Rajesh Khanna Ittefaq, Daag, Vijay: That Chopra had an eye for the stars is evident from the fact that he worked with Rajesh Khanna much before he earned the ‘superstar’ tag. In a thriller titled Ittefaq, Chopra made Khanna portray the role of a neurotic who is blamed for his wife’s murder. Soon after, when superhit Aradhana made Khanna an overnight superstar, Chopra took stock of Khanna’s romantic image and cast him in a musical love triangle Daag, and in the multi-starrer family drama Vijay.
Shashi Kapoor Deewaar, Kaala Patthar, Trishul, Kabhi Kabhie, Waqt: The first time Chopra worked with Kapoor was in Dharamputra. So impressed was he with Kapoor’s work ethics that Chopra continued to cast him in his future films. Kapoor, more often than not, played second fiddle to Bachchan. It was perhaps Chopra’s directorial skills that gave Kapoor his best roles: from the righteous police officer Ravi in Deewaar and the understanding husband Vijay in Kabhi Kabhie, to the peace-loving engineer in Kaala Patthar and the cheerful Shekhar in Trishul.
Amitabh Bachchan Deewaar, Trishul, Kabhi Kabhie, Kaala Patthar, Silsila: The angry young man was called Vijay and the romantic hero was called Amit in all of Chopra’s films with Bachchan. Deewaar, Trishul and Kaala Patthar showcased Bachchan’s angst and cynicism towards the society at large and earned him the tag of ‘angry young man’. Chopra, who saw Bachchan as a complete actor, also projected the actor’s softer side through romantic dramas such as Kabhi Kabhie and Silsila.
Sanjeev Kumar Trishul, Silsila: It wasn’t a difficult task to get a performance out of a powerhouse actor like Sanjeev Kumar, but to Chopra’s credit, Kumar’s roles in Trishul and Silsila had varied shades. In Trishul, he goes from playing a romantic, caring lover to Waheeda Rehman, to portraying the temperamental rich man, fighting with his stepson. In Silsila, he plays the accommodating husband to Rekha. In spite of being aware of her affair with Bachchan, he doesn’t lose faith in marriage.
Rishi Kapoor Kabhi Kabhie, Vijay, Chandni: He was christened the romantic hero soon after his debut film Bobby. But Chopra played an important role in taking this image forward — in Kabhi Kabhie, where he was paired opposite real-life sweetheart Neetu Singh, and in Vijay. But Kapoor’s biggest test as the romantic hero came with Chandni. In a heroine-oriented film, Kapoor showcased a range of emotions.
Anil Kapoor Mashaal, Vijay, Lamhe: Chopra has the rare distinction of convincing Anil Kapoor to shave off his moustache and play a man who falls in love with an older woman, and later, with the woman’s daughter, in his masterpiece Lamhe. After Mashaal, where he played a vagabond, and Vijay where he played the feisty son, Lamhe was a challenge for Kapoor who was never quite seen as a romantic hero.
Shah Rukh Khan Darr, Dil Toh Pagal Hai, Veer Zaara, Jab Tak Hai Jaan: Shah Rukh Khan was introduced as the anti-hero with Darr, but for two decades, he was the permanent hero for the Yash Raj banner. The role of an obsessive lover is what made critics and audience take notice of Khan. When he was bombarded with negative roles like these, Chopra took him and put him in a romantic setting in his son Aditya Chopra’s debut venture, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. Along the way, Khan, with the tilt of his head and the stretch of his arms, earned the title of the ‘King of Romance’, and as he himself admits, he has Chopra to thank for it.