She'd dreamt of reaching the stars some day. While still a child, Pooja Bhatt wanted to become an astronaut. By the age of 17, Mahesh Bhatt's chubby daughter (and granddaughter of Nanabhai Bhatt of Prakash Pictures) had abandoned all those celestial dreams for earthly glamour.
The teenager made a totally unconventional debut under her father's watchful eye with 'Daddy' (1989). A typical Bhatt offering, this 'semi-autobiographical' melodrama had Pooja pulling her frustrated, lonely and alcoholic father (Anupam Kher) back from the edge of doom.
The next offering from the garrulous father-daughter duo, mercifully, wasn't based on Mr. Bhatt's colourful life. Instead, 'Dil Hai Ke Maanta Nahin' turned out to be a refreshing remake of the Raj Kapoor-Nargis musical romance 'Chori Chori' (1956), or, more accurately, of Frank Capra's 'It Happened One Night' (1934).
For once, Pooja was perfectly cast as the spoilt and arrogant daughter of a multi-millionaire who runs off to marry an opportunist and falls in love with a penniless journalist (Aamir Khan) instead. Apart from the fact that 'DHKMN' worked its charm on the box-office, the movie also got widely written (and talked) about in gossip rags and otherwise for the alleged closeness between the lead pair.
In fact, throughout her decade-long career, Pooja has sported an uncharacteristic forthrightness in laying bare her personal life. A family tradition, you'd think. So, the juiciest details of Ms. Bhatt's love life involving filmmakers, actors, wannabes and nobodies, invariably made their way to magazine pages.
In the interim, her acting career continued to stay afloat thanks to her father's assembly line of productions. But none, except 'Sadak' (1991), where she essayed the part of a prostitute whom Sanjay Dutt rescues from her miserable life and the clutches of the villain, made any impact on the audience.
This turned out to be the last (and only the second) major hit of Pooja's short-lived acting career. After five years marked by a seemingly unending line of flops (most of them home productions!), she finally switched lanes and turned producer with 'Tamanna' (1996).
Pooja Bhatt Productions' first offering was another 'inspired' story, that of a eunuch (Paresh Rawal) who adopts an abandoned child (Pooja herself). Thebox-office failure of her first effort perhaps prompted Pooja to finally wipe the pancake of her face and concentrate on being a full-time producer.
The ploy worked and 'Dushman', which starred Kajol in a double role and launched the careers of director Tanuja Chandra and bad man Ashutosh Rana became the 'off-beat' hit of 1998.
Towards the end of the year, Pooja managed to release her third film, 'Zakhm' which was also her father's swansong. Obviously, Mahesh Bhatt's last offering had to be drawn from his own life! So it was. And had Pooja executing the seriously challenging task of playing her own grandmother on screen.
A difficult job for any actress, Pooja stole the show with an astonishing performance. Her pain-washed face brought alive the tragedy of a woman who is forced to live in ignominy and can never call the man she loves, her own, despite bearing two children by him!