Divya Om Prakash Bharti (also Bharati or Bharathi) (25 February 1974 - 5 April 1993) was an Indian film actress who starred in a number of commercially successful Hindi, Telugu and Tamil films in the early 1990s.
Bharti began a career as an actress in Telugu films with the film Bobbili Raja in 1990. She progressed to Hindi films in 1992 with Vishwatma. Bharti went on to 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. She acted in over 14 Hindi films between 1992 and early 1993 which is till date an unbroken record for a newcomer in Bollywood.
Bharti died on 5th April 1993 at the age of 19. She fell off her 5-storey apartment in Versova, Mumbai. Eye witnesses reported to have seen her slip down the parapet of her balcony after losing balance. It remains unclear if her sudden death was of accidental nature or suicide. However, the possibility of murder can be dismissed.
Divya Bharti was born on 25th February 1974, in Mumbai, India, as the child of Om Prakash Bharti, an insurance officer, and his second wife, Meeta Bharti. She had a younger brother named Kunal and two half siblings who were the result of her father's first marriage. She spoke Hindi, English and Marathi fluently. In her early years, Bharti was known for her bubbly personality and love for life, as well as for her doll-like looks. She is the second cousin of actress Kainaat Arora.
Bharti studied at Maneckji Cooper High School in Juhu, Mumbai, in the same era as actor Farhan Akhtar attended. She was an average student and completed grade 9 before pursuing an acting career.
1988 - 1990: Early Work and Career Beginnings:
In 1988, Bharti was discovered by film-maker Nandu Tolani. Upon seeing her, Tolani insisted on signing her for one of his films. At that time, Bharti was in the ninth standard. She was originally scheduled to make her screen debut in Gunahon Ka Devta in 1988, but her role was cancelled.Kirti Kumar noticed Bharti at a video library and thus was eager to sign her for his project Radha Ka Sangam opposite Govinda, as he was searching for a new face. Weeks later, Kumar went personally to meet Dilip Shankar and managed to release Bharti from their contract. After taking dancing and acting lessons for months to prepare for the role, Bharti was eventually dropped and replaced by Juhi Chawla. Though the reasons remain unclear, it was speculated about Kumar's possessiveness over Bharti as well as Bharti's childish nature to be the cause of the replacement. She continued to sign a variety of Bollywood-films before dropping out and getting replaced by other actresses, such as Tabu.
Bharti's career was stalled until D. Ramanaidu, one of the biggest producers of Telugu films, offered her Bobbili Raja opposite his son Daggubati Venkatesh. Without hoping for success after experiencing a lot of failures in Bollywood, she commenced shooting for her screen debut in South India. The film was released in summer of 1990 and became a colossal hit.Bobbili Raja remains to this day one of the most popular Telugu movies.
Bharti acted in only one Tamil film, Nila Penne opposite Anand. The film was critically and financially unsuccessful.
1990 - 1992: Rise to Stardom in Telugu Cinema:
With more hits in the Telugu cinema, Bharti established herself as one of the most popular actresses down south. In box-office ratings, she figured next to Vijayshanti. Due to her popularity, a temple was build in her honor. In 1991, Bharti had back-to-back hits, including Rowdy Alludu and Assembly Rowdy opposite actors Chiranjeevi and Mohan Babu.
Later that year, Bharti began filming A. Kodandarami Reddy's action romance Dharma Kshetram under Sri Rajeev Productions. Bharti got to work for the first time with prominent Telugu film actor Nandamuri Balakrishna. In Telugu language films, Bharti was always credited as Divya Bharathi.
1992 - 1993: Rise to Stardom in Bollywood:
While Bharti celebrated her success in South India, Bollywood's top directors were eager to sign the Telugu superstar for their upcoming films. Bharti's first Bollywood film was Vishwatma opposite Sunny Deol, directed by Rajiv Rai and released on 2nd January 1992. The film was an average grosser at the box office, and gained Bharti wider recognition from the public as well as film critics. Notably, the music of the film was very successful, especially the song "Saat Samundar" which became a favorite and put Bharti in the limelight of Bollywood.
A week later, Bharti's next film, Lawrence D'Souza's romantic drama Dil Ka Kya Kasoor, alongside Prithvi, failed at the box office, though was recognized for its outstanding music. 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. It was popular with critics and was a box office hit in India, reviving Bharti's career once again. She received a Lux Face of the Year title. It also gave a big boost to Govinda and launched David Dhawan as an established director. Shortly after, Bharti achieved further success in Raj Kanwar's Filmfare-award winning love story Deewana starred veteran actor Rishi Kapoor and newcomer Shahrukh Khan, which is regarded as one of the biggest blockbuster hits of 1992. Her performance in Deewana was highly appreciated. Critics reported that Bharti belonged to a new breed of Hindi film actors who broke away from character stereotypes. Bharti and Shahrukh Khan won the 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 recognition.
She had several other releases that year, among them Jaan Se Pyaara which featured Bharti alongside Govinda once again, Geet opposite Avinash Wadhawan, Dushman Zamana alongside Armaan Kohli and Balwaan which marked the debut of newcomer Sunil Shetty. The latter being a low budget film, achieved moderate success due to Bharti's popularity and opened doors to Shetty who pursued a career in action oriented films henceforth.
In October, she starred in Hema Malini's Dil Aashna Hai, again opposite Shahrukh Khan. The film garnered negative reviews and poor box office returns.
As far as the Telugu film industry is concerned, Bharti decided to film one movie per year in order to not disappoint her south Indian audience. Thus, Chittamma Mogudu was released at the end of 1992, starring once again the popular couple of Bharti and Mohan Babu.
The ensemble film Kshatriya released 10 days before her sudden death on 5th April 1993. It was the last movie release during Bharti's lifetime. She co-starred with Sunny Deol, Sanjay Dutt and Raveena Tandon in the film.
Bharti loved to swim and engage in other activities at the Juhu Vile Parle Gymkhana Club in Mumbai along with her brother Kunal. Her parents noticed her interest in acting at a young age since Bharti used to skip studying in order to imitate the dance moves of the most recent Bollywood films at that time, such as the 1983 hit film Himmatwala, starring Sridevi and one of Divya's most favourite actors, Jeetendra. She occasionally visited the Siddhivinayak Temple and loved to eat their Modaks.
After being falsely linked to a variety of Bollywood and Telugu actors and other personalities within the film industry, Bharti decided to get married to film producer Sajid Nadiadwala on 10th May 1992, after she had just turned 18. They had met at Film City, when Sajid dropped by to meet Govinda on the sets of Shola Aur Shabnam. The marriage was kept a secret for a couple of weeks in order to avoid lessening potential film offers for Bharti as well as soothing intra-familial conflicts regarding the different religions and familiar backgrounds Bharti and Nadiadwala belonged to. Bharti changed her name to Sanah Nadiadwala, while still working under the name Divya Bharti. Magazines at that time speculated about Bharti having converted to Islam, this however, has never been confirmed by either Nadiadwala or Bharti's family.
Bharti was a close friend to actor Govinda who according to her parents still mourns her death.
Death and aftermath:
Around midnight of 5th April 1993, Bharti fell to her death from a five-storey Tulsi apartment building in Versova, Mumbai. There was much speculation by the media regarding Bharti's sudden demise, including the possibility of suicide, accidental death, conspiracy or even murder.Mumbai Police failed to find any evidence suggesting murder and hence closed the investigation labelled as accidental death in 1998. Some conspiracy theories involved her husband Sajid Nadiadwala, while other theories suggested Mafia complicity. Bharti's body was examined and a fair amount of alcohol was found in her blood. Her body was released to her family, who arranged a cremation ceremony 2 days after her demise.
Two of her completed films Rang and Shatranj were released several months after her death and dedicated to her memory. At the time of her death, she had completed 80% filming of Laadla, and Sridevi was recast in her role. Footage of Divya's performance in Laadla was seen in a television program in 1994. She was replaced in several other films she had signed such as Mohra, Vijaypath and Andolan. Her incomplete Telugu film Tholi Muddhu was partly completed by south actress Rambha who slightly resembled Bharti and hence completed a few scenes of the movie for her.
Divya Bharati is immortalised in Iran as beauty Queen as her portraits can be found along with Sridevi and Amitabh Bachchan in art shops across Iran.
Only Tamil language film
Naa Ille Naa Swargam
Debut Hindi film
Shola Aur Shabnam
Lux Face of the Year
Dil Ka Kya Kasoor
Seema / Shalini Saxena
Jaan Se Pyaara
Filmfare Award for Best Female Debut
Dil Aashna Hai
Laila / Sitara
Dil Hi To Hai