Yash Chopra was a noble man with a generous heart and that is why he could connect with the masses with unfailing regularity.
A rare combination of talent, dignity, warmth and passion, legendary filmmaker Yash Chopra knew how to live life in “70mm size”. But his sudden departure from the “silver screen” seems like a bizarre scene from a script that has gone horribly wrong. For a man known for his penchant for soft dissolves, enchanting stories, rainbow colours and happy endings, the final curtain call certainly numbed everyone as it was a complete antithesis to his jovial way of life.
So gentle was the man that he always rendered directorial duties with a great deal of social responsibility, never allowing a gross scene or an abusive dialogue to creep into his films since he made them for the great Indian family that he immensely admired. And if his stories glowed with love, romance and old world morality, he attributed the credit to the strong and ethical foundations of his simple and adoring family. His interactions with his mother, mentor / brother B. R. Chopra and his generous wife Pamela not only made Yash realise their importance in his life but also inspired him to make human relationships the bedrock of his films.
Romance may have been an integral part of his storytelling but to laud Yash Chopra as only a “King of Romance” is perhaps a great injustice to his colossal ability and acumen. Obviously, this sobriquet was no mean feat but it deflected many from understanding the depth of his cinematic vision and enormous understanding of the social milieu of our sub-continent.
Born and brought up under the combined influence of Hindu-Muslim-Punjabi cultural ethos, Yash Chopra was the finest exponent of Hindustaaniyat in cinema; an artist who not only earned laurels for the country but also created outstanding moments of cinema with his creations.
His early films, particularly, “Dharamputra” ripped apart the façade of rabid communalism and religious intolerance in the strongest terms. One has to applaud the guts of the young director that he could warn the nation about the perils of majority fundamentalism. Even his “Veer Zaara” was a class act as it helped heal the Indo-Pak wounds after the bitter Kargil conflict since the Lahore bred Yash knew what it meant to be uprooted by a few lines drawn upon a map. In an interview to The Hindu several years ago, Yash Chopra had acknowledged the film as a “humble tribute to the oneness of the people living on both sides of the border” as “we need hope and joy to lead a happy life”. Unlike the high-brow intellectual introspection of human relationships by the new wave cinema which mostly put audiences to sleep, Yash presented relationships in all their simplicity in common everyday situations, making an emotional and everlasting connect with his audiences.
He succeeded as a filmmaker because he propagated an essential Indian-ness, a Hindustani ‘tehzeeb’ (ethos) at its finest. His love stories found their life blood in universal brotherhood whereby even when his characters were located in foreign domains, their rites, rituals and values remained essentially Hindustani.
In fact, it was Yash Chopra’s genius that gave authenticity to Amitabh Bachchan’s “angry young man” with his cult defying film “Deewaar” as well as the subsequent “Trishul”. And if the superstar could thereafter rediscover himself as a lover boy on screen, the credit again goes to Yash’s magnificient craftsmanship in “Silsila”. The stark reality is that the Punjabi-Urdu oriented director knew the intricacies and sensitivities of human relationships far better than many of his contemporaries and since the emotional quotient of his stories was intensely satisfying, it mesmerised audiences of all ages. Of course, he had his share of failures but every film of his from “Waqt”, “Kabhi Kabhie”, “Kaala Pathhar”, “Trishul” “Lamhe”, “Silsila” to “Veer-Zaara” was nothing but an intense exploration of the various layers of human relationships and that is why most cinegoers felt the stories were their own.
In a chaotic industry, Yash was an extremely disciplined director who loved nothing more than making films except, perhaps, his food and his family. For a man who never completed college, it was no mean feat to set up the most spacious and the most technically advanced studio in Mumbai. The clockwork precision with which the studio runs today is an indicator that the “Partition refugee” had learnt his lessons well in the classroom of life and time. For all those who support the composite culture that binds India and Pakistan together, the Ganga-Jamuni Sanskriti (culture) and which is the root of all our deep bonds, Yash’s films will always remain significant.
Like his dearest friend Sahir Ludhianvi, Yash Chopra was an ardent believer and practitioner of the philosophy, “Tu Hindu Banega Na Musalmaan Banega, Insaan Ki Aulad Hai Insaan Banega”, rendered ever so eloquently by Rafi Sahab in the inspiring classic “Dhool Ka Phool”. Truly, Yash Chopra was a noble man with a generous heart and that is why he could connect with the masses with unfailing regularity.