Dubbed the 'King of Romance', Yash Chopra was not just an icon but an institution in itself. Sixty years in cinema, fifty three years directing films, Yash Chopra gave Bollywood some of its biggest blockbusters that earned Indian cinema an international recognition. With his demise, an era where beautiful poetry, lingering dialogues and immaculately dressed sets and cast made a film, has said adieu.
Fifty-three years after he made his film debut with Dhool Ka Phool, 37 years after he directed Deewar - probably the most famous movie in any Indian language after Sholay - and barely a month after celebrating his 80th birthday, Yash Chopra passed away in the city of Mumbai, his lady love for the last six decades, on October 21 after a brief battle with dengue.
Born on 27 September, 1932 in Lahore, British India to a Punjabi family, Chopra went to Jalandhar in 1945 for his education and later moved to Ludhiana after partition. He was initially supposed to pursue a career in engineering. However, his passion for filmmaking brought him to Mumbai where he initially worked as an assistant director to I. S. Johar, and then for his director-producer brother, B.R. Chopra.
Chopra received his first directorial opportunity in 1959 with the social drama Dhool Ka Phool. Produced by B.R.Chopra, the film starred Mala Sinha, Rajendra Kumar and Leela Chitnis. The film revolved around a Muslim bringing up an `illegitimate' Hindu child. Encouraged by its success, he made another hard-hitting social drama, Dharmputra (1961) which was one of the first films to depict the scenario of partition of India and the Hindu fundamentalism. The film was awarded with the National award for Best Feature Film in Hindi.
Ittefaq followed. A suspense movie based on a Gujarati play, depicting the events of a single night, the film was deemed unusual by critics as it was one of the first Hindi films which did not have any songs or an interval. It was eventually declared a semi-hit at the box office and won Chopra another Filmfare award for best director after Waqt (1965).
In 1971, Chopra founded Yash Raj Films, thus terminating the creative collaboration between him and his brother. His first independently produced film Daag, a melodrama about a man with two wives, was a great success. He then made a number of classic cult films starring Amitabh Bachchan, a collaboration that stretched beyond the reel life.
His films set the trend for the late 70s and 80s, establishing Bachchan as a star, in his role as the angry young man. Chopra won yet another Filmfare Best Director Award for Deewaar. Chopra produced, directed and scripted two more films starring Bachchan. First, it was Kabhi Kabhi(1976) followed by Silsila(1981).
The first film he directed and produced was Mashaal(1984), his first collaboration with the legendary actor, Dilip Kumar.
In 1993, Yash Chopra directed then-newcomer Shah Rukh Khan alongside Juhi Chawla and Sunny Deol in the musical thriller Darr. It established Khan as a bankable star. He then directed, produced and co-wrote the 1997 highly successful romantic musical Dil To Pagal Hai, starring yet again Khan in a love triangle with Madhuri Dixit and Karisma Kapoor.
The film became the second highest grosser for the year. It won many awards, sweeping seven Filmfare Awards including that of Best Film and three National Awards, notably for Best Film providing popular and wholesome entertainment.
Chopra then took a vacation from directing and focused solely on producing films for over eight years. However, in 2004, he returned to direction with the love saga Veer-Zaara. Starring Khan again, Preity Zinta and Rani Mukerji in the leading roles, the film was the biggest hit of 2004 in both India and overseas, with a worldwide gross of over Rs. 940 million and was screened at the 55th Berlin Film Festival to critical appreciation.
In September 2012, in a special interview with actor Shah Rukh Khan, Chopra announced that Jab Tak Hai Jaan would be his last directorial venture and that he will opt to focus on his production company and his personal life. For the shoot of the last remaining song in Jab Tak Hai Jaan, Yash Chopra had a grand vision: a sari-clad Katrina Kaif romancing Shah Rukh Khan in the lush meadows of the Swiss Alps. Unfortunately, his illness foiled the plan for the song, which would have reflected his trademark directorial style. Chopra’s trip to Switzerland with SRK and Katrina had to be cancelled after he passed away.
A recipient of 3 National Awards and 14 Filmfare Awards, Yash Chopra was honoured with the Padma Vibhushan in 2005. He also earned himself a lifetime membership to BAFTA for his contribution to the Indian film industry. He is the first Indian to be honoured at BAFTA in the 59-year history of the academy.
The list’s endless!
Loved and admired by all, Yash Chopra leaves a legacy behind him- a legacy of directors who believe in the Yash Chopra-style of filmmaking. As long as films will be made, Yash Chopra will be remembered.
As he himself puts it, in his last public address-
“Meri tedhi medhi kahaniyaan, mere hasnte rote khwaab,
Kuch sureele besure geet mere, kuch ache bure kirdaar,
Woh sab mere hain, unn sab mein main hun...
Bas bhool na jaana, rakhna yaad mujhe,
Jab Tak Hai Jaan, Jab Tak Hai Jaan...”