Man with the Midas Touch: Yash Chopra

By Dr.Priyaankaa Mathur

A true romantic at heart, Film Director Yash Chopra was one of the greatest filmmakers of the Indian film industry.He was indeed an institution in himself, who taught the Indian filmmakers the meaning of love and romance, making Bollywood a global brand. While his heroines would romance in chiffons on snow-covered cliffs, his heroes would be die-hard romantics, while his stories would build on the backdrop of traditional values, winning hearts of a wide range of audiences, irrespective of any age.


Over 50 years, the King of Romance, Yash Chopra gave several blockbuster films starting from Deewar, Kabhie Kabhie, Trishul, Silsila, Lamhe, Chandni, Darr, Dil Toh Pagal Hai, Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, Veer-Zaara, Mohabattein, Jab Tak hai Jaan. He won 12 Filmfare Awards and 6 National Awards and was honoured with the Padma Bhushan in 2005 and the Legion of Honour in 2008.


Yash Chopra was truly a man with the Midas touch, who is credited for cementing the careers of Bollywood’s superstars Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan. Chopra was not only a producer and director he was also a cinematographer par excellence,who gave the Indian cinema the most romantic canvas showcasing exotic, locations, elegant costumes and heart touching melodies, which became the trademarks and the most important constituents of the Yash Raj Films.


Yash Chopra grew up in Lahore and was the youngest of eight children. He began his career in the film industry by assisting I.S Johar and his brother B R Chopra. Initially, the brother’s directed a couple of successful films together including ‘Waqt’ 1965 and ‘Ittefaq’ in 1969. Waqt became a hugely successful family drama, wherein the family unites after many years after separating in a natural disaster. The film became a commercial success of its times which boasted of a huge star cast including Balraj Sahani, Sunil Dutt, Sadhna, Raj Kumar, Sashi Kapoor amongst many others.The film won many awards including the Film Fare for the Best Director.

It was in 1975 Yash Chopra decided to start on his own and launched his company Yash Raj Films in a small room in producer V Shantaram’s office. His self-belief, hard work and dedication towards his art made Yash Raj Films one of the biggest production companies the country has today. Chopra entered the best phase of his career in 1965 when he directed Amitabh Bacchan in Deewaar. Still known for its iconic dialogue  ‘Mere paas ma hai’ the film became one of the chopras iconic films, which broke several stereotypes. The film is a tale of two brothers who are on the opposite sides of the law, one being a criminal ( Amitabh Bacchan) and the other a police offer( Shashi Kapoor). The film brought Bacchan to Limelight and won several awards including the Filmfare for the Best Film that year.


Then began an era of Yash Chopra and Amitabh Bacchan partnership, which established Bachhan as one of the most adored and loved film stars of Bollywood. In 1976 Yash Chopra directed ‘Kabhie Kabhie’ casting Bacchan as a romantic soft-hearted poet, which was a complete contrast from his bitter, heart burnt insensitive criminal in Deewar, which established his versatility as an actor. Kabhie Kabhie was a romantic tale of old lovers, who were separated,but destiny makes them meet sometime in life, as friends. The film turned out to be one of Bacchans greatest performances, which had set the standards for films in the 1970s and 1980s.


Chopra’s next blockbuster ‘Trishul’ was a revenge drama written by Salim-Javed which was an intense film with a gamut of action, thrill, romance and drama. The film is a  tale of a young boy, who was deserted by his father as an infant, while he came to a small town at a young age, and leaves his mother with a child, who grows up to take revenge. The film became a top grosser at the box office,which boasted of a huge star cast including Amitabh Bachchan, Sanjeev Kumar, Shashi Kapoor, Raakhee, Hema Malini and Poonam Dhillon. 


Through his films, Chopra brought many social issues to the forefront. Like the action-drama ‘Kaala Patthar’ was inspired by a true mining tragedy, which showcased the character and courage of the miners and villagers, who fight against the forces of nature. The film was critically acclaimed and received a cult status, which starred Amitabh Bachchan, Shashi Kapoor, Shatrughan Sinha, Raakhee, Parveen Babi, Neetu Singh, Sanjeev Kumar and Prem Chopra. 


Who can forget the exotic romantic melody ‘Rang Barse’ from ‘Silsila’.The film was yet again a cult love story, where the hero(Amitabh Bacchan) sacrifices his love(Rekha) and marries his deceased brother’s (Shashi Kapoor) pregnant fiancee. (Jaya Bacchan). However, fate brings the lovers face-to-face during a vibrant Holi celebration where they forget everything and drench in the colours of love, while the world looks on. Eventually, the two lovers decide to give love a second chance, but since it appears as adultery in society, they decide to back off.Silsila portrayed a mesmerizing chemistry between Amitabh Bacchan and Rekha in the evergreen song ‘Yeh Kahan agaye hum’ song while they fall in love among the tulips, beautifully shot at the tulip gardens in Switzerland.


Known for creating the eternal romantic sagas, Chopra was indeed a king maker who gave Shah Rukh Khan some of the biggest path-breaking hits in Bollywood. While in ‘Darr’ Shahrukh played an obsessive lover, portraying well the emotions of love, fear and jealousy, which took him to instant stardom. Chopra’s biggest blockbuster ‘Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge’ ran 25 years in Maratha Mandir, while his characters Raj enacted by Shahrukh Khan and Simran played by Kajol, made them global sensations overnight, taking Indian cinema to global frontiers.

‘Dil to Pagal hai’ was yet another cult film with a romantic story between a live theatre director and a dancer. The film became a huge success, post which Yash Chopra took a short break from direction. Veer Zara became his comeback film which showcased a cross border romance between an Indian Air force Pilot and a girl from Pakistan starring Shahrukh Khan and Pretty Zinta and Manoj Vajpayee in the lead roles. The film made waves for its exotic cinematography and melodies renditions by Lataji.

Yashji had a unique understanding of human nature which is reflected in his characters. What makes him a people’s director was the magic he created on the silver screen, which still lingers with his audiences.