Yash Chopra is often known as the King of Romance; the man who single-handedly sold Switzerland to desis and Hindi movies to videsis. But one often forgets that there is a lot more to Yash Chopra’s repertoire than just great romances. In a career spanning 5 decades, he has dabbled successfully with family sagas, dramas, action films and even thrillers. He has experimented and taken chances with his movies. While some have been successful, others not so much. However, his repertoire firmly places him amongst the finest filmmakers of this country.
While Guru Dutt most often focussed on the male protagonist of the story, Yash Chopra’s movies, more often than not, have been about the women in the story. His movies consisted of strong female protagonists like Sridevi’s characters in Chandni and Lamhe, Rekha’s and Jaya Bahaduri’s characters in Silsila and Rakhee’s character in Kabhi Kabhie. Of course, his female characters were traditionalists to a fault and would perhaps invoke the ire of many a feminists. However, within that boundary, there were modern, bold and a lot more than mere stick figures running around trees. For the time in which these films were made, they had plenty of gumption, sensuousness, poise and charm.
The dialogues were terrific and scenes unforgettable. The sequence where Vijay (Shashi Kapoor) confronts Amit (Amitabh) and Pooja (Rakhee) about their incomplete romance in Kabhi Kabhie is really well written. Ditto for the scene in Lamhe where Prem (Anupam Kher) tries to knock sense into Viren (Anil Kapoor) about his love for Pooja (Sridevi), the daughter of his deceased first love. In the hands of any other director, these scenes could have easily been messed up. But thankfully, Yash Chopra and his writers brought the required maturity to the scenes making them poignant and beautiful. Poetry is integral to his characters in Silsila, Kabhi Kabhie and Veer Zaara. Shah Rukh Khan’s four words, “I love you, K-k-k-kiran,” are like the “Luke, I’m your father” of Hindi cinema. It is for these reasons that these 7 films manage to overshadow all of the remaining work of Yash Chopra.
When one looks through his work, it is interesting to note some creative collaborations that were critical to the kind of movies he made. His collaboration with Salim-Javed resulted in superb masala movies like Deewaar, Trishul and Kaala Patthar. Javed Akhtar even made his debut as a lyricist with the controversial Silsila. With writer Sagar Sarhadi, he made Kabhi Kabhie, Silsila and Chandni and with Honey Irani, he made his best romance Lamhe, the chilling Darr and the absolutely forgettable Parampara.
At the end of the day, it is easy, even cool to be dismissive of Yash Chopra’s works as mere candy-floss romance. However, his romance has more meaning, class, style and elegance than most directors can ever lay claim to. His movies have content and depth, another rarity in mainstream cinema. They bring memorable stories to the screen and feature unforgettable characters and performances. His movies are like poetry on celluloid. He has inspired an entire generation of filmmakers not only through his romances but through his dramas. Trishul and Deewaar are just as important to his repertoire as Lamhe and Kabhi Kabhie. Surely, his earlier works were better than his more recent ones. But that does not take away from the fact that he is one of the finest directors of Hindi cinema, in any genre. He is one of those few directors who makes one film in 3-4 years which is remembered for decades after its over and gone. It has been 6 years since his last work. Dear Mr. Chopra, let’s have another one soon, please?