Born on October 27, 1932 in a middle class Punjabi family in Jalandhar, film-maker Yash Raj Chopra has given us some of the most memorable Hindi movies over last forty years. Even Veer-Zaara- his latest flick presenting Shahrukh- Preity’s quite an implausible Indo-Pak love-story has been lapped up by the audiences, showing that he has lost none of his tricks. He has changed the perspectives and challenged the norms of Hindi cinema, evolving a distinct "Yash Chopra style" of film-making that has inspired quite a few new directorial talents like Suraj Barjatya, Karan Johar and Aditya Chopra – his own son. Here's an admiring analytical look at this movie- phenomenon.
Working with the big brother:
After completing his B.A. from Jalandhar’s Doab College, Yash came Mumbai to work with his eldest brother Baldev Raj alias B.R. Chopra, who had already started making waves in film industry with his directorial hit Afsana (1951). In 1955, B.R. Chopra started his own banner – B.R. Films and it was he who gave Yash his first break as a director in Dhool Ka Phool (1959). A tale of an illegitimate child, it bore a distinct B.R.- stamp of making films with a social message. Even Yash’s next directorial venture – Dharamputra (1962), had a strong social theme about religious amity and won him the Best Director National Award.
Aadmi Aur Insaan (1969)- a tale about rampant corruption in public life and Ittefaq (1969)- an intriguing song-less murder mystery were another notable films from Yash, while working in the B.R. Films fold but the one film there that really set him apart from others was Waqt (1965).
(Aye Meri Zohrajabeen From Waqt)
Now looking back, Waqt shows that distinctive Yash Chopra flair, more than any of the other B.R. Films directed by him. One of the first multi-starrers featuring a galaxy of stars like Raj Kumar, Shashi Kapoor, Sunil Dutt, Sadhana and Sharmila Tagore, Waqt told a story of a family torn apart by a catastrophic earthquake, only to reunite years later after a series of dramatic events. More than the interesting story and sparkling music (O Meri Zohrajabeen), it was the slick treatment that won the kudos. Lavish bungalows, whirring motor-boats, scurrying cars and fashionable costumes (Remember Sadhana’s fabulous Churidaars?)- seldom was such a glossy look seen before in Hindi movies.
It was a sea-change from the post-independence idealistic socialist minimalist attitude of movie-makers, bringing to the fore the life styles and love affairs of rich and famous and audiences loved it. The then Indian High Commissioner in U.K., Mr. Krishna Menon derogated the film in one of the functions for precisely this reason, against which Yash had vehemently defended his film by saying, "In India, we have rich too, not just poverty and weeping. Should we publicize our country just as a country of snake charmers and Pather Panchali- (an acclaimed Satyajit Ray- film about a poor rural Indian family)?"
On His Own:
On August 20, 1970, Yash married Pamela Singh – a Sikh girl who would go on to become his closest pal, besides becoming an indispensable professional aide. After the marriage, he took a bold decision of leaving his brother’s film company to launch his own banner Yash Raj Films – a name that was to become one of the most successful production units. Yash had finally come into his own den.