His colleagues – Shakti Samanta, Prakash Mehra, J om Prakash – have retired. However, he's done the impossible by peaking in the autumn of his career. Although recently a couple of his banner's films were clinkers, Yash Raj is back on the top with Chak De! India. Khalid Mohamed, who has seen the auteur of romance go through sunny and cloudy times, excerpts his conversations with Yash Chopra
I 've travelled for a fortnight with Yash and Pam Chopra and cinematographer Manmohan Singh for 10 days through Scotland - ahem, the British government had invited us to check out the ravishing castle-freckled locations. And I could see a very dildaar man, uncomplicated yes.. but obsessive about success.
There are some elements of his life that he won't discuss. His break from big brother BR Chopra, his much-gabbed about infatuation for Mumtaz and of late, the domestic strife with the parting of ways between son Aditya and wife Payal. Don't even mention Rani Mukherji, please.
That Yash and Pam Chopra have had their moments of downers and hurt are apparent. But if you ask me - even with their varying attitudes - they've retained their old worldly manners. They might want to kill you for a bad review but don't deny you the handshake-smile-how-are-you.
Okay, so here are some questions that draw answers from YC, 74 going on 47:
Post-2000 does seem to be your peak period.
That's not for me to say.. I cannot blow my own trumpet. I don't deserve all the credit for the success. I cannot undermine the hard work of our directors. And there are God's blessings.
<b1>Is there any one particular God that you believe in?
I would say I respect all religions. I believe in all the principles of Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Isais. If I pray at the Siddhi Vinayak temple, I also pray at Ajmer Sharif, the Mount Mary and Mahim churches. I believe there is someone up there who is looking after us.
I have never forced my beliefs on my sons either. I've tried to be as pure-hearted as possible. I don't drink alcohol, smoke or even have tea. I may have raised a toast with a glass of wine or champagne but that doesn't make me a drinker.. or corrupt.
Back in 1959, your first film Dhool ka Phool did have a social concern. Any reason for shifting to escapist cinema entirely?
I still have a social concern. Veer Zaara had a social base.. so did Daag which looked into the morality of a man with two wives. I come from the school of bhaisaab (brother BR Chopra) who dealt with so many issues.
I don't have to be preachy. With time, I have also tried to make clean romantic movies.
When your second film Dharmputra – about communal amity – bombed, were you disheartened?
I was terribly disheartened but then I was as disheartened by the failure of Lamhe also, which was romantic. I couldn't work for months.
Perhaps my failures were ahead of their times. Otherwise how can you explain the fact that the highest sales of my DVDs have been of
You have directed 21 films so far. Do you think you botched up some of them?
I was trying to cater to the producers, not the audience. I wanted to make
as big a hit for Gulshan Rai as his
Johnny Mera Naam.
How do you keep discovering music composers and then keep moving on to others?
I find out which one suits a particular film. For
we had tried out Adnan Sami and Uttam Singh but.. that's when Sanjeev Kohli said there were hundreds of tunes of his father Madan Mohan with him; at least 20 of them went well with the film's theme. Not a note of the original tune of
You have mostly worked with established stars.. though you could have created your own stars. Right?
(Pause) Poonam Dhillon (
), Sonam (
) and Tulip Joshi (
Mere Yaar ki Shaadi Hai
) were introduced by us. Saif (Ali Khan) had his first solo hit (
) with us.
Abhishek Bachchan also with Dhoom. It's not as if we're allergic to newcomers. I even wanted to take an entirely new star cast for Veer-Zaara from Pakistan but this idea wasn't practical.
Which actors have you felt the closest affinity to?
Dilip Kumar saab, Amitabh Bachchan.. and Shah Rukh Khan is my jaan, he is family, he did Veer-Zaara, no questions asked.
<b3>I believe you write poems when the mood seizes you.
I do, but they are for private consumption. I'm not even a bathroom poet.
Why is Sir Aditya Chopra so reclusive?
(Laughs) Some have even asked me if Adi exists at all. Jokes aside, Adi's not a party animal, he's obsessed with films, and works from 9 am to 9 pm. Karan (Johar) is his only friend. He's quite stubborn. Whenever I tell Adi to be more outgoing, he says, "I am what I am, I can't change."
Actually, I think Adi, Karan and Sooraj Barjatya are better filmmakers than I am. They are directors who conceive their own stories, scripts and dialogue, work out the publicity and stay with it till the day of the release.. and even after that.
About Adi, I must tell you when he was a kid, he shocked Shabana (Azmi). He narrated an entire story to her - complete with a beginning, middle and end. She still reminds me, "My god, Yashji, your son is something else."
And how has Uday done?
Uday is a mastikhor. I didn't want to decide his career. I didn't know we had an actor in the house till he told me he wanted to act before Mohabbatein was scripted.
Tomorrow, he may want to produce or even direct films.. which is fine by me.
<b4>At this stage of your life and career, is becoming a grandfather your most intense desire?
Personally, yes, I would love to become a dada.
How would you summarise the role of your wife?
Pam has been an ideal companion and mother. She's in charge of everything in the house whether it's a glass of water or the menu of our meals.
She's into folk music and has been an important contributor to our music scores. The first time I saw her was at the wedding of my niece Shashi in Delhi. She had come with Simi Garewal and had sung at the ceremony. Romesh Sharma's mother was our match-maker. On our second meeting, Pam and I didn't even like each other.
Then some days later, I had missed a flight out of Delhi. So I had stayed over at the Sharma house in Diplomatic Enclave. Romesh's mother said, "Make up your mind.. or do you want to die a bachelor?" I was 38 then, I said, "Yes, if it's okay by her." Three months later hamari shaadi ho gayee.
Meaning, if it wasn't for a missed flight, there would have been no Yash Raj banner?
Yes, I've thought of that often.. jo hota hai manzoor-e-khuda hota hai.