Yash Chopra: School of rebellion and romance

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October 22nd, 2012 Shibangi Das

You don’t expect tragedy to strike when you are at the country’s premier film festival, celebrating cinema. Somewhere halfway through the screening that I was attending, the incessant alerts on my phone led me to check it. It took me a good ten minutes to come back to what was happening on the screen in front of me. Some may mock me for sounding over dramatic, but I had completely lost all interest in the film. The reason for all the romance in my life - Yash Chopra - was dead.

The two German ladies next to me in the theatre seemed shocked when they heard the news and began a conversation about YashRaj Films with me and a few others around us. It was hard not to notice how they knew so much about Bollywood, and particularly, Yashji’s films. That, is the magic and the legacy that he has left behind.

The King of Romance is a kind of a misnomer for Yashji. He flouted the rules in a different way - questioning basic human feelings in contexts of everything that the society has always labelled immoral and illicit. And he used a language that did not offend anyone, but made his audience sit up and think about the bases of these societal norms that define right and wrong. Pick a movie out of his very impressive filmography and you will know exactly why he will always be among the finest Bollywood filmmakers.

Yashji gave us the ‘angry young man’ in Deewar, the suspense thriller sans the song and dance routine in Ittefaq and an India-Pakistan partition drama Dharmaputra, which made Shashi Kapoor an actor to reckon with. His first directorial venture Dhool ka Phool was about an illegitimate Hindu-born child being raised by a Muslim. Daag looked closely at polygamy. The multi-starrer blockbuster Waqt which he made with brother B R Chopra launched the ‘lost and found’ formula, which inspired another slew of hits in the industry. Deewar and Trishul are what India’s children of the 70’s swear by — they too raise questions about means and ends, an important moral dilemma that the generation then was faced with.

Then there were his classic romances. Silsila and Kabhi Kabhie explored pre-marital and extra-marital relationships. Mashaal is a violent and dramatic cult classic that stands testimony to the fact that Yashji was never genre-bound. Chandni and Lamhe celebrated his position as the master of relationships. While the former was a raging hit, the latter had received a lot of flak from the Indian audience at the time of its release. It was uncomfortable for the homegrown Indians to watch an inter-generation romance. Critics and the overseas audience were in awe of a movie that was very clearly very ahead of its time. Lamhe is for me, and as confessed by Yashji himself, his best work ever.

Darr produced a generation of obsessed lovers. The impact of the film was such that one could suddenly see desperate declarations of love painted across walls. people talked about how someone had sent them a love letter written in blood, and stalking to scare became the new way to win your lady love. And another favourite of mine, Dil To Paagal Hai is Swiss-cheesy poetry in motion and I mean that as a serious compliment. I dare anyone to make a film with that kind of dialogue, dance and drama and not ruin it. But then again, maybe it has been imitated so many times that it now seems cheesy. I remember being enthralled by the movie, having gone to watch it on the first day itself. Veer Zaara was about lovers separated for over 20 years by border conflicts. It didn’t work for most, but I know a large group of people who still religiously watch it when it plays on TV.

And of course there were the songs in his films. Composed brilliantly, sung most beautifully and picturised perfectly in flowing chiffons, vibrant hues of the rainbow and locales that made Holland, Switzerland, UK and the mustard fields of Punjab every newly-married couple’s honeymoon destinations. This list of songs deserves a separate playlist on every Bollywood junkie’s music player.

It is definitely worth a mention that Yashji also produced his son Aditya Chopra’s directorial debut Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, which recently completed 800 weeks of screening at the Maratha Mandir in Mumbai.

Going back to my first few lines, why I feel this sense of loss you may ask. Confession time - I am a hopeless romantic. I give credit for that to the Yash Chopra school of film-making. That is what Yashji was teaching my generation when I was growing up. Chandni, Lamhe, Parampara, Yeh Dillagi and Dil To Paagal Hai were my textbooks on aesthetics, fashion, charm, songs, dance moves, romance and the whole idea of love - the kind that makes you feel like a warm, gooey, sweet marshmallow inside, or like it is your “do or die” mission in life. Or even in the way when you know exactly where your heart is broken but you refuse to mend it only because you find a strange wholesomeness in that imperfection and pain.

I thought I was done with romance. But only because I am so thankful to the soft-spoken gentleman that Yashji was, I know I will watch Jab Tak Hai Jaan, his last film as director, as said in an interview with Shah Rukh Khan on the occasion of his 80th birthday. Look at life’s cruel ironies here — how his declaration played out and what he had named his film.

If not for Yashji’s teachings of love and romance, a vast majority of Indians, myself included, would have been a big bunch of cynics — just wasting life, having nothing new to look forward to and having nothing happy to hope for. His brand of love will make the quintessential Bollywood fan’s world always go round. He is an institution. And like all institutions, his philosophy will carry on inspiring generations.

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2 Responses to “Yash Chopra: School of rebellion and romance”

  1. Shibangi Says:

    Dear Sanjay,

    Thanks for taking the time out to respond to this blog.

    1. The point of my blog is that Yash Chopra’s films were way ahead of its times and not how many “HIT” films he delivered. Hence I talk about how his biggest flop, Lamhe did not score at the box office but is now a classic.

    2. After Yash Raj (the production house, not the man) produced DDLJ (which by the way, set a box office standard as the biggest ever hit in Bollywood the year it released - India and overseas collections combined - and is still among India’s biggest blockbusters), Yash Chopra has only directed scripts written by his son Aditya Chopra, which I’ll admit could not explore complicated relationships the way Yash Chopra’s/Salim-Javed’s scripts did. Sadly, Yash Chopra’s work of the last 17 years is actually not his true legacy, it is his son’s. Thus, Jab Tak Hai Jaan also has more of Aditya Chopra’s influence than Yash Chopra’s.

    4. Most film buffs who truly admire cinema could not have ignored India because simply put, It is a huge industry that churns out a very large number of films every year. I’d grant them that they may not have watched Yash Chopra’s films because the genre doesn’t interest them. But it is honestly a little sad if they say they have not even heard of his name.

    5. Yash Chopra was a shrewd filmmaker. After Veer Zaara, he probably knew that his audience had shrunk. It was beginning to delve into films with darker subjects and “real” plots. Which is why he probably took this long to come back to the job to make a last statement. And also maybe that is why he had announced that Jab Tak Hai Jaan would be his last film. He had made the right call. For while better than Veer Zaara, Jab Tak Hai Jaan is no where close to his masterpieces. But no regrets as we will always have his best work, to remember him by.

    6. I apologise if you find the “personal tone” of this piece jarring, but I took the liberty as this is a blog which allows me express more freely and subjectively than a newspaper report.

  2. Sanjay Says:

    Hi there…
    I request you to do a bit of research before you write. As for imagine your article is good, but when compared with facts it is far from reality. You people in India need to know world is not INDIA. I am India but born in UK and living since. I have lived in India for around 6 years and I know both part of world.

    Now to the point, Yash Chopra was a good film maker in India. And as said by you, he inspired by as you are `hopeless romantic’. It is no hopeless romantic but hopelessly romantic.

    Dharmputra, Mashaal, Silsila were very big flop movies. Yash Chopra no doubt was good film maker, but from 1980s since failure of Silsila till the release of Chandni he gave all super flops movies. that is 1 whole decade… 1980s… Have you Seen Vijay, Faasle which were stupid and crazy movie.

    What was Parampara, one more super flop.

    Jab Tak Hai Jaan, it is running empty house in Vue in Birmingham. The way song is filmed, with SKR with guitar in hand singing songs. I see beggars on Tottenham Court Station and Earls Court, Holborn and Central London with guitar begging. No guy does this way. It is not romance but stupidity.

    We laugh at this movies. But yes I admit, DDLJ and Iftafaaq and Lamhe enough though flop are really good.

    Anyways if you have written this article for Indian in India then good. But for for world then keep in mind India is part of the world and not the world. If you come to UK and ask any White British or Europeans who is yash chopra none will know.



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