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Dr. Yash Chopra The Lord Of Love In The Land Of Dreams


Ali Peter John

He was undoubtedly one filmmaker who gave love all the respect and reverence that he felt a glorious feeling like love deserved. Every film he made except a few like his first two films, “Dhool Ka Phool” and “Dharamputra” and “Ittefaq” which he made several years later had a very strong layer or several layers of love or call it romance if you may. Yash Chopra was not only a filmmaker who specialized in bringing love and romance alive in his films, he was a lover of many other things and beings in real life as well.

Yash was madly in love with films even while he was a student in Jalandhar. His father wanted him to go to England to do his ICS, but Yash had somehow made up his mind to do something in films. He was inspired by the success of his elder brother, B.R Chopra who had made it big in films and wanted to be someone like him. His ambition however faced a setback when his father asked him to go to Bombay and spend some time with his brother before taking off for England. Yash followed his father’s orders and his love for films got a very big boost when he saw his elder brother making magic with films. It was with great difficulty that he finally told his brother about his ambition. The brother finally realized how very mad the young Yash was about films and without letting their father know got him a job as an assistant to the comedian and filmmaker I.S Johar. The maker’s way of making films did not appeal to Yash and he begged of his brother to take him on as his own assistant. His brother understood his madness and made him one of his assistants. He proved to be a very valuable assistant and worth giving a break to as a director and that is what B.R Chopra did when he asked him to direct “Dhool Ka Phool” and “Dharamputra” and by the time he had made his third film, “Waqt”, he had made it as a remarkable director accepted by the masses, classes and the critics. His love for films had triumphed.

Yash Chopra went on to become one of the greatest romantic filmmakers and was also known for his love for life in general. Here are some of the loves he had and shared with me and others at different times.

He was carried away by the poetry of Sahir Ludhianvi which he read when he was in college and knew all his major poetry by heart and could recite Sahir’s lines at any time and under any circumstances. He was thrilled when he got to be friends with Sahir who was working as a lyricist for his brother. They spent several evenings discussing and reciting poetry and Yash said he was never as happy as he was in the inspiring company of Sahir who naturally wrote all the songs in Yash’s films till his last film with Yash, “Kabhi Kabhie”.

Yash loved Dilip Kumar who he had made friends with when he was an assistant during the making of “Naya Daur”. He was a devotee of both Dilip Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar and often said, “Yeh do log, agar inko kabhi bhi kuch ho gayaa toh main zindaa nahi rahoonga”. Life has its own ways and now Yash is gone and both Dilip and Lata are alive with all his memories stored in their minds.

Yash once took several hours to tell me about his genuinely falling in love with two of his heroines, Sadhana and Mumtaz. He talked about how he talked to Sadhana on the telephone for twelve hours at a stretch. He was so madly in love with Mumtaz during the making of “Aadmi Aur Insaan” that he told his brother that he wanted to marry her which he said his brother was against and so he had to give up his dream of marrying Mumtaz. He then was asked to get married. He saw a girl in Delhi who was approved by his brother and family and said no to the proposal. The second time a meeting was arranged for him and he realized that it was the same girl, Pamela, an air hostess working with BOAC, he believed that she was the woman destined for him and decided to marry her and said that he fell in love with Pam after he had married her.

Yash loved good music and had grand music sessions in his house, especially with poets like Sahir and Javed Akhtar around. Among his favourite music composers were Madan Mohan, Ravi and Kalyanji-Anandji. He had the knack of getting the best poetry and music not only for his films but for enriching his own life.

Yash loved the outdoors and as long as there was no trouble in Kashmir, he lost no opportunity to shoot in the valley. His other favourite location was Switzerland where he shot some of his best films and the government in Switzerland and its tourism departments even named a garden after him. He however had the opportunity to shoot his last film, “Jab Tak Hai Jaan” on his favourite location “heaven” (the name he had given Kashmir).

Yash was a great lover of good food. His normal breakfast was like a feast and so was his lunch and dinner. He made sure that his unit shared his homemade food with him. He knew every eating place, however big or small in every place in the world which he visited even once. He could suggest the best hotels in any place where he had shot his films and the best local foods.

He had a passion for good pens and used a Parker or a Sheaffer even to write his daily appointments and sign cheques and other important papers. I had brought out a special issue of “Screen” on the occasion of the silver jubilee year of Yash Raj Films. He was delighted with it, praised my work before his entire staff and then presented me with a set of Sheaffer pens and said that was the best gift he could think of offering a “fakeer” like me.

He liked his office to be spick and span. It was so when he had his office at Raj Kamal Studios, it was the same when his office was at Vikas Park in Juhu and it was at its very best when his son Aditya designed his office for him on the fourth floor of Yash Raj Studios in Andheri where he had his own green space to have his evening walk. It is an irony of fate that it was in this very office which he treated like home that a mosquito stung him and strangely brought to an end the life of one of the greatest lovers of life.

By some kind of a divine providence, Ravi Chopra, the only son of B.R Chopra, elder brother of B.R Chopra shared his birthday with his uncle, Yash. B.R Chopra brought up Yash and Ravi like his sons. Yash started his career as an assistant of his father in films like “Dastaan” (Dilip Kumar in a double role with Sharmila Tagore and Prem Chopra) and “Dhund” (Navin Nischol, Zeenat Aman and Danny Dengonzpa) before he started assisting his “Yash Uncle” who was “both an uncle and an elder brother to me”.

Ravi assisted his uncle and elder brother Yash during the making of “Ittefaq” (Rajesh Khanna and Nanda). They were more like friends than the relationship they shared as uncle and nephew. They were brothers who literally grew up under the shadow of the giant tree, Dr. Baldev Raj Chopra who treated them like sons till Yash saw his ambitions grow and branched out of B.R Films to start his own production company, Yash Raj Films, a decision which is said to have shattered Dr. Chopra for whom Yash had made films like “Dhool Ka Phool”, “Dharamputra” and “Waqt”. Their relationship had strained and was the talk of the industry, but Yash and Ravi continued to be close.

Ravi got his first break to direct “Zameer” (starring the early Amitabh Bachchan, Saira Banu and Shammi Kapoor). The film though made on the lines of a cowboy western did not fare well at the box-office. Ravi directed other films like “The Burning Train” which was a takeoff on the Hollywood cult film, “The Towering Inferno”, a multi –starrer made with great ambitions but which again did not do well. He directed other films like “Mazdoor”(Dilip Kumar, Nanda and Raj Babbar), “Dahleez” and “Aaj Ki Aawaz” (in which Nana Patekar made his debut as a villain in Hindi films). He then joined his father in the making of the epic serial based on the maha epic “Mahabharat”. His father fell seriously ill and Ravi had to take up the responsibility of completing “Mahabharat” all by himself which he did very creditably

As his father grew more and more in age and was very sick, he handed over his precious subject “Baghbaan” to Ravi and the father lived long enough to see his son fulfil his dream of many years, to make “Baghbaan”. Ravi made the film with the magical jodi of Amitabh Bachchan and Hema Malini and the film was a big hit. He then made “Baabul” again with Amitabh and Hema and finally made “Bhootnath”, once again with Amitabh.
Yash and Ravi renewed their association during the ailing days of Dr. Chopra when Yash visited him regularly. Yash and Ravi had very grand memories of the time when they were assistants and when they met and had a good time and for them the best time was when they gorged on the best food available anywhere, at home or in any of their favourite restaurants. They also shared their love for good poetry and good music.

Ravi made “Bandha Yeh Bindaas Hai” and got into trouble with Walt Disney Productions the Hollywood company which charged him with lifting the story of one of its films and making it without making any major changes. Ravi had to pay a very heavy compensation which left B.R Films in financial trouble. The film has still to be released. Ravi was diagnosed with a serious lung ailment from which he never recovered.

He was very ill and was down in bed when Yash fell a victim to dengue and died. He was in no position to even react to the death of his uncle, nephew and best friend. Two years later, Ravi himself succumbed to his lung ailment which kept him out of action for seven long years during which time his wife Renu Chopra and sons Abhay and Kapil put all their resources together and produced “Bhootnath Returns” with Amitabh who was a dear friend of Ravi and who gave his family all the co-operation to make “Bhootnath Returns”, the film that brought back B.R Films from the red.

The passing away of Yash and Ravi within a short time has left their families to carry on their legacy. Yash Raj Films is now being taken care of completely by his able son, Aditya Chopra. B.R Films is all set to bounce back with three films under the joint captaincy of Renu Chopra and her two sons, Abhay and Kapil who have planned to revive the glory that B.R Films was under the leadership of Dr. B.R Chopra and later by Ravi Chopra who would have been seventy this year, but who was always full of life and cinema as long as he was hale and hearty. Such relationships (Yash and Ravi) do not happen often and they are remembered always.

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