“To call him the ‘King of Romance’ may be doing disservice to a prolific creator like Yash Chopra”
[T]here are some who thrive on becoming a part of history. And then there are those who take it upon themselves to change it. Yash Raj Chopra belonged to the latter category. Since his first outing “Dhool ka Phool” in 1959. he churned story after fascinating story – a fertility unparalleled in the history of Hindi Cinema. Without sounding preachy or pretentious, his megaphone blared the saga of our times. At a time when India was coming to terms with the socio-economic realities of freedom, his debut film was soaked in Nehruvian Socialism. And to prove he wasn’t a flash in the pan, the very next film was on religious fundamentalism: Dharmputra (1961). His third film had the most epic ensemble cast ever assembled on Indian screens: Waqt (1965). Without revelling in the success, Chopra plunged into one of the darkest films he ever did, a noir titled Ittefaq (1969).
The widespread cynicism and defiance of authority rampant in the 70s was reflected in his films with Amitabh Bachchan, the poster-boy of Anger in the 70s. Deewar (1975), Trishul (1978), and Kaala Patthar (1979) were milestones not only in Bachchan’s filmography, but also in the annals of Bollywood. Deewar in particular remains a sizzling gangster saga in the garb of Bollywood kitsch.
To call him the ‘King of Romance’ may be doing disservice to a prolific creator like Yash Chopra. His meditations on male-female relationships were mostly mistaken for mush, given the packages they came in. But Daag (1973), Kabhi Kabhie (1976), Silsila (1981), Chandni (1989), Lamhe (1991) remain enduring human stories. To say “with his going, an era has passed” will be a big cliché. But like all big clichés, it is true.