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Remembering Divya Bharti: The South star who crossed over to Hindi cinema

There is more to the late actress's career than films like Vishwatma, Shola Aur Shabnam and Deewana. 

Keyur Seta

Twenty-four years ago today (5 April 1993), actress Divya Bharti fell to her death from her fifth-floor apartment in Versova, Mumbai. The incident was such that it makes people shudder even today. Bharti was only 19 when her life came to an abrupt end. She was a sensation at the time, and the potential to become a future star in mainstream Hindi cinema.

On her 24th death anniversary today, we go down memory lane remembering Bharti's brief career and life.

She is still remembered for her work in hit films like Vishwatma (1992), Shola Aur Shabnam (1992) and Deewana (1992). Songs like ‘Saat Samundar Paar’ and ‘Aisi Deewangi’ from Vishwatma and Deewana, respectively are still loved by Hindi film music lovers. Bharti also won the Filmfare Award for Face Of The Year for Deewana. The film was also the first film release for Shah Rukh Khan. 

Given her popularity, it is surprising that her career before she became a Bollywood sensation is hardly spoken about. Not many people would know that Bharti not only did few films down south before crossing over to Hindi cinema, but also tasted stardom there. 

She was all set to make her Hindi film debut opposite Mithun Chakraborty in Gunahon Ka Devta (1990). When she was offered the role in 1988, she was studying in the ninth standard. But she was dropped from the project for unknown reasons. She was later signed by producer Kirti Kumar for Radha Ka Sangam opposite Govinda. However, she was dropped from this film too. 

It was when her Hindi film dreams were shattered that she was offered the Telugu film, Bobbili Raja (1990) by producer D Ramanaidu. It starred his son Daggubati Venkatesh, popularly known as Venkatesh. It is believed that she wasn’t expecting much from the film after failing to make her Hindi film debut. 

But Bobbili Raja turned out to be a blockbuster. In fact, the film is still considered among one of the memorable films in Telugu. It was Venkatesh’s first silver jubilee hit. 

Bobbili Raja saw Bharti playing Rani, daughter of the minister of forests. She lives a luxurious life, but falls in love with Raja (Venkatesh), a man who is born and brought up in the jungles. It is later revealed that both their families have been at loggerheads as they were once political rivals. The film had a popular song in the jungle featuring Bharti and Venkatesh.


It was natural for Bharti to be flooded with offers after such a successful debut. Although her Tamil debut (her only Tamil film), Nila Penne (1990) didn’t succeed, she had back-to-back hits in Telugu in Rowdy Alludu (1991), Assembly Rowdy (1991) and Dharma Kshetram (1992). It is also believed that in terms of box office rankings, she was just next to the already established star of the time, Vijayashanti. Her popularity was at a peak as people flocked to take her autograph whenever she stepped out in public.

But her biggest aim in life was to become a Hindi film superstar. With such success under her belt, Bharti was already famous when she entered Hindi cinema. She was touted to be the next big thing in mainstream Hindi cinema. It was also believed that she would have been a serious threat for Madhuri Dixit if she continued at the same speed. Her looks were also compared to another star of the era, Sridevi. 

Her ambitious streak was seen in an interview which she gave at the time. "My ambition is to be at the top. But through my own efforts. I don’t need anybody’s favour. Whatever I will become will be through my efforts. I will always strive for this. I don’t need anybody else’s position. I wish to make my own position,” she had said.

Unfortunately, what was promised to be a full-fledged role in the world of cinema turned out to be only a cameo. But as some characters generate appeal despite limited screen time, memories of Bharti still remain fresh in people’s minds, especially those who grew up in the 1990s. 

There was a lot of mystery surrounding her death. After a lot of investigations, the Mumbai Police closed the case in 1998 with the reason of death stated as accidental. During the time of the incident, she was married to producer Sajid Nadiadwala. They had fallen in love on the sets of Shola Aur Shabnam.

Divya Bharti speaking about her ambitions: