A still from Deewana
A still from Deewana

"Can you Imagine a star sitting in her car, refusing to get off, because she was afraid her producer would scold her for coming in a little late for the shoot?” the always-affable Guddu Dhanoa guffaws at this memory of Deewana.

The 1993 romantic drama, directed by Raj Kanwar, revolved around a singer, Ravi, whose uncle hatches a plot to kill him to grab his property. He is presumed dead and his widow, Kajal, is persuaded by her mother-in-law to marry Raja who even snaps ties with his father for her. Just when the couple is settling down to a happy married life, Ravi surfaces and now Kajal is torn between two men, both living under the shroud of imminent death.

The lady who had quaked in her shoes was 19-year-old Divya Bharti who after Shola Aur Shabnam was being touted as the next superstar. They were filming the song, Tere dard se dil abaad raha, kuchh bhool gae, kuchh yaad raha on a terrace that day. Guddu was sitting below, patiently waiting for her to arrive. When he finally enquired “Heroine aaye ki nahin?” he was told she had been in her car for an hour, too frightened to walk past him. “She got off only after I assured her we were not mad at her,” he reminisces fondly. 

During a schedule in Ooty, one evening, the child-woman came across Guddu, playing cards with Rishi Kapoor and a few others after pack-up. She looked around for a chair and not finding one, uninhibitedly dropped into Rishiji’s lap. When he laughingly asked her if she knew how old he was, she innocently shook her head, her eyes wide.

A still from Deewana
A still from Deewana

Trying to sound stern, Guddu remembers the actor telling her, “I am 39 to you are 19. There is a 20-year age gap between us.” This knowledge made little difference to her or the film’s box-office prospects. 

Deewana was the second highest grosser of 1992, after Beta, bagging five Filmfare Awards, including Most Popular Face of the Year for Divya.

Guddu who had signed the actress on the recommendation of his friend and her manager, Jatin Rajguru, asserts that she was beautiful, talented and never gave him any cause for complaint. “In fact, she was so professional that she turned up to shoot the song Aisi Deewangi in Shimla while running a high fever,” informs a gratified Guddu.

Shah Rukh Khan, who played the lovable Raja, was extremely busy, juggling five films, and had accepted this film on the condition that he would only give dates if someone cancelled theirs. “Fortunately, the Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman schedule got pushed and we got 30-35 dates for Deewana. But we were always racing against time. Divya knew we had only two-three days of work left and didn’t want us to suffer any losses,” he says.

After Deewana, he signed her for his directorial, the action-packed Elaan, opposite Akshay Kumar. But by then Divya had got so busy getting her dates was a problem. One day, she herself suggested that Guddu take someone else for this film. “I’ll do your next,” she promised. On her urging, he opted for Madhoo.

And, then, the unthinkable happened. “I was in my office when I heard that Divya had fallen from her fifth floor-apartment in Versova,” he flashbacks. The accident happened on the evening of April 5, 1993. She was rushed to Cooper Hospital, but the fall which resulted in severe head injuries and internal bleeding, proved fatal. Divya Bharti passed away at the age of 19 that same evening.

She was cremated two days later. Guddu who had rushed to her house after getting the news, was at the funeral. “Amrishji (actor, Amrish Puri) and I gave kandha (offered a shoulder) to her arthi (corpse), we were right there in front,” he sighs, the laughter dying away.

In retrospect, he believes, it is almost prophetic that she dropped out of Elaan else he would have had to reshoot large portions of the film after her untimely demise. “Raj Kanwar had completed 30 percent of Kartavya, the film had to be reshot completely with Juhi (Chawla) replacing her. But Divya never gave her Guddu uncle any trouble, ever,” he concludes emotionally.

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