When Sridevi entered Divya Bharti’s Laadla after her untimely demise, Raveena Tandon did her Mohra
Divya Bharti only gave Bollywood three years of her acting career before saying goodbye. And yet, she managed to carve out a filmography, which also includes Tamil and Telugu films, that remains etched in our memories even after 30 years. Divya, who made her big screen debut in 1990 with the Tamil film Nila Pennae, has starred in more than 20 films, with half a dozen projects still in production at the time of her untimely demise. In fact, 1992 can easily be christened as his year. Her films Dil Ka Kya Kasoor, Shola Aur Shabnam, Deewana and Dil Aashna Hai hit screens that year, and producers lined up to sign her.
In an interview, Divya said she got excited when some people pointed out her resemblance to Sridevi. “I was thrilled. I said wow what a compliment to be so beautiful and beautiful,” Divya said. She added that she refused to accept the comparison because Sridevi is “so beautiful. She is so good. She is tall, beautiful, prettier than me at all! She has a lighter complexion. I have a pimply face.
When Divya Bharti died aged 19 in 1993, she was married to producer Sajid Nadiadwala and had eight films in various stages of production. From Laadla to Mohra, Divya was already working on many projects which then needed to be redone with replacements.
Fate made its way as Sridevi replaced Divya in Laadla. Sridevi stepped into Divya’s shoes so seamlessly that we’ve yet to decide who said the film’s most popular lines best – “Understand? You better understand!”
In one particular set video, Sridevi struggles with dialogue at the exact same point where Divya also fumbled. The odd connection was also identified by Raveena Tandon, who was part of the Laadla cast.
Raveena told Mumbai Mirror: “The first hit was emotional for us because Sridevi had taken the place of Divya Bharti after her untimely demise. Divya, Shakti Kapoor and I had shot a scene in Aurangabad where she fires us and throws us out of the office. While filming the scene, Divya was constantly stuck on a particular line of dialogue and had to give it a few retakes before it all came together. About six months later we were shooting the same scene with Sridevi in the same office and it was so weird because she was stuck in the same line. All of us on set had goosebumps.
Raveena Tandon added that they resumed filming after following Shakti Kapoor’s suggestion of chanting the Gayatri mantra and cracking a coconut on set. Raveena then replaced Divya at Mohra. Divya had already shot a few scenes when Raveena was roped in to star opposite Akshay Kumar.
Divya Bharti has worked with top banners and been paired with Shah Rukh Khan, Rishi Kapoor, Govinda, Suniel Shetty and Jackie Shroff during her short career. While it was reported that she was a strong choice to play Simran in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge, the role eventually went to Kajol, who also replaced Divya in Hulchul.
Actor Sanjay Kapoor wrote a moving Instagram post in 2020 about the 25th anniversary of his film Kartavya. Although the film initially starred Divya, it was later completed by Juhi Chawla. Sanjay wrote, “I had the opportunity to work with the wonderful and very talented Juhi Chawala. The very sad and unfortunate part is that we lost the very beautiful Divya Bharti during the filming of this movie. In fact, I I first shot this song with her. This film will always be special and very close to my heart.” He was referring to the track “Hame Kya Khabar Thee”.
Other actors who have replaced Divya include Karisma Kapoor in Dhanwaan, Pooja Bhatt in Angrakshak, Tabu in Vijaypath and Mamta Kulkarni in Andolan.
Kshatriya, starring Sunny Deol, Sanjay Dutt, Vinod Khanna, Dharmendra, Meenakshi Seshadri and Raveena Tandon, was Divya Bharti’s last film. Divya’s popularity was such that three of her projects were released posthumously – Rang, Shatranj and Tholi Muddhu.