(Yash Chopra was born on September 27, 1932. Today happens to be his 86th birth anniversary. While fondly remembering the ever smiling gem of a director, as a tribute to the genius soul, we reproduce this rare and frank interview with JYOTHI VENKATESH, which appeared 42 years ago in the now defunct monthly DREAMSTAR issue dt March 1976)
Yash Chopra is at his best and gives you a good copy when he is provoked. Keeping this tip in mind, I made my way to his air-conditioned office at the Rajkamal Studios one sunny afternoon. I had not fixed an appointment with him. I just rang up his wife Pamela Chopra and ascertained that Yash was at his office. With the release of his much talked about multistar venture Kabhi Kabhie round the corner, Yash was too busy to spare time for an in depth interview at such a short notice. However, I persisted and he relented for a mini interview.
How is it that you have been afflicted by this disease called multistar madness? I asked Yash in dismay as we plonked in my seat after he cleared his room of unwanted people. Yash did not even bat his eye lids. Almost spontaneously, he defended himself. “You cannot call this multistar phenomenon madness. It has become a necessity, you see. My film Kabhi Kabhie is basically an emotional story which abounds with different characters. To extract the performances of the artistes in the way that I want them, I had no other go but to change the casting pattern and load the film with well known stars who alone, I feel can portray such difficult and complex roles.”
Yash Chopra’s Kabhi Kabhie stars Waheeda Rehman, Shashi Kapoor, Amitabh Bachchan, Raakhee, Neetu Singh, Naseem and Rishi Kapoor in that order, with special appearance by Simi and Parikshat Sahani. Yash resumed. “Going in for a multistar cast isn’t madness. It is filmmaking, which is in fact madness. There is absolutely no method at all and there is no grammar whatsoever in filmmaking. Any one, who has got financial resources at his disposal today, can right royally become a producer with a flourish.”
Yash says that making a multistar venture like Kabhi Kabhie was a big challenge to him. It is not that he hasn’t made films with big stars, before Kabhi Kabhie. Shashi Kapoor was the hero of his very first film Dharamputra as a full-fledged director. Waqt was the multi star venture of the 60’s while his first film Daag, as a producer-directorhad Rajesh Khanna, Raakhee and Sharmila Tagore in the cast. His next film Deewar had Amitabh Bachchan and Shashi Kapoor along with Parveen Babi and Neetu Singh. Interestingly Navin Nischol, who was a super star of the early 70’s had turned down the role that went to Shashi Kapoor later on since he was not ready to play a second fiddle to Bachchan.
“The multistar pattern in films is a healthy trend. It proves that our stars, who are accused to be egoists of the first order, are, in fact, human enough to shed their false egos and work in a spirit of camaraderie. I do not believe in perpetuating the image of my stars. I did not sign them and then sit to manipulate the characters in the story just in order to suit their images. I had the entire script with me when I set out to cast the stars. I cast only those stars, who I had immense confidence would be able to do full justification to their roles. And luckily for me, the stars also agreed with my casting pattern and accepted the respective roles which I had conceived for them, instead of preferring to do any other role, when I showed them the complete script. Amitabh agreed that he alone could do the role of the heart broken, yet sensitive poet who loves Raakhee but married Waheeda. Similarly Shashi also agreed that he was most suited to play the extrovert architect, a role which is in contrast to that which Amitabh plays. Rishi Kapoor plays Shashi Kapoor’s son. In the film, he could have played no other role, keeping in mind his young age”.
Yash paused for a while and sipped his steaming hot tea and resumed. “In the beginning Rishi Kapoor hesitated to accept the role but I was determined to cast only him for that role. I understood that he was persuaded by his friends in the industry not to work in my film, since mine was a multistar cast venture and his role would but naturally be an insignificant one. I asked Rishi to hear the story and his role before saying yes or no to my offer. He agreed and when he read the compete script at a meeting arranged by publicist Bunny Reuben at the latter’s residence, Rishi was game for the role.”
Yash continued. “Amitabh Bachchan is a very good artiste. But unfortunately he has got himself typed today as an angry young man. Of course, I do not deny that I am also partly to be blamed, because I had cast him as an angry young outlaw in Deewar which gave a fillip to his career after Zanjeer which resurrected him in the industry. In Kabhi Kabhie, Amit is breaking new grounds. He is underplaying his role. You will be able to see the romantic as well as the serious side of Amitabh’s facet. I know that it is risky to cast Amitabh in a different mould after he has acquired for himself a star image, but then I am of the opinion that it is a thrill to risk and succeed. I believe in variety. Who knows, tomorrow I may cast Amitabh again in a Deewar type of a role.”
Didn’t you face any problem as far as securing the dates of your stars were concerned? I asked Yash gingerly.”None whatsoever at all. I relied more on the performance of the artistes who I chose than on their market rate. I signed Waheeda at a time when she was practically out of the rat race and Raakhee when she had stopped accepting any offer after her marriage to Gulzar. Naseem is a cousin of Mumtaz and a new discovery of mine, who in all probability may make her first and last appearance in Kabhi Kabhie. Like Dimple, she has decided to get married and also quit the industry, whether Kabhi Kabhie proves to be a grosser at the box office or not. Parikshat Sahani and Simi also had only a couple of assignments in their hands when I signed them for this film.”
“Amitabh and Shashi did not enjoy the star adulation that both of them enjoy today. Thus I had practically no problem making a star cast film because Waheeda, Raakhee, Naseem, Simi and Parikshat all were completely free for my film and I had no date problem. Neetu adjusted all her outside assignments and went all out for my film since she has in Kabhi Kabhie the most memorable role of her career as an actress. Contrary to her glamorous image, I have cast Neetu in a different mould. Wait till Kabhi Kabhie is released. Neetu will go places as a talented actor. I have completed Kabhi Kabhie in 80 shooting days. It is a 100% outdoor film. Only a couple of songs had to be picturized inside the studios. I believe in completing my film by planning 7 or 8 months in advance for a month’s schedule. Kabhi Kabhie was launched on September 29, 1974. I could have completed the film earlier but I was busy with Deewar in between.”
Your story is based on a love story. In what way is it different from any other love story? Is it a film aimed at capturing the box office returns? I queried. “In my film, I have not included sex and violence. I did not succumb to any gimmick. The entire film is based on the universal element of LOVE. The difference between this and any other love story lies in the manner it has been presented by me on the screen".
Why do you not show your film to your stars before it is complete in all respects? “It is a principle of mine not to show any film of mine before I complete it to my stars. The same applies to my distributors too. The reason is that I do not wish to get confused by the opinion of others. I am glad all my artistes are understanding enough not to insist on my showing them the film before its completion. They only ask me once in a while whether the film is ready or not and I get the message".
Why did you sign Khayyam for composing music after you had already signed Lakshmikant-Pyarelal for Kabhi Kabhie? “After I had sighed LP for the music, Sahir Ludhianvi recommended that the job of composing music be given to Khayyam since the subject needed a poetic touch and complete concentration which only a veteran composer like Khayyam would be able to give. I explained the reason to Lakshmikant and he very kindly agreed to walk out of the film and let me sign Khayyam. I am glad that now Khayyam’s value has been realized by the industry after he bagged a couple of more offers like Majnoon and Sohni Mahiwal, the Rajesh Khanna-Neetu Singh starrer".
Weren’t you supposed to make Deewar with Rajesh Khanna in the wake of the success of Daag? What went wrong and where? ”Gulshan Rai had signed Rajesh Khanna for his next film. But when we got the Deewar script, we felt unanimously that only Amitabh could do full justice to the character. The film, which Rajesh was to do, was shelved later. In any case, Rajesh Khanna and I do not have good relations now, even though we both were very good friends during the making of Daag. He is now under the impression that I belong to his rival camp. However, it is not the same case with Sharmila Tagore. I did not take her for Kabhi Kabhie because Sharmila was pregnant at the time the casting for the film was done. Otherwise I’d have loved to cast her in the film. She is a terrific artiste".
What has the failure of Joshila taught you? “I worked on the sets of Joshila without any ready script on hand. Its failure has taught not to repeat the same mistake- not to make a film in future without a ready script on hand. I have also learnt not to make films with past hangovers. My policy is to forget about the fate of my earlier films while making my next".
Why did you not take Jaya Bachchan for Kabhi Kabhie? ”I had a valid point for not taking Jaya for the film. The relationship between the various characters in the film is such that I did not want Jaya to act in the film. I felt I had to make a choice and decide on either Jaya or Amitabh. I opted for Amitabh. I couldn’t take both Amit and Jaya in view of the fact that they are a star couple in real life. Yet Jaya was there with the unit more or less like an assistant to me. Full credit ought to go to her for taking pains to groom Naseem in the absence of Mumtaz.”
How many assignments he had at the moment as a director? ”Yash flashed his enigmatic smile as he got up from the seat and headed towards the recording room in the studios and signed off by saying, “I have only one assignment. Gulshan Rai’s next with Amit in the lead. We have not decided upon the rest of the cast. After Kabhi Kabhie is released, I will swing into action with my next production. Basically I am more interested in wielding the megaphone than going in for production. For unlike today’s stars who work in dozens of films at the same time, I cannot concentrate on more than one or two films at a time”.
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