Into a pink sunset

What will happen to romance in film after the youngest romantic, Yash Chopra, retires?

It was meant to be a felicitation of the grand old man of Hindi cinema. Yash Chopra's turning 80 was not just a personal milestone, but a landmark for those who cannot think of romance without thinking of his films. Getting Shah Rukh Khan to chat about Chopra's "more than 50 years" at the movies, televised live last week, was a smart move: the star was in equal parts deferential and playful, the invited press picked up the cues from the host, and the mood was one of celebration. And then Yash Chopra said he was taking retirement, and suddenly the complexion of the event changed: was it something that the veteran filmmaker came up with voluntarily as things do in the course of a conversation, or an expertly stage-managed remark to drum up enthusiasm for Chopra's new film, out this Diwali?

In these days of relentless public relations exercises and excesses, nothing seems spontaneous. But we know this: Chopra doesn't need any of it. He belongs to an era when filmmakers comfortably managed all relations between the public and themselves by just making their films, putting them out there and waiting for the audience to stream in. And when it came to the younger brother of B.R., viewers knew exactly what they were going to get: whether it was the early films that reflected the social upheaval of a new nation-state, or song-less thrillers, or music-filled romances, Chopra would give us instantly relatable stories and characters. That has been the constant in his long, successful innings, and that is the basis on which Yashraj Films, created when he parted ways with bade bhaiya in 1971, is the studio everyone aspiring and established wants to work with.

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