Bharti aspired a career in films at a young age, and started to get offers at 14 years of age, while she was doing modelling assignments. After several unsuccessful attempts, she made her debut with a lead role in the successful Telugu drama Bobbili Raja (1990), aged 16. After featuring in a number of high-grossing Telugu films, she progressed to Bollywood films in 1992 with the action thriller Vishwatma. Bharti further went on to have commercial success alongside acclaimed actors such as Govinda and Rishi Kapoor in films such as Shola Aur Shabnam and Deewana, respectively; the latter of which garnered her a Filmfare Award for Best Female Debut. She acted in over 14 Hindi films between 1992 and 1993, which is to date an unbroken record in Hindi cinema.
Bharti died on 5 April 1993, aged 21, from head injuries sustained after falling off the balcony of her fifth-floor apartment at Tulsi Buildings in Versova, Mumbai. It was never officially confirmed whether her fatal fall was the result of a murder, suicide, or accidental. Her parents called her death an accident, and Mumbai Police closed the investigation in 1998, labeling it as accidental.
Bharti was born in Bombay (present-day Mumbai) to Om Prakash Bharti, an insurance officer, and his wife, Meeta Bharti. She had a younger brother named Kunal and one half-sister Poonam, who was the child of Bharti's father's first marriage. She spoke Hindi, English, and Marathi fluently. In her early years, Bharti was known for her bubbly personality and for her doll-like looks. Actress Kainaat Arora is her second cousin.
Bharti studied at Maneckji Cooper High School in Juhu, Mumbai. She was an average student and completed 9th standard before pursuing an acting career.
In 1988, Bharti was discovered by filmmaker Nandu Tolani. Upon seeing her, Tolani insisted on signing her for one of his films. At that time, Bharti was in the ninth standard (in ninth grade). She was originally scheduled to make her screen debut in Gunahon Ka Devta in 1988, but her role was cancelled. Kirti Kumar noticed Bharti at a video library, and thus was eager to sign her for his project Radha Ka Sangam opposite Govinda, as he was searching for a new face. Weeks later, Kumar met with Dilip Shankar and managed to release Bharti from her contract. After taking dancing and acting lessons for months to prepare for her role, Bharti was eventually dropped and replaced by Juhi Chawla. Though the reasons remain unclear, it was speculated that Kumar's possessiveness over Bharti and her childish nature was the cause of her replacement.
Bharti's career was stalled until D. Ramanaidu, Telugu film producer, offered her Bobbili Raja opposite his son Daggubati Venkatesh. Without hoping for success after experiencing many failures in Bollywood, she commenced shooting in Andhra Pradesh for her screen debut. The film was released in the summer of 1990 and became a colossal hit. Bobbili Raja remains to this day one of the most popular Telugu movies. Bharti acted in only one Tamil film, Nila Penne opposite Anand. The film was critically and financially unsuccessful.
With more hits in the Telugu cinema, Bharti established herself as one of the most popular Telugu actresses.
In box office ratings, she figured next to Vijayshanti. In 1991, Bharti had back-to-back hits, including Rowdy Alludu and Assembly Rowdy, opposite actors Chiranjeevi and Mohan Babu.
Later that year, Bharti began filming A. Kodandarami Reddy's action romance Dharma Kshetram under Sri Rajeev Productions. Bharti got to work with Telugu film actor Nandamuri Balakrishna.
While Bharti celebrated her success in Andhra Pradesh, Bollywood's top directors were eager to sign the Telugu superstar for their upcoming films. Bharti's first Bollywood film was Vishwatma opposite Sunny Deol, directed by Rajiv Rai, and was released on 2 January 1992. The film was an average grosser at the box office and gained Bharti wider recognition from the public as well as film critics. Notably, the music of the film was very successful, especially the song "Saat Samundar", which became a favourite, and put Bharti in the limelight of Bollywood.
A week later, Bharti's next film, Lawrence D'Souza's romantic drama Dil Ka Kya Kasoor, alongside Prithvi released. Though the film failed at the box office, it brought her name in the Filmfare magazine's "Top Ten Best Actress Performances" of 1992. The movie was also recognized for its outstanding music. But after the failure of the film at the box office, she was quoted as saying, "I wanted to prove myself. But I've fallen flat on my face. Now, I have to begin my climb all over again. Yet, I'm positive that one day, success will be mine." (Stardust, March 1992).
In March 1992, David Dhawan's Shola Aur Shabnam was released. It was popular with critics and was a box office hit in India, reviving Bharti's career once again. She received a Lux Face of the Year title. It also gave a big boost to Govinda's career and launched David Dhawan as an established director. Shortly thereafter, Bharti achieved further success in Raj Kanwar's Filmfare- award-winning love story Deewana starred veteran actor Rishi Kapoor and newcomer Shahrukh Khan, which is regarded as one of the biggest blockbuster hits of 1992. Her performance in Deewana was highly appreciated. Critics reported that Bharti belonged to a new breed of Hindi film actors who broke away from character stereotypes. Bharti and Shahrukh Khan won the Filmfare Award for Lux New Face of the Year and Filmfare Award for Best Male Debut respectively. By July 1992, Bharti's work in Deewana was said to have earned her more recognition.
She had several other releases that year, among them Jaan Se Pyaara, which featured Bharti alongside Govinda once again, Geet opposite Avinash Wadhawan, Dushman Zamana alongside Armaan Kohli and Balwaan which marked the debut of Sunil Shetty. The latter being a low budget film, achieved moderate success. In October, Hema Malini's Dil Aashna Hai, again opposite Shahrukh Khan was released, which didn't do as well at the box office. Divya's performance as a bar dancer who sets out to find her birth mother was however appreciated.
Bharti decided to act in one Telugu movie per year in order to not disappoint her Telugu audience. Thus, Chittamma Mogudu was released at the end of 1992, starring once again the popular couple of Bharti and Mohan Babu.
The ensemble film Kshatriya in which she co-starred alongside Sunny Deol, Sanjay Dutt and Raveena Tandon was the last film to be released during Bharti's lifetime. She died only a week after its release.
Bharti met Sajid Nadiadwala through Govinda at the shooting of Shola Aur Shabnam. Soon both Bharti and Nadiadwala fell in love with each other. Bharti married Nadiadwala on 10 May 1992. She converted to Islam after her marriage and changed her name to Sana Nadiadwala.
On 5 April 1993, around 11 PM, Bharti fell off the balcony of her fifth floor apartment at the Tulsi buildings in Versova, Mumbai. After neighbours discovered her, she was rushed in an ambulance to the emergency department at Cooper Hospital where doctors failed to revive her. The immediate cause of death was stated as the heavy internal bleeding at the back of the head which was severely injured. The reason of falling was never established and several theories circulated in the media during that time, including falling under influence of alcohol, push by someone, suicide, and involvement of her husband and underworld mafia. The investigation was closed in 1998 by Mumbai police and the reason of death was stated as accidental death. She was cremated on 7 April 1993 at the Vile Parle crematorium, Mumbai.
Two of Bharti's completed films Rang and Shatranj were released several months after her death. Her incomplete Telugu film Tholi Muddhu was partly completed by Indian actress Rambha, who slightly resembled Bharti and hence was used as her body double to complete her remaining scenes.
She was more than halfway through the filming of Laadla at the time of her death and the film was reshot with Sridevi replacing her. She was replaced in several films she had signed such as Mohra, Kartavya, Vijaypath and Andolan. Some movies which she had signed for were subsequently shelved, such as Parinaam with Akshay Kumar, Kanyadaan with Rishi Kapoor, and Chaal Pe Chaal with Jackie Shroff.
A film, Love Behind The Border based on the life of Divya Bharti was in the pipeline, but was never made.