What made Yash Chopra a legend

Yash Chopra
Our Finance Editor, Neeraj Gangal says 'the producer-director was able to bring together Bollywood’s best talents to create ‘everlasting cinema’.

“The greatness of Raj Kapoor wasn’t only about the financial success of the films that he made,” a senior journalist once told me. “It was also about the issues he tackled, the kind of genius people he carried along with him and the friendships he made in the process. That made him a Legend.”

By the same standards, Yash Chopra would definitely stand tall among the legends of Indian cinema. From Sahir Ludhianvi to Salim-Javed, from Balraj Sahni to Shah Rukh Khan, from Ravi to AR Rahman, from Sharmila Tagore to Sridevi, from Saroj Khan to Shiamak Davar– Yash Chopra was able to bring together some of the greatest talents in the film industry together and weave together their brilliance into a single fabric called ‘everlasting cinema’.

It’s perhaps the best tribute to the absolute command that he had over his craft – that Yash Chopra will be equally remembered for his romantic films as much as his intense dramas. For someone, who started his directorial career with intense dramas such as, Waqt, Dhool Kaa Phool, Ittefaq or Deewar (later Trishul, Kala Patthar and Mashaal), he could easily alternate it with a Daag, Kabhi Kabhie, Silsila and elevate them to the same level of dignity.

His characters were often real people in a fantasized world, and he compelled you to look into their actions through their viewpoints. There was seldom right or wrong, good or bad – and you could endlessly argue over their behavior – years after the films have been made. Amitabh Bachchan in Deewar, Rajesh Khanna in Daag, Rekha in Silsila, Sridevi in Lamhe: can you really slot them on one single side of morality?

And his lovers were never weak-hearted.

I must have been in my early teens when I watched Kabhi-Kabhie. One particular scene that stuck with me was Shashi Kapoor’s confident acceptance of his wife being an object of desire to someone else. He isn’t melodramatic. With typical Shashi-Kapoorian charm, he shrugs it off and on the contrary compliments his wife on being such a stunning beauty. How masculine is that!

And that was the beauty of a Yash Chopra film. Men could be manly without being violent (having said that, the ‘Peter’ scene from Deewar and the ‘Ambulance’ scene in Trishul could make it to the best action scenes in Hindi cinema) and women could be sexy without being overbearing. It’s precisely the reason every top actor and actress of his/ her generation wanted to work with the legend – and the maestro made sure he extracted the best out of his team.

The exotic locales at which the movies were shot added to the gloss, the music created the atmosphere and all you need to do was vicariously participate in the proceedings on screen. Millions of Indian expats still do that while watching a Yash Raj production. If ‘Bollywood’ is a big brand abroad today, Yash Chopra has done what Pandit Ravi Shankar did to Indian classical music in the early 1950-60s. Seeped in Indianness, his movies struck the perfect balance between commercialism and popularism.

And with the mantle passed on to his business-savvy son, Aditya, the Yash Raj saga looks good to continue for many more years to come despite the legendary director’s death.

Yash Chopra passes away

Director-producer Yash Chopra breathed his last on October 21, days after being discharged from Lilavati hospital.  The 80-year-old filmmaker was admitted to the Bandra hospital on October 13 after being diagnosed with dengue.