aamir Khan’s dance sequence in Baazi, where he was dressed like a girl, I thought it was Raveena.  The most promising girl I feel is Kajol. She has talent. She’s spontaneous like Divya. Kajol likes to laugh and joke, and the next minute she can do a very serious scene. Divya was like that. Once David Dhawan pulled Divya up, Don’t fool be serious. It’s a serious scene’. She replied, ‘David if it’s a death scene, should I die for it’? Divya was natural. After seeing Bekhudi, Baazigar, Yeh Dillagi and Udhar Ki Zindagi, I felt Kajol was a good actress. I did not like her in Karan Arjun. I see all Kajol’s films. Though I have never meet her, I feel she is a very talented person – very natural. Whoever can perform comedy, can do any role. Nobody but Kajol can do that. Pooja Bhatt is also quite good. But nobody can be compared to our Divya. We still miss her”.

So do we at Cineblitz. Divya was one helluva girl!