The Dream Maker

Written by Sudipta Datta | Updated: Oct 24 2012, 08:00am hrs
Over the past three days, there has been a unanimous outpouring of grief at the sudden demise of Bollywood veteran Yash Chopra. From Manmohan Singh to Mamata Banerjee, Amitabh Bachchan to Shah Rukh Khan, the overriding sentiment was that Chopra, who turned 80 on September 27, had gone too soon. On his birthday, he had announced that Jab Tak Hai Jaan would be his last film, and his death came weeks before the Diwali release of the Shah Rukh Khan-Katrina Kaif starrer. He had been shooting till his last breath, literally.

Through his five-decade journey in Bollywood, he enthralled audiencesand the box officewith his brand of movies, from revenge dramas with moral dilemma at the heart of it like Deewar and Trishul, or romances that spread over generations like Kabhi Kabhie or Veer Zaara and even beautiful song-and-dance turns like Chandni and Dil To Pagal Hai. He may have been known as the king of romance, but Chopra dealt with complex issues and somehow managed to have mainstream written all over them. Silsila and Lamhe are just two examples of how Chopra delved into the tricky space of family and society.

And, of course, he gave the world two superstars, Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan. He also presented Switzerland to India, for which he was duly honoured by the Swiss authorities last year, naming him the Ambassador of Interlaken. The luxurious Victoria Jungfrau Grand Hotel in Interlaken has a suite named after Yash Chopra, and Jungfrau Railways has a Yash Chopra Train. Many of his films, including Chandni and son Aditya Chopras Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, were partly shot in Switzerland.

In 1970, he set up Yash Raj Studios, branching off from brother BR Chopra, and decades later, when the winds of corporatisation would sweep across Bollywood, Chopras studio adapted quickly to produce a slate of films, mixing genres and budgets to draw a wider audience. Kabul Express and Ek Tha Tiger, Chak De! India and Rab Ne Bana De Jodi would co-exist. According to industry estimates, the last five films from Yash Raj Studios, including Ek Tha Tiger, have grossed over R250 crore at the box office. Despite talks about a divide between the Khans in Bollywood, all top three Khans, Aamir (Dhoom 3), Shah Rukh (Jab Tak Hai Jaan) and Salman (Ek Tha Tiger) have worked with the Chopra studio this year.

As Leena Jaisani, director and head, Ficci (media & entertainment), puts it: He redefined Hindi cinema with his signature themes of grandiose romance, exotic foreign locales, lilting music, perfect cinematography and the many complex layers within human relationships.

Jaisani points out that Chopra was responsible for creating characters quintessential to the history of Hindi cinema through actors who went on to become reigning superstars. In Deewar, he made Amitabh Bachchan the Angry Young Man and let loose a film-making trend of the 70s which catapulted the renowned actor to uncharted heights. Shah Rukh Khans romantic yet ambivalent persona with searing passion and smouldering rebelliousness was once again immortalised by Yashji through a series of films beginning with Darr; Dil To Paagal Hai; Veer Zaara; Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi and now the much awaited Jab Tak Hai Jaan. Chopra was Ficci entertainment committee chairman from 2002-2012.

Ajay Bijli, chairman and managing director, PVR Limited, says, Such was the charisma of his creativity that every Indian would wait for and look forward to a Yash Raj movie. For PVR, Yash Chopra was the biggest motivator and a source of inspiration who always made us believe that Indian cinema would always bring out the best for its viewers and as an industry it would continue to attain new heights. Jab Tak Hai Jaan is set to get a wide release on November 13.

Popular Hindi movies channel SET MAX announced it will pay tribute to Chopra by playing his films all day on the channel on Wednesday, Veer Zaara, Kabhi Kabhie, Lamhe, Chandni and Silsila. Neeraj Vyas EVP and Business Head, MAX, says, Yash Chopra changed the faade of romance in Hindi cinema and made it a brand in Bollywood, delivering super hit films in his five-decade long illustrious career. Needless to say, Hindi cinema will never be the same without him. Chopra won numerous film awards and accolades, including six national film awards and the Dadasaheb Phalke in 2001.

Jaisani says that at Ficci, Chopra, who had a deep understanding of the challenges of the film sector, was instrumental in steering Bollywood after it got industry status in 2001. The industry status accorded to Indian films, would be a milestone achievement which put Indian cinema on the global radar, says Jaisani, adding, He led us through our policy-work on copyright and entertainment tax issues. He conceptualised and created FICCI FRAMES, Asias most definitive industry platform, which has made immeasurable contributions to the industry and flourished under Yash Chopra.

He was known to be matter of fact, yet warm, gentle and fun loving. As Bachchan tweeted: Yash Chopra 44 years of associationof creativity, friendship, fun and family ties. An emotional SRK tweeted: Whenever my loved ones depart... I feel a part of me extinguishes itself with them.... Ratan Tata spoke of Chopras professional and warm selves. The man of love has left us..., said Salman Khan. While its too early to say how son Aditya Chopra (who directed DDLJ, Mohabattein and Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi) will steer Yash Raj Films, but with top Bollywood actors and directors working with YRF, Yash Chopras legacy will live on.