A single line penned by noted lyricist-poet Javed Akhtar sums up the relationship of Yash Chopra with cinemagoers.
Ye kahan aa gaye hum yun hi saath saath chalte, Javed Akhtar wrote for Chopra's Silsila back in 1981 little realising the words would prove prophetic as Chopra went on to carve out a unique relationship with cinemagoers.
Interestingly, Chopra's bond with films began way back in 1959 with Dhool ka Phool. Riding on the emotion of films like Kabhie Kabhie, Silsila, Lamhe and Darr, it would be tempting to call him the king of romance. However, a more careful look at his filmography reveals the complete picture.
Chopra might have introduced Hindi film audience to feel-good romance atop snow-capped mountains of Switzerland with the ionic projection of a white chiffon-clad heroine singing lilting melodies composed by the likes of Shiv-Hari and Khayyam, but he was no prisoner of image. Back in the 1950s when he started off as a filmmaker, he gave us Dhool ka Phool, a fine take on the life of an illegitimate Hindu child brought up by a Muslim man. Two years after Dhool ka Phool, he came up with Dharmputra, which talked of partition and got a volatile reception at the box office. Just a little later he gave Hindi cinema its biggest multi-starrer with the likes of Sunil Dutt, Raj Kumar, Sadhna, Sharmila Tagore, Shashi Kapoor, Balraj Sahni sharing the screen space!
Importantly, he exhibited a rare ear for music and could get the best work done by the music directors working for him. If N. Dutta gave life and soul to Sahir Ludhianvi's words in Tu Hindu banega in Dhool ka Phool, Ravi exceeded expectations with Ae meri zohra jabin in Waqt, a song that remains Achla Sachdev's most identifiable part for the common cinemagoers. Later, first Khayyam in Kabhie Kabhie, then Shiv-Hari in Silsila gave us melodies that have outlasted more than a generation.
But his best was neither in films like Waqt nor much later Silsila or Darr. His best came in Deewar, the film that not only cast in stone the tale of two brothers going their divergent ways but also gave us the unforgettable Mere pass maa hai dialogue. The film strengthened Amitabh Bachchan's angry young man image. Something which was to set the screen ablaze a little later in Kala Pathhar, a film on coal mining that has a contemporary ring even today. The 1979 film, came a few years after nationalisation of coa mines, but focussed on the plight of coal workers, raising in social circles issues of workers' safety.
The decade of 1980s was almost a forgotten one for Chopra as films like Mashaal, where he directed Dilip Kumar, Faasle and the rest came and went causing barely a ripple at the box office. However, Chopra saved a forgettable decade with the box office hit Chandni and welcomed the next decade with Lamhe, probably his best film. The film with shades of incest caused more than a flutter. It remained the talk of the town will the time Chopra introduced Shah Rukh in a brand new avatar of an anti-hero with Darr.
Never shy of taking risks, Chopra became a little more choosy over the past few years, limiting himself to a film over half a decade or so.
In the fitness of things, he just wrapped up Jab Tak Hai Jaan, starring his favourite Shah Rukh Khan. Interestingly, he was no granddad just lazying around in sunset; he made his production house,
Yash Raj Films, the biggest in Bollywood happily giving the directorial reins to youngsters, like Manish Sharma, Kabir Khan, Shaad Ali besides his own son, Aditya Chopra.