Beyond Romance

The maker of love stories Yash Chopra was a progressive filmmaker who defied trends and thought of human emotions as timeless.

Years after the release of Yash Chopra's Lamhe (1991), the debate regarding its content continues. The film begins with the tender infatuation of Anil Kapoor with a slightly older Sridevi. Years later, the latter's lookalike teenage daughter falls in love with the then mature Kapoor. This raised many eyebrows and triggered debates over the propriety of its climax where Kapoor professes love to the younger Sridevi.

This is just one of the instances when Chopra — popularly termed the "King of Romance" — established himself to be the maker of progressive cinema in Bollywood. "He never bothered about trends. Every time he followed trend, he failed. Cases in point are Vijay and Faasle. These were made keeping the popular trend of family drama in mind," says Rauf Ahmed, Bollywood historian and a close friend of Chopra.

Before he became assistant director to his brother BR Chopra, Yash Chopra assisted actor-director IS Johar for a brief while. His early work was heavily influenced by his brother's social dramas. Yash Chopra, however, combined social commentary with human emotions. In his debut venture Dhool Ka Phool (1959), he narrated the story of an unwed mother and a Hindu child being raised by a Muslim man. In his second film Dharamputra (1961), he studied the role of Hindu fundamentalists in Partition, which was a sensitive topic then. When Chopra showed Shashi Kapoor as a staunch believer of Hinduism and a Muslim-hater, he was termed "radical". But Chopra went ahead with what he thought was good cinema. Mala Sinha, who was the leading lady in both these films, says, "Rajendra Kumar asked Yashji to alter his role in Dhool Ka Phool, so that he would come across as a nice person. Yashji refused to budge."

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