Yash Chopra was much more than just the king of romance

Vivek Kaul
Yash Chopra launched his banner Yash Raj films in 1973. The second film produced under the banner was Kabhie Kabhie. It released in 1976 and had Amitabh Bachchan playing the role of a sensitive poet named Amit Malhotra. All the fantastic poetry that Amit recites in the movie was written by the poet Sahir Ludhianvi.
One of the couplets goes like this:
Kal koi mujhko yaad kare,
kyon koi mujhko yaad kare,
masroof zamana mere liye,
kyon waqt apna barbad kare. 

main pal do pal ka shayar hoon…
(yaad = remember. masroof = busy. pal = moment. shayar = poet).
The above lines were the thoughts of a poet who deeply felt that when he was gone, the world would forget him and move onto other things. And he was right. The world at large is too busy to bother about someone who is no longer there. Nobody remembers Sahir anymore. But there are always exceptions that prove the rule. Yash Raj Chopra is that exception.
His death has led to a tremendous outpouring of grief and sorrow from India at large and the Hindi film industry in particular. Very few film directors in the Hindi film industry have lasted as long as Yash Chopra did. His first film as a director Dhool Ka Phool was released in 1959. His latest film Jab Tak Hai Jaan is scheduled to release on November 13, later this year. During this period he worked with the biggest superstars of Hindi cinema from Dilip Kumar to Rajesh Khanna to Amitabh Bachchan to Shah Rukh Khan.
Chopra was often referred to as the King of Romance given his penchant for shooting in beautiful locations (particularly in Kashmir earlier and later Switzerland) with his heroines looking extraordinarily beautiful in their red and white chiffon sarees and singing and dancing to some brilliant lyrics set to fantastic music.
And this sobriquet of the King of Romance has stuck to Chopra even in his death. A random search on Google on his death throws up the following headlines:
Yash Chopra: King of Romance leaves void in Bollywood
King of Romance: Yash Chopra dies at 80
King of Romance: Yash Chopra no more
Yash Chopra, Bollywood’s King of Romance passes away
An important part of justifying the tag of being the King of Romance lay in making his heroines look beautiful on screen especially when they were singing songs. Raakhe has never looked as beautiful as she did when she was singing Kabhie Kabhi Mere Dil Main Khayal Aata Hai in the movie Kabhie Kabhie. Rekha was at her sexiest in the random shots that make the song Ye Kahan Aa Gaye Hum Yun Hi Saath Saath Chalte in Silsila. Sridevi outshone even Switzerland in Chandni. 
Juhi Chawla in the rain dance in Darr made millions of hearts go K K K K Kiran…. Both Madhuri Dixit and Karishma Kapoor danced their hearts out in Dil To Pagal Hai. And Preity Zinta and her dimples last saw success with Veer Zaara.
But just calling him a King of Romance would be doing a great injustice to the body of work that Yash Raj Chopra has left behind. In fact romance and candy floss cinema was something he discovered only in the latter part of his career.
His first film as a director was Dhool Ka Phool in 1959It was produced by his elder brother BR Chopra (who later went onto produce and direct the Hindi serial Mahabharat among other things). Dhool Ka Phool is a very sensitive story of an illegitimate child, whose parents happen to be Hindus, being brought up by a Muslim man. The film also had the brilliant song Tu Hindu Banega Na Musalman Banega Insan Ki Aulad Hai Insan Banega among other things.
Chopra followed it with Dharmaputra in 1961, one of the first movies to deal with the horrors of partition. Some of the riot scenes were too real for the audience to handle and caused problems at the cinemas the movie was playing in.
As film journalist Subhash K Jha wrote in a 2004 piece about the movie “The film about Hindu-Muslim relations, touched on the raw history pertaining to the happenings which were just 12 years old. The re-construction in Dharamputra of the carnage during the post-Partition riots opened up raw wounds in the audience, and sparked off riot-like situations at theatres screening the film. Yash Chopra vowed never to go into the thorny communal issue again.”
His next movie was the multi starrer Waqt. The movie is still remembered for the song Ae Meri Zohra Jabeen Tujhe Maloom Nahi picturised on Balraj Sahni. It was one of the earliest movies to be based on the lost and found formula (which the likes of Manmohan Desai later perfected to an art form).
Waqt is the story of Lala Kedarnath (played by Balraj Sahni) who has three sons whose birthdays are on the same day. There is an earthquake and the family is separated and loses contact with each other (what we call bichadna in Hindi movies).
The story goes that BR Chopra, the producer of the movie, wanted Prithviraj Kapoor and his three sons (Raj, Shammi and Shashi) to portray the role of the father and his three sons. But eventually only Shashi Kapoor acted in the movie.
“My brother B R Chopra thought it was a dream cast. One day, he was traveling with Bimal Roy when he narrated the script and also discussed the casting. Bimal immediately told him that the cast was a misfit. The movie was about separation and here I was casting three real brothers so anyone could recognise them. Ultimately the film was made with Shashi Kapoor, Sunil Dutt and Raj Kumar,” Chopra said in his recent interview to Shah Rukh Khan.
Waqt also had one of my all time favourite dialogues in Hindi cinema. “Chinoi seth jinke apne ghar sheeshe ke hon wo doosro par patthar nahi phekan karte,” Raj Kumar (who plays the eldest son) tells the villain Chinoi Seth (played by Rehman). Waqt turned out to be the biggest grosser of 1965.
Four years later in 1969 Yash Chopra made the suspense drama Ittefaq starring Rajesh Khanna, Nanda and Iftekhar. The movie was largely set in one room and did not have any songs, which was a big risk at the point of time it was made. It still remains one of the best suspense movies made in Hindi cinema, and is nail biting till the very end.
In 1973, Yash Raj Chopra launched his own banner Yash Raj films with Daag – A Poem of Love. The story was written by the ace Hindi novelist Gulshan Nanda and was apparently inspired by the English novel The Mayor of Casterbridge. This was Chopra’s sixth film as a director. His first five films were all serious movies. Daag was also high on emotion and melodrama but it had a lot of romance in it as well with superstar Rajesh Khanna romancing both Sharmila Tagore and Raakhe. The movie had some superhit songs like Ab Chahe Sir Phoote Ya Maatha and Mere Dil Main Aaj Kya Hai. Chopra won the Filmfare award for the best director for this movie.
Chopra had also taken to directing movies for film financer Gulshan Rai in the meanwhile. He directed the Dev Anand starrer Joshilla which was released in 1973. The movie did not do well at the box office and is now remembered only for the song kiska rasta dekhen ae dil ae saudai, set to tune by the great RD Burman.
Chopra next directed Deewaar for Rai. The movie was written by the angry young men Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar. Chopra in a recent interview to Shah Rukh Khan on his eightieth birthday said that Deewaar was Salim-Javed’s best script. It was perfect. The movie which released in 1975, the same year as Sholay, went onto become one of the biggest hits of Hindi cinema.
Said to be loosely based on Mazagon dock coolie turned underworld don Haji Mastanit  saw Amitabh Bachchan being firmly established as the angry young man who mouths lines like “main aaj bhi feke hue paise nahi uthatha” and wears billa no 786. The movie was originally not supposed to have any song but songs were added later under pressure from the producer.  
While shooting Gulshan Rai’s Deewaar Chopra was also shooting Kabhie Kabhie. This movie Chopra’s ninth film as a director, would turn out to be his first out and out romantic film. The movie had some brilliant songs written by Sahir Ludhianvi and set to tune by Khayyam. When it comes to describing the love for one’s beloved no better song has been written in the annals of Hindi cinema than
kabhie kabhie mere dil main khayal aata hai,
ke jaise tujhko banaya gaya hai mere liye.
tu ab se pehle sitaron main bas rahi thee kahin,
tujhe zameen par utara gaya hai mere liye. 

In the years to come Chopra would make Trishul for Gulshan Rai. He would also make Kaala Pathar under his own banner along with TrishulKaala Patthar released in 1979 was set around a coal mine and had Bachchan at his brooding best, even though it did fairly average business at the box office. Both Trishul and Kaala Patthar were multi-starrers which revolved around the angry young man played by Bachchan and had very little scope for romance, though they did have the mandatory romantic song.
The year 1981 was a landmark year in the history of Hindi cinema. It saw the release of Silsila starring Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bachchan and Rekha, which was a rather inspired casting. The story goes Smita Patil and Parveen Babi were supposed to star in the film originally opposite Amitabh Bachchan.  But as Yash Chopra explained in a recent interview to Shah Rukh Khan. “Smita was going to play the role that was ultimately played by Jaya Bachchan. I was not very convinced with the casting. I always wanted Rekha and Jaya Bachchan. Amitabh was shooting for his film Kaalia in Kashmir. I went to meet him. He likes to read the bound script. He read the script and asked me, ‘Are you sure you have made the right casting.’ I told Amitabh (Bachchan) that I wanted Jaya and Rekha in the film. He paused for a moment and then said, ‘Bombay jaake unko mil lete hai‘ (Lets go to Bombay and meet them). The very next day we took a flight and during the whole journey we didn’t even speak a word. I met Jaya and Rekha and both of them agreed to do the film.”
Another version of the story goes that Smita Patil pulled out at the lost moment and thus Jaya Bachchan had to step in.
The movie was beautifully shot in Kashmir and Netherlands. Dekha Ek Khwab to Ye Silsile Hue shot in the background of Dutch tulips remains one of the best shot songs in Hindi cinema. It looks fresh even 31 years later. But the movie’s theme of an extra marital affair between two married individuals did not go down too well with the Hindi film audience.
Nevertheless Silsila set the template for what would become the Yash Chopra romance. Good locales, beautifully shot songs, brilliant music and lyrics, and heroines dancing in the rain. The story and the script of the movie which were strong points of Yash Chopra movies till then took a backseat.
Between Silsila in 1981 and Chandni in 1989, Chopra made box office duds Faasle (which people feel is the worst of the 22 movies that he directed) and Vijay (highly inspired by Trishul). Vijay was more in the news for a 16 year old Bakhtawar Murad Khan (better known by her screen name Sonam) cavorting in a bikini with a much older Rishi Kapoor than for its storyline or entertainment value. Chopra also directed Mashaal with Dilip Kumar and Anil Kapoor during those years. The film had some excellent performances and brilliant songs composed by Hridaynath Mangeshkar.
Yash Chopra became the King of Romance with his 1989 hit Chandni. The film had a fairly common do hero-ek heroine waala love triangle story. But it had some excellent songs shot in Switzerland, and it had Sridevi at her peak looking fresh and beautiful as ever. With this film Chopra furthered the Silsila formula and it was a huge box office success despite its weak storyline.
Two years later in 1991 Chopra made Lamhe with Sridevi and a moustache less Anil Kapoor. The movie had all the ingredients of his Silsila formula but it also had a strong storyline of a younger woman falling for an older man who had once loved her mother. The movie has found its audience since its release.
With Darr in 1993, Chopra established Shah Rukh Khan as what came to be known as the anti hero (whatever that means) in Hindi cinema. Four years later in 1997 he made the candy floss Dil to Pagal Hai which had Shah Rukh playing Rahul and saying “Rahul naam to suna hoga” every ten minutes. With a very thin storyline Chopra managed to make Madhuri Dixit look gorgeous, and that along with some great music and Shah Rukh sold tickets at the box office.
In 2004, Chopra directed the Indo-Pak love story Veer Zaara. His last film Jab Tak Hai Jaan is scheduled for release on the day of Diwali next month (I have this nagging feeling that the story line is similar to Daag – A Poem of Love,  Chopra’s first independent production). 
Like he was in his life, in his death, Yash Chopra has been christened the King of Romance. But romance was something he discovered in the second part of his career. Rather ironically some his best movies from Dhool ka Phool to Waqt to Itefaaq to Deewaar to Trishul had very little romance in them, though his later romantic movies like Chandni, Darr, Dil to Pagal Hai and Veer Zaara, definitely made more money. And his latest movie Jab Tak Hai Jaan might very well be the next Rs 200 crore superhit.
The obituary originally appeared on www.firstpost.com on October 22, 2012. http://www.firstpost.com/bollywood/for-yash-chopra-romance-was-a-much-later-discovery-498079.html/2
(Vivek Kaul is a writer. He can be reached at [email protected]

If Modi is Goebbels, what does that make Digvijay?

Vivek Kaul
Digvijay Singh, currently one of the powerful general secretaries in the Congress party, was born in February 1947. Given this he must have been in his late teens when the Yash Chopra directed multi-starrer Waqt released in 1965.
While I am not sure whether Singh is a movie buff or not, chances are he might have seen the movie. We all do when we are in our teens.
There are two things from Waqt that have survived the test of times. One is the qawali “ae meri zohra jabeen” sung by Manna De, set to tune by Ravi, and written by the great Sahir Ludhianvi.
Another is a dialogue written by Akhtar-Ul-Iman and spoken by Raj Kumar in the movie, which goes like this: “Chinoi Seth…jinke apne ghar sheeshe ke hon wo dusron par pathar nahi feka karte (Chinoi Seth…those who live in glass houses don’t throw stones at others).”
If Digvijay Singh hasn’t seen this movie its time he did. If watching a 206 minute long movie doesn’t fit into his scheme of things, he can at least watch this 18 second YouTube clip, to realise that those who live in glass houses don’t throw stones at others.
Singh has accused Narendra Modi of being well trained by the Rashtriya Swayemsevak Sangh (RSS) in the “Nazi tradition” of false propaganda. He tweeted twice on this to say:
1. “Sangh trains it’s cadre in disinformation campaign. Obviously Modi has been trained well! Sangh has modeled itself in the Nazi tradition.”
2. “Sangh training to its cadre. Jhoot bolo zor se bolo aur baar baar bolo (Tell a lie, tell it loudly and tell it hundred times). Doesn’t it remind you of Hitler’s Goebbels?
These tweets came after Narendra Modi accused the government of having spent Rs 1880 crore in the treatment of Sonia Gandhi’s mysterious illness. Modi claimed to have got this number from a media report.
Singh has compared Modi to Paul Joseph Goebbels who was a German politician and Adolf Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany. There is no denying that Modi might be wrong with his Rs 1880 crore claim but the fact of the matter is that the Congress leaders including Digvijay Singh have been doing the same thing that they have just accused Modi of i.e. false propaganda, over and over again.
Let’s take a look at something that Digvijay Singh said in the context of the coalgate scam sometime back. “The way the CAG is going, it is clear he (i.e. Vinod Rai) has political ambitions like TN Chaturvedi (a former CAG who later joined the BJP). He has been giving notional and fictional figures that have no relevance to facts. How has he computed these figures? He is talking through his hat,” said Singh.
The CAG put the losses due to the government giving away coal blocks for free at Rs 1,86,000 crore. Singh would like us to believe that the figures put out by the CAG were notional and fictional and had no relevance to facts. As I explain here it was Singh and not the CAG who was talking through his hat.
Singh’s esteemed colleague, the finance minister P Chidambaram, also tried to tell the nation that there had been no loss in coalgate. “If coal is not mined, where is the loss? The loss will only occur if coal is sold at a certain price or undervalued,” said Chidambaram.
The union Finance Minister wanted us to believe that since almost all companies which got free coal blocks have not started to mine coal till date, hence there have been no losses. This is like saying that I gave away my house for free, but since the person I gave it away to is not able to sell it, hence I did not face any losses.
Chidambaram was basically trying to confuse us by mixing two issues here. One is the fact that the government gave away the blocks for free. And another is the inability of the companies who got these blocks to start mining coal. Just because these companies haven’t been able to mine coal doesn’t mean that the government of India did not face a loss by giving away the mines for free. (You can read the complete argument here).
Kapil Sibal the union telecom minister wanted us to believe that the government hadn’t faced any losses by giving away licenses to telecom companies on a first come first serve basis rather than auctioning them. The CAG had put these losses on account of this at Rs 1,76,000 crore. What these examples clearly bring out is that Congress leaders like Digvijay Singh are indulging in false propaganda of the worst kind, something they have just accused Narendra Modi of.
Another interesting point is that there can be a clear difference of opinion when it comes to the losses suffered by the government on account of coalgate. The assumptions that CAG worked with put the losses at Rs 1,86,000 crore. As I showed in an earlier piece with some more aggressive assumptions the losses could have even shown to be at Rs Rs 13.5 lakh crore (You can read about it here).
But there can be no such variation when it comes to the amount of money that the government has been spending on the treatment of Sonia Gandhi’s illness (if at all it has). A very simple way to puncture Narendra Modi’s argument is to just tell the nation, how much money has really been spent.
Modi claims that the government has spent around Rs 1880 crore or around $356 million on Sonia Gandhi’s illness.  That’s a lot of money. If that is not the right amount, what is the right amount? All it needs is a simple clarification from the government.
And that hasn’t come. What has come is a comment that accuses Modi being a Nazi. As an earlier piece on this website pointed out that there is an RTI application pending before the UPA government asking for details of her visits, the amounts spent and for what purposes. What Singh’s comment also shows is that the Congress doesn’t know how to tackle Modi in Gujarat. Sonia Gandhi in 2007 had labeled him maut ka saudagar. Singh has now labeled him a Nazi. By trying to tarnish Modi’s image the Congress is only helping Brand Modi become much stronger at least in Gujarat. And that can’t be clearly good for a party which claims to be secular.
The article originally appeared on www.firstpost.com on October 3, 2012. http://www.firstpost.com/politics/if-modi-is-goebbels-what-does-that-make-digvijaya-477800.html
(Vivek Kaul is a writer. He can be reached at [email protected])