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Divya Bharti (1974 – 1993)

divyabhDivya Bharti (25 February 1974 – 5 April 1993) was an Indian film actress, whose acting variety hailed her as “the most interesting young actress of her generation” starring in a number of commercially successful Hindi, Telugu and Tamil films in the early 1990s. Bharti played a variety of character types; her film roles along with her screen persona contributed to a change in the concept of a Hindi film heroine.

After spending much of her childhood in Tapri, Bharti began a career as an actress in Telugu films with the 1990 Telugu film Bobbili Raja. Her early film appearances had her play little more than love interest of the leading actors, but she drew attention when she progressed to Hindi films of Bollywood in 1992 with Vishwatma. Bharti went onto have commercial success with films like Shola Aur Shabnam and Deewana that same year for which she garnered a Filmfare Award for Best Female Debut. Bharti had acted in over 14 Hindi films between 1992 and 1993. Throughout her brief career, she often played strong female characters and, apart from mainstream cinema. Though her career went through certain periods of decline, she reinvented herself numerous times and was credited for her ability to sustain her status. The final years of Bharti’s life were marked by personal problems, and a reputation for unreliability and difficulty to work with.

Bharti’s career was cut short by her death on 5 April 1993 at the age of 19.The circumstances of her death, falling from the window ledge of her five-storey Versova apartment have been the subject of dispute over the years. Bharti’s last completed films were Rang, co-starring Kamal Sadanah and Shatranj with Jackie Shroff, both released posthumously.

Family and early life

Divya Bharti was born on February 25, 1974, in Mumbai, India, the eldest child of Omprakash Bharti, an insurance officer and Meeta Bharti. Meeta Bharti was the second wife of Omprakash Bharti. She had a younger brother named Kunal. Bharti Studied at Maneckji Cooper High School in Juhu, Mumbai, in same era as actors Farhan Akhtar and Rani Mukherji attended. She was average in studies and completed grade 9th.

Bharti’s first Bollywood film was Vishwatma opposite Sunny Deol, directed by Rajiv Rai which released on January 2, 1992. The film was an average grosser at the box office but gained Bharti wider recognition from the public as well as film critics the film was only declared an average grosser. Notably, the music of the film was very successful especially the song “Saat Samundar” which became a favorite and gave Bharti the limelight into Bollywood.

Seven days later, Bharti’s next film, Lawrence D’Souza’s romantic drama Dil Ka Kya Kasoor alongside Prithvi and Sanam released but failed at the box office. Bharti’s role was that of a girl by the name of Seema, who is secretly in love with a guy who wants to be a singer. She secretly helps him become a successful singer by writing songs for him but keeps her identity a secret from him. Through her songs he becomes popular and wealthy virtually overnight. The music of this film from duo Nadeem-Shravan was an instant hit due to its catchy melodies. But the film didn’t do well at the box office. However, Filmfare magazines started including Bharti in the list of 1992 “Top Ten Best Actress Performances”. After Bharti’s flops, she was quoted as saying, “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.” (Stardust, March 1992).

In March 1992, David Dhawan’s Shola Aur Shabnam was released. Bharti starred as Divya, the love interest of Karan (Govinda). In the film, Karan and Divya both plan to marry each other. Circumstances act against them, and they flee together, with Kali Baba’s (Gulshan Grover) men after them. Shola Aur Shabnam was popular with critics and was a box office hit in India, establishing Bharti once again. She received a Lux Face of the Year title. It also gave a big boost to Govinda’s career, as well as launching David Dhawan as an established director.

Four months later, Bharti received further success in Raj Kanwar’s Filmfare award winning love story Deewana starred veteran actor Rishi Kapoor, and newcomer Shahrukh Khan. Bharti essayed the role of Kajal who falls in love and marries a famous singer named Ravi (Rishi Kapoor). After Ravi is presumed dead after falling off a cliff, the widowed and depressed Kajal meets a young man named Raja (Shahrukh Khan). Deewana grossed ₹ 14 crore, and Boxoffice India declared it a hit. Her performance in Deewana was highly appreciated. Critics reported that Bharti belonged to a new breed of Hindi film actors that breaks away from character stereotypes. Bharti and Shahrukh Khan both were awarded with Filmfare Award for Best Female Debut and Filmfare Award for Best Male Debut respectively.

By July 1992, Bharti’s work in Deewana was said to have earned her more acknowledge. She was listed as one of the “Most Valuable Young Stars”. She had several other releases that year like Jaan Se Pyaara, Geet and Balwaan with another debutant Sunil Shetty. Out of these, only Balwaan was a modest success, establishing Sunil Shetty as an action hero. Bharti’s role was small, and was not well received. She was mostly criticised for taking a role of minimal importance. Although she explained that the decision was significant, so even when characters are being unkind it’s hard not to like.

By the end of the year, she starred in Hema Malini’s Dil Aashna Hai again co-starring Shahrukh Khan. The film tells the story of a young girl brought up in a brothel, who is a cabaret dancer in Digvijay Singh’s (Kabir Bedi) five-star hotel. Digvijay’s son Karan (Shahrukh Khan) falls in love with Laila. Laila is aided by Karan in the search for her birth mother and is determined to seek answers and find acceptance from her real mother. The film garnered negative reviews and poor box office returns. She described the role as an attempt to pretext her cursorial public image. Hema Malini labelled her role by stating that “The lady has not just looked glamorous but she has walked with symmetry, smiled with austerity and spoke with sangfroid”

Bharti’s last film release while she was alive was the ensemble film Kshatriya, released just 10 days before her death. Her last completed films were Rang and Shatranj which were released months after her death and dedicated to her memory. At the time of her death she had completed 80% shooting of the film Laadla before her role was recast with Sridevi. She was also set to star in films like Mohra, Vijaypath and Andolan before her role was recast with other actresses.

Personal life

Bharti married film producer Sajid Nadiadwala in 1992.They had met in 1990 at Film City, when Sajid dropped by the sets to meet Govinda on the sets of Shola Aur Shabnam.
Death and aftermath

Around midnight of 5 April 1993, Bharti fell to her death from a five-stories Versova apartmental building in Mumbai. There was much speculation by the media regarding Bharti’s sudden demise, including the possibility of suicide, accidental death, well planned conspiracy or even murder. Mumbai Police failed to find evidences and closed the investigation in 1998. Some conspiracy theories involved her husband Sajid Nadiadwala, while other theories suggested Mafia complicity. But the circumstances of her death still remain a mystery.

Bharti’s body was released to her family, who had arranged for a cremation ceremony. On 7 April 1993, Bharti was cremated in a Hindu fashion.

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