I remember the day…April 6, 1993. I’d just stepped into the office when I was informed that Divya Bharti had been shot. “Who took the pictures? Gautam Rajadhyaksha or Rakesh Shrestha?” I enquired. My colleague responded by saying he wasn’t talking photographs. “She’s been gunned down, I’m told the underworld is involved,” he whispered. I dismissed it as just a rumour, but within minutes, the news was confirmed that Divya was dead.
She had apparently fallen from the fifth floor of the Versova apartment that she shared with her producer-husband Sajid Nadidawala around midnight. An hour later, accompanied by a colleague, I was on my way to Cooper Hospital to ferret out more information.
At the hospital we learnt that Divya had apparently slipped from the ledge on which she’d been perched. There were whispers of suicide, even murder, but eventually, her death was ruled as an accident and the file closed.
Earlier that evening, accompanied by her parents and brother, Divya had dinner with director Sudarshan Nag and his family. While leaving, around 10.30 pm, she had promised Mrs Nag to return for lunch the next afternoon. Back home, she’d invited her designer friend Neeta Lulla and her doctor husband Shyam over and was chatting with them when she took the fall.
She was rushed to Cooper hospital, still breathing, holding tightly to the doctor’s shirt sleeve even as he assured her that she’d be fine. Then, just as they swept in through the hospital’s gates, she reportedly tugged on Dr Lulla’s sleeve one last time, before her grip slackened. She was declared dead on arrival.
By the time we arrived at Cooper Hospital, her body had been removed to the morgue to await post-mortem. Her father, Om Prakash Bharti, had been admitted, along with Sajid who had gone into shock on learning that she was no more. Divya’s mother, Meeta, was completing the formalities looking dazed. Many of her industry friends, including producers Pahlaj Nihalani and Boney Kapoor, and actor Govinda, had gathered at the hospital, disbelief writ large on their faces.
Govinda was inconsolable as he recalled celebrating her 19th birthday on February 25 at RG’s. Divya had dragged Sajid and him out of the discotheque and announced that she wanted to dance on top of the car. Then, proceeded to do exactly that as Govinda drummed a beat on the bonnet and pointed out to Sajid that the girl was really living life to the fullest, doing exactly what she wanted.
A couple of days later, Sajid was inconsolable as Divya dressed as a bride, was consigned to the flames at the Vile Parle crematorium. “I want to see her face,” he sobbed, remembering the girl whom he had signed for Andolan without even seeing her and whom he had fallen in love with at almost first sight when he dropped in on the sets of Shola Aur Shabnam to meet his friend Govinda. Divya was barely 16 at the time and two years later they were married. “Yes, she had her moods, but you can’t expect a 19 year old to behave like a 40 year old. She never hid her true feeling and perhaps that’s why she was misunderstood,” he’d reasoned.
I too remembered her as a moody star who had almost caused the boat we were in to capsize when I asked her a question she didn't care for. Little did I know then, that this would be our first and last meeting.
On March 31, she had been voted the Most Outstanding New Face of 1992. She had wanted to collect the trophy in person, but the shoot of Yatra had held her up in Chennai. And her father had accepted it on her behalf. Six days later, the trophy was a memory of a mercurial child he’d lost forever.
“She was too young to die,” Govinda wept. Yes, at 19, Divya had her whole life before her. But after her death, many close friends remembered how she had often spoken about flying and falling. I wonder, did she have a premonition that her high was short-lived?