People remember Yash Chopra as the director of entertaining films. But here is a glimpse of Yash the man…
As an executive committee member and permanent invitee of the Indian Film Industry’s ‘Film Federation of India (FFI),’ this writer and film producer had the privilege of being associated with Yash Chopra since 1996, during the periodical Union Information and Broadcasting Ministry meetings, AGMs, Committee meetings and international film festivals that were scheduled throughout India.
Yash Chopra was 30 years elder to me and a ‘father figure,’ yet there was no generation gap between us. Punctual, he would be present for meetings well ahead of the appointed time. Always smiling, he would never thrust his ideas on people but just offer his valuable inputs and suggestions. He was open to consensus on all issues. Occasionally, when tempers ran high, his mediation and soft touch restored calm and order.
Unassuming and accessible, his sartorial taste was also casual and simple – unlike his more fashion-conscious Mumbai counterparts. He was always warm and welcoming, irrespective of whether the meeting was being held at his home State or not. Instead of expecting others to acknowledge his presence first, he would be moving around and connecting with people. He avoided being clannish.
Chopra never ran after ornamental posts. Nor did he canvass for any particular individual. Far from being ambitious, his aim was to serve and safeguard the film industry’s interests. He would arrange for lunch or dinner get-togethers before or after the FFI meetings and gave it a personal touch by selecting the best menu that would suit all tastes. His hospitality was unmatched as he would extend it to providing cottages, whenever the need arose.
Down-to-earth, he never had sycophants around him. After our meetings, he would ask if any one needed a lift home and then go out to the parking lot to search for his car.
It is generally believed that within the Indian film industry the North-South divide exists, where the former acts as the Big Brother. Even in this case, Chopra proved to be an exception in his thoughts, words and action. Once at a buffet lunch, held after an FFI meeting, I was waiting for senior persons such as Chopra to take the lead, when he put a plate in my hands and said, “My youngest South Indian brother first.” It showed his humility.
I was a school student in 1975, when I saw the Chopra-directed ‘Deewar.’ Little did I dream that two decades later, I would be officiating meetings with Chopra.
It was in 1998 at the first national conference, called ‘Challenges before Indian Cinema,’ held in Bombay by FICCI and FFI, when the then Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Sushma Swaraj granted Industry status to cinema and promised to bring up the issue of including it in the Concurrent List. At that time, Chopra promptly put me on the stage. Turning to Swaraj, he said, “Not only people from the North, but a Malayalam film producer from South India’s tip, Trivandrum, has come all the way to thank you Madam.” The Hindu had published my fax message sent from Mumbai “on the granting of Industry status.”
I feel sad that the doyen of the Indian Film Industry, will not be able to see the response to his last directorial venture, ‘Jab Tak Hai Jaan,’ slated for release on November 13. Strangely, his prophecy came tragically true as he had announced earlier that this would be his last film.
Although I had moved with giants such as G.P. Sippy, Ramanand Sagar, Sakthi Samantha and Surendar Kapoor, I will always cherish the warmth and affection that I received from Yash Chopra.