Bollywood has been a merchant of dreams. It has created stars and carved out legends who have taken the world by storm. Nevertheless, not everyone is lucky to translate stardom into a legacy. Along with that, Bollywood is not always the land of dreams as it portrays itself to be.
The mysterious death of cinestar Sridevi and the aftermath of horrendous media coverage, speaks volumes about the dark side or the underbelly of the film industry. But she isn’t the first victim of the same. In fact, there have been bigger and more unprecedented demises which have shocked the industry.
Superstardom is not easy to attain. Moreover, it is something which becomes difficult to handle, especially when you get this tag at a very tender age. The world is at your feet. Your head is in the clouds. And we have had several cases in Hollywood where stardom ruined people’s lives. Maculay Culkin of ‘Home Alone’ fame lost his way to doping, Elvis Presley died because of the same reason as well. Back home, something similar might have taken place 25 years ago. A young actress who had the potential to emulate the Sridevis and Madhuris of that era, had breathed her last following an unprecedented leap from her house.
Divya Bharti was too young to die on April 5th 1993 and twenty five years later, her untimely death still hasn’t stopped raising questions.
Those were unforgettable days for Bollywood. The industry openly flaunted its connections with the Mafia, and serial blasts in Mumbai orchestrated by the underworld had just shaken the city. The sweeping hold that Sridevi had over the industry in the 1980s was in decline. Madhuri Dixit was tipped to fill the void, and had done so to quite an extent already. However, an array of divas had lined up to pose a competition. Out of that lot was a sixteen year old girl, Divya. Beginning her career with films that flopped including the much anticipated Vishwatma, this girl went south and stormed back, surprising several bigwigs of the industry.
Kirti Kumar’s find was just a flash in the pan for some, while for others, it was a battery of potential. In the midst of these extremities, she created an enigmatic aura around herself, as if she was our own desi Marlyn Monroe. People even today remember her song ‘saat samundar’, which had mesmerized audiences then and continues to wow us till date. Her initiation into cinema followed by a thunderous response, was interspersed with her disturbing personal equation with producer Sajid Nadiadwala. Filmmakers lashed out at her for throwing tantrums on the sets, and movie magazines spoke of her unprofessional attitude on their covers. But the same gang of harsh critics heaped lavish praise on her untapped potential and even projected her to be the next big thing in Hindi cinema.
Madhuri Dixit and Sridevi became household names after they had institutionalized their respective styles, but Divya Bharti’s antics made headlines even before she was anointed with such a crown. At the time of her demise, she had signed 16 films. She had worked with all the important actors of the day, and producers were lining up in front of her parents to sign more films. Hit films like “Shola Aur Shabnam” and “Deewana” were considered to be befitting replies to those who believed that she was a just an overrated actor and lacked substance. Even those films which didn’t do well somehow remained afloat only due to her performance. Just as any successful actor, she was linked with every costar. An alleged secret marriage to a producer also became fodder for endless gossip and rumor mongering.
Finally, at the peak of her glittering career, Divya Bharti was pushed down into an eternal abyss. A push shrouded in mystery, of which one cannot trace the source. Whether she pushed herself to death or someone deliberately silenced her, was never answered conclusively.
The police finally closed the case in the midst of a lot murmuring in the media. Unfortunately, there was no social media then, which could have held people accountable and put pressure on the authorities to receive some closure. Her death, which came a couple of weeks after the serial blasts, demanded a thorough investigation especially due to the links the underworld had with Bollywood. The entire industry came to pay its respects at her funeral, where she was dressed up as a bride. It symbolized her foray into the film industry perfectly. A bride dressed up for a happy wedding to cinema, and the story cut short by fate, at a time when destiny had placed her within striking range of superstardom.
Divya Bharti exhibited tremendous promise. An astounding beauty with exceptional acting prowess, talented by every measure, but disturbances hijacked her life. She possessed every gift except for the length of years. She deserved to be the next Madhuri but ended sadly in becoming another Sunanda Pushkar!