The word ‘iconic’ is so overused these days that it almost seems to have lost its meaning. However, back when the word still held a certain amount of gravitas, it was used to describe Yash Raj Chopra. The film director and producer was not only one of the most successful Bollywood personalities, but he was also a pioneer in more ways than one.
Take Waqt for example – at a time when films had the usual lead actor and actress, the movie starred an ensemble cast which set a trend and today, it’s almost the norm. Waqt starred Sunil Dutt, Shashi Kapoor, Sadhana, Balraj Sahni, Madan Puri and Sharmila Tagore amongst others. The film went on to win five Filmfare awards.
The first film produced by Chopra under the banner of Yash Raj Films was the bold 1973 movie Daag. Exploring the law and psychology concerning polyamory and bigamy, Daag was a super hit at the Box Office.
The director’s next commercially and critically successful film was the cult classic Chandni – a film that came amidst the entire craze of the Angry Young Man and cinema filled with violence and machismo. With Chandni, Bollywood returned to what it does best – musicals.
Regarded as one of his best films, Chopra deviated from the norm in Darr and explored the idea of the unconventional hero – an obsessive lover who was creepy as hell. The character was played by a brilliant Shah Rukh Khan and also starred Juhi Chawla, Sunny Deol, Anupam Kher, Tanvi Azmi and Dalip Tahil.
Chopra completely up-ended the notion that a film couldn’t be commercially successful and receive rave reviews from critics. Multiple films directed and produced by the legend were declared superhits at the BO and received an avalanche of awards. While his 1991 film Lamhe didn’t do that great in India, it became a massive success overseas. Starring Sri Devi and Anil Kapoor in the lead roles, it is often hailed as Chopra’s best film.
A director is considered remarkable if one of their films attains cult status but what do you call someone like Yash Chopra who delivered cult classic after cult classic? Take the 1997 superhit Dil To Pagal Hai for instance. A massive commercial success, the film won three National Film Awards and while B-town films have always contained a multitude of songs, DTPH was considered Bollywood’s first ‘musical’.
Yash Chopra was highly versatile when it came to storylines but his films followed a very familiar pattern – most had songs which were shot in scenic foreign locales, the music selected for his movies were smooth and melodious and more often than not, they heavily focused on the heroine. Bollywood and Yash Chopra went hand-in-hand, so much so that a shot of a saree-clad actress against a mountain instantly reminds one of his trademark style.
Before announcing his retirement in 2012, the six-time-National Award winner also gifted us with brilliant films like Veer-Zaara and Jab Tak Hai Jaan. He was and continues to be known as the “King of Romance” – he was also the first Indian to receive a lifetime membership by BAFTA.