Farewell, Romance

Birthday

Yash Chopra retires from film direction at 80, but the legend, the stories and the poetry live on.

When legendary filmmaker Yash Chopra announced his retirement from film direction on the occasion of his 80th birthday, silence filled the air. Actor Shah Rukh Khan, who was hosting a conversation with Chopra at the Yash Raj Films (YRF) Studio on Thursday evening, became moist-eyed, stood up in respect, hugged the filmmaker and told him how much he would miss working with him. The entire hall, filled with Chopra's family, friends and the media, gave the filmmaker a standing ovation. So when Chopra's fans buy a ticket for Jab Tak Hai Jaan that releases on November 13, they will also be buying a piece of history.

With 53 years of experience in the industry and 22 films as director, Chopra has arguably had the best success rate in the industry. However, it was surprising to learn that his parents wanted him to become an engineer. "Bhaisaab (BR Chopra) was making films, but my parents sent me to Mumbai to get my passport done so that I could go to England and study engineering," he said. But Chopra chose to assist his brother instead. During his stint as an assistant director, he became friends with Meena Kumari. "I had written a poem for Meenaji and she, in turn, encouraged me to become an actor. I told her: 'I speak so fast that my film will be very short'," he recollected. While working on B R Chopra's Sadhna (1958), he got acquainted with its heroine Vyajayanthimala, who told him he had the focus of a director.

Soon, his brother gave him a chance to direct Dhool Ka Phool (1959). His biggest hit was the multi-starrer Waqt (1965), which was initially planned with Raj, Shammi and Shashi Kapoor. "I thought that would make the stories of three separated brothers very obvious. Hence, I chose to take Raaj Kumar, Sunil Dutt and Shashi Kapoor for it," he explained. While discussing the film, Khan and Chopra broke into an impromptu singing of Oh meri zohrajabeen. His marriage to Pamela, however, made him separate from his brother and start his own company YRF. "After marriage, I needed more money and I told my brother. Bhaisaab told me that I was on my own," he said.

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