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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Inside the life of Pooja Bhatt, Bollywood’s original wild child

On Pooja Bhatt's 49th birthday today, we take a look back at her unapologetic life and what makes her one of the fieriest female stars Bollywood has seen so far.

Written by Mimansa Shekhar | New Delhi |
Updated: February 24, 2021 2:48:56 pm
pooja bhatt controversial lifePooja Bhatt is celebrating her 49th birthday today. (Photos: Express Archives and Pooja Bhatt/Instagram)

Pooja Bhatt entered the showbiz at a time when the nepotism debate was still decades away and it was normal, nay expected, that a starkid will eventually become a star. However, given the filmography that Mahesh Bhatt had created for himself, Pooja’s entry into films (at the age of 17) was also with a niche film, Daddy (1989), directed by Bhatt himself. The film went on to acquire a cult status.

“I did not have to tell my parents, they were quite aware. It was not like someone else cast me, but my dad offered me the film,” Pooja told in an interview from 2017.

Pooja followed it up with several movies, mostly backed by her father, that often went beyond what was expected of a ‘Bollywood heroine’. Films with solid roles for women were few and far between.

dil hai ke manta nahin pooja bhatt aamir khan Pooja Bhatt played a spoilt heiress who runs away from home to marry a film star in Dil Hai Ke Manta Nahin (1991), also starring Aamir Khan. (Photo: Express Archives)

Her choice of movies relied heavily on her personal outlook towards feminism and gender equality. “It’s not about seeing something, it’s about being brought up in an environment where you’re always made to believe that you’re not inferior because you’re a woman. It’s unfortunate — that people need a trigger to believe in equality or to champion the cause of women rights. You don’t need a trigger for that, it is inbuilt in you,” she told

Over the next decade, Pooja delivered noteworthy films with biggies like Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan and Sanjay Dutt. These included Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahin, Sadak, Sir, Phir Teri Kahani Yaad Aayee, Chaahat, Tamanna, and Zakhm, each one with unique themes like alcoholism, transgender, illegitimacy and a runaway bride.

pooja bhatt and mahesh bhatt old photos Pooja Bhatt’s unfiltered interviews about her rapport with her family and father Mahesh Bhatt have grabbed eyeballs a lot of times. (Photo: Express Archives)

Pooja Bhatt’s movies were probably, only a depiction of her fearless off-camera persona. The actor was not just carving her own brand of cinema, but also creating an image which was unabashed, and unapologetic. Some even called her one of the most controversial female actors of her times. Be it her bold photoshoots, or bolder interviews, whatever Pooja touched hogged headlines.

Take for instance Pooja’s cover on Cineblitz that read “I’m not a virgin!” to her photoshoot with a handful of male models for Stardust with the caption, “The New Morality”, each one boasted of Pooja’s newly acquired fiery status. While her bikini pics soon became the new normal, Pooja had no qualms about swimming against the flow. Even if it meant inviting furore for flaunting body paint for Movie magazine in 1993. It’s text read, “Pooja dares to appear in her birthday suit!”

pooja bhatt controversial magazine photos Pooja Bhatt was a popular choice for several magazine covers in 1990s.

Pooja, however, took the nation by storm, when she posed kissing her father Mahesh Bhatt for Filmfare, a picture which continues to stay fresh in our memories. The headline of the article quoted Bhatt as saying, “If Pooja wasn’t my daughter, I’d have loved to marry her.” But, Pooja remained undeterred with all the hue and cry.

While she almost quit acting after 2010 film Everybody Says I’m Fine, she continued to pick subjects which might be called ‘taboo’ by many in Bollywood. She turned to filmmaking by backing movies about femme fatale like Jism, Rog and Paap (director too). Pooja was eventually instrumental in bringing model-turned-actors like Sunny Leone, Udita Goswami and Ilene Hamann in Bollywood.

Point to note is, each of her projects sported an uncharacteristic forthrightness, depicting strong female characters who were guilt-free about their desires and dreams.


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A post shared by Pooja B (@poojab1972)

As much as Pooja’s onscreen work was a reflection of her own self, she bared her personal life to her fans too. From her affairs and link-ups with several actors (not taking names here) to her infamous spat with then live-in partner Ranvir Shorey with whom she allegedly had an “abusive relationship”. Both the stars have gone on record and talked about their side of story about that one fateful night when they called it quits.

In a report on dated December 2002, Ranvir said, “I was at Pooja’s place. The usual scuffle ensued. I decided to call off the relationship. Things got out of hand…”

Pooja went on to marry former Channel [V] VJ and restaurateur Manish Makhija in 2003 in Goa, after meeting on the sets of Paap. After 11 years, they however parted ways and Pooja announced their separation on Twitter.

She later told, “It was a wonderful marriage while it lasted, Then I decided, at the point where it was tumbling, to make a healthy break. And I stood by the choice I made. But, I was able to make that decision because somewhere along the line, I was also very independent — financially, and in my head.”

While Pooja stayed away from the archlights, front page columns did not leave her. The actor has time and again spoken about her fight with alcoholism and eventually going sober in 2017. Mumbai Mirror wrote in an article, “Pooja had seen what alcohol did to her father, how it had killed her parents’ marriage. She’d been in relationship with an alcoholic and got her into the news. She’d lost a friend at 40 to alcohol and had a drink to mourn her.”

Pooja had also revealed of penning her fight with alcohol in a book soon. Every year, she celebrates quitting alcohol on social media too. Her tweet last year read, “Four years sober today! Earlier it was pink champagne, malt and packed city bars. Now it is pink skies and deserted country roads. What an enriching, searing journey it has been. Gratitude to life and the divine force that has watched over me, kept me true, vulnerable, strong. #sobrietyrocks”

pooja bhatt bombay begums Pooja Bhatt is returning to full-fledged acting with Netflix show Bombay Begums. (Photo: Netflix)

Pooja’s life has and continues to remain an open book. Be it her relationship with her step-sister Alia Bhatt or her father Mahesh Bhatt, Pooja has never shied away from speaking her heart and mind.

Pooja, who did a cameo in her father’s last directorial Sadak 2 (2020), will soon be making a full-fledged comeback with Alankrita Shrivastava directed web series Bombay Begums.

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As the strong lady from the Bhatt stable turns 49 today, here’s wishing her more power and fearlessness. Happy birthday, Pooja Bhatt!

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