Birthday Special: Dr. B. R. Chopra The Pioneer And The Path-Breaker

He was born to give life to brave new ideas to make films that were way ahead of their times, films which were eye-openers to the ailments killing society,

By Bollyy
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- Ali Peter John

He was born to give life to brave new ideas to make films that were way ahead of their times, films which were eye-openers to the ailments killing society, to the fake values and traditions which played havoc with humanity and the various systems created by man which were followed by man only to destroy the goodness of man.

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Baldev Raj Chopra was born on April 22, 1914 to be one of the greatest filmmakers of India, a filmmaker as a torchbearer, a trend setter and a thought­-provoker, a filmmaker who touched and tackled sub­jects no ordinary filmmaker could. He believed in enlightening people but making sure that he did not preach or teach but only showing the mirror to the masses and the classes alike with a dash of enter­tainment which included some very good music and meaningful songs, good writing and outstanding performances by some of the best artists during the time he made his films in the sixty years that he was active with his banner, B. R. Films, the banner he founded and established, a banner which shone among all the other banners which came up in all directions, one of the most respected banners whose contribution cannot and will not be forgotten as long as Indian films are talked about, a banner which had a man who could make things happen in the most difficult circumstances as the founder.


Baldev Raj was born in pre-partition India. He showed signs of going away from the beaten track at a very early age. At a time when young men were aim­ing to be in the civil services or join some high office of the British Raj, Baldev Raj did his M.A. in English Literature from Lahore University and took to writ­ing short stories: He then became a film critic in a film magazine, 'Cine Herald' and his reviews were looked up to and looked forward to by filmmakers and film goers in both Pakistan and India alike. He could have continued as a writer and a critic but the ravages of partition forced him to land in India and finally reach Bombay, a city of dreams even then. His name had reached the city before he could because of his writings and his reviews. He continued writing for various magazines. But he had a hidden dream - he wanted to make it as a filmmaker because he believed films had the power to reach many more people than writing.

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His friends and admirers, the Agarwal brothers in Bombay and the constant encouragement of Ashok Kumar, the leading star of those times encouraged him to take his first step as a director. He had not learnt the basics of filmmaking but he made his debut in a difficult to make film called 'Afsaana' with Ashok Kumar in a double role (he was to remake the film as 'Daastaan' with Dilip Kumar many years later). The film won him acclaim and more encouragement to go ahead. The next two films 'Shole' and 'Chandni Chowk' kept him going strong in the race. But his intentions and his genius as a filmmaker came to the fore in a big way when he made 'Naya Daur', a film which was a warning to man about the danger of machines taking over from man. It was to star Dilip Kumar and Madhubala who were madly in love those days. It was Madhubala's father, Ataullah Khan who was against his daughter coming close to Dilip Kumar and did not want his daughter to work with Dilip Kumar in a prestigious film like 'Naya Daur'. He tried to go against the con­tract and B. R. had no way out but to go to court. It was a major issue and finally Madhubala was replaced by Vyjayantimala and with meaningful and moving songs by Sahir Ludhianvi and pulsating music by O. P. Nayyar went on to become a craze, a rage during the next forty years but surprisingly failed to work the same wonders when it was released in its coloured version some years ago...


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B. R. Films was making"Naya Daur",during the making of which his younger brother, Yash Chopra who was to go to London to pur­sue his ICS joined him as an assistant. The success of "Naya Daur" was followed by eight successful films. Prominent among which were 'Ek Hi Raasta', 'Sadhna', 'Gumrah' and 'Hamraaz' which dealt with the man and woman relationship, all of them bold sub­jects which were never tried in films before and all of them directed by Chopra. He contin­ued making the kind of films he and his banner were now known for. He made 'Insaaf Ka Tarazoo', a con­troversial film about rape and 'Nikaah', a voice against the out-dated Muslim laws when it came to marriage.

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He then took one big major turn and decided to make 'Mahabharat', the mega serial based on the great epic. The serial gave him the kind of popularity all his films to­gether couldn't. He was more than just a maker of films now. He was treated “like a messenger sent by God to spread his message among the people". He was however growing old and falling sick time and again. It was at this stage that he handed over his torch to his only son, Ravi Chopra who kept up his tradition by making films like 'Baghbaan' and 'Babul'.

B. R. has made his tremendous contribution to Indian films. His films, the subjects of his films, the lyrics, the music and above all the messages he was able to convey through his films are things that will be remembered for all time.

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And if there is one priceless gift B. R. has offered to Hindi films it was his younger brother, Yash Chopra who he took under his wings when their father was against Yash joining films and wanting him to be an ICS officer. Can you wonder what Indian cinema would be if Dr. B. R. Chopra had not defied his father and saved his brother from joining the ICS and thus to save Indian cinema?It is not easy to forget the massive contribution of this amazing man.Give this amazing man who is undoubtedly one of the greatest men in the cinema of our times, a die-hard optimist a man who can never go away, come what may.


Man may make great strides in every field, man may find answers to questions which have troubled man from time to time. Man may sell his soul to technology, the most unbeliev­able progress made in technology. But how can just one man make so much progress in one field of life and make so much progress, films? There have been priests, saints, holy men and other super human men who have tried to change man and his world. Some have succeeded and most have failed and have proved how unholy they are in practicing their holy ways. B.R was one man who succeeded.

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The man deserves all the respect a man called Dr. B. R. Chopra has made for himself.

Think of the way his mind worked when he was a victim of the holocaust of the partition, how he decided to fight against odds and find ways for man to find ways for men. Baldev Raj Chopra made films fighting against time to make films that were way ahead of their time.

He had the gift of telling stories; he mastered the art of telling stories on celluloid which was still in their early stages.

He told stories of the need of one human being understanding another, of man knowing a woman better.

He told stories about the progress man was making at the cost of selling his soul, his sprit.

He talked about the country, about harmony, about hu­manity, about love, peace and understanding

He told stories, brave stories about the changing tradi­tions, values, customs and principles

He made films which did the country proud, films which had their locations in the hearts and minds of people

He never compromised; he never took pride in the progress he and his company had made.

He made films to show the light and to drive away all darkness...

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For more than six decades Baldev Raj Chopra and B. R. Films continue to fly high, their films reaching out to more and more people

But time does not spare any man big or small, good, bad or very good and the grand success story of Dr B.R Chopra came to an end on November 5

 ,2008. And tragedy kept knocking at the door of B.R Films. His wife, Prakash who stood by him like a rock of inspiration died a few weeks after he died and his only son, Ravi Chopra who had taken over B.R Films, died two years later at a very young age and of a very mysterious lung ailment.

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B.R Films is now being run by Dr Chopra's daughter-in-law and the wife of Ravi Chopra, Ms Renu Chopra and her sons, Abhay and Kapil. They have made three successful films under the banner of B.R Films and are busy planning three more, which makes sure that B.R Films, the banner of a brave and daring man will keep flying for many more years to come.

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He was in his late seventies when he first planned to make a film called “Baghbaan", which was hand-written by him and the script of which he had shown me every time I met him and he said it would be his most favourite and “may be even my farewell film"it was the story of parents being ill-treated by their children when they are old. He had the dream of casting his favourite actor, Dilip Kumar and Raakhee. He kept following Dilip Kumar to say yes to his film, but the thespian kept postponing the making of the film for reasons best known to him.....

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It was at this stage that he thought of making the TV-serial based on the “Mahabharat". He had a team of writers to work on the script and the big surprise was that he chose the learned and popular Urdu writer, Dr Rahi Masoom Raza to write the dialogue. The I&B Ministry which was then headed by I.K Gujral almost backed out because of the selection of Dr Raza, but Dr Chopra stuck to his decision and when the serial was telecast, it was Dr Raza's dialogue that was popular in India, Pakistan (where the country is reported to have been glued to TV-sets whenever the serial was telecast) and all over the gulf, even in Saudi Arabia where it was shown clandestinely. The serial looking a craze and is said to have inspired Dr Chopra's cousin, Dr Ramanand Sagar to make“Ramayan"and there was an unending debate on which serial was better. According to many learned pundits, it was Dr Sagar's“Ramayan"which led to the revival of the interest in Ram, Sita, Raavan and all the other Hindu gods which ultimately led to the formation of the Bharatiya Janata Party which is now holding the country in the cusp of its powerful hands.....

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It was during the shooting of“Mahabharat"mostly done on massive sets at the Film City in Mumbai that Dr Chopra first showed signs of not being well and soon he handed over the making of the serial to his son, Ravi...

But, even when he was very sick, he was obsessed with the making of“Baghbaan"with Dilip Kumar, without knowing that there were other films like“Zindagi"with Sanjeev Kumar and Mala Sinha,“Avatar"with Rajesh Khanna and Shabana Azmi and“Santaan"with Jeetendra and a female star from the South.

There was a big shock for Dr Chopra when Dilip Kumar himself decided to officially direct his first film,“Kalinga"with himself in the title role. Dr Chopra was quite unaware of these developments as his health and his memory were failing him, but whenever he felt better, he talked about making“Baghbaan"with Dilip Kumar. His son, Ravi couldn't take the anguish his father was going through and finally spoke to his friend, Amitabh Bachchan who he had directed in“Zameer"when Amitabh was considered a flop actor. Amitabh who was now the star of the millennium agreed to do the film with Hema Malini as his wife. The film turned out to be a huge hit and led to one more grand revival for B.R Films. However, Dr Chopra was in no condition to see the success of the subject he was obsessed with for more than twelve years....

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The condition of Dr Chopra worsened and doctors advised his family not to allow him to take part in any activity, not even to attend office. But even though Dr Chopra was almost in a state of coma he wildly came back to life at eleven in the morning and did not listen to anyone till he was put in his car and taken to office. He would sometimes sit for one or two hours and spend the lunch time with his writers and his staff without even recognising any of them and then asked his daughter-in-law to take him home.

It is difficult to believe, but it was a fact that he suddenly sprang back to life on the seventh of every month which was salary day in the office and he requested his son to take him to the office where he signed hundred and seventy cheques and only then came back home....

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Life, however continues and of one has to know the worth of the years of good work put in by Dr Chopra, one has to only visit the office of B.R Films at Anand Villa, which is just behind Shahrukh Khan's Red Chillies office and“Sangeeta Apartments"where the popular actress of the sixties and seventies Sadhana had her bungalow turned into a cluster of apartments and if you have the permission of Ms Renu Chopra, you can see the museum Ms Chopra and her sons have been maintaining for over a decade which tells of the saga of Dr B.R Chopra.

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