For me, love is about all things filmi... Dancing in the rain, stringing together soulful memories and sighing over the stars, Neela aasmaan so gaya (after the day has gone to bed). For years, this silsila with romance has continued through Yash Chopra’s Poojas and Chandnis.
Pooja inspires lifelong devotion. She could be the doe-eyed Raakhee, who even after she marries another man, remains an eternal muse for the dark and brooding Amitabh Bachchan. Kabhi kabhie, mere dil mein khayal aata hai, ki jaise tu mujhe chaahegi umr bhar yun hi, uthegi meri taraf pyaar ki nazar yun hi, main janta hoon ki tu gair hai magar yun hi, kabhi kabhie, mere dil mein khayal aata hai… She could be Rani Mukherji whose words and thoughts forge a bond that goes beyond faceless friendship: Mujhse Dosti Karoge! Or she could be Shah Rukh’s fantasy woman in Dil To Pagal Hai who inspires poetry on stage and passion off it. “Paas, aur paas,” he says, urging her to step closer, even as she struggles to break free.Someone somewhere is waiting for you. Pooja believed this, Yashji does too and so do I. The other day, when one of my young college friends came on chat to cry on my shoulder because his girl had left him for another, that’s what I told him.
“But where is that someone?” he wailed. “And how will I know she’s the one?” I assured him that when the right someone comes along, he would know, just like that. “And if she’s not the right someone?” he retorted. Well, then, he had a lifetime to find another. He went away leaving me a smiley.
In Yashji’s technicolour world, love knows no boundaries. A Veer will have his Zaara even if she is an out-of-bounds Pakistani. Love doesn’t shy away from destiny’s cruel accidents. A Chandni wants a life even with a wheelchair-bound Rohit. And sometimes, this love even goes beyond reason, crossing the line of sanity as it happened with Rahul in Darr.
Back in the days of black-and-white TV and Doordarshan, when Sundays were for movie watching and not mall-hopping, Dhool Ka Phool had given me one of my earliest lessons about the birds, bees and abandoned babies. And Daag had been my first brush with bigamy.
I had wondered wide-eyed how a man could live happily-ever-after with two wives. When I had put the question to Yashji years later, he pointed out that one of the wome Sonil was Sunil’s past and so couldn’t be disowned; and the other, Chandni, the present that couldn’t be denied either. That was why it was all right for him to be with both of them, and this was a decision taken, not by him, but by the women themselves.
In Yashji’s world, the heart rules over the head and social conventions are meant to be broken. Which is why I was surprised when Amit (Amitabh Bachchan) chose to return to a pregnant Shobha at the end of Silsila instead of driving away with Chandni as planned. Despite the message, “Love is faith and faith is forever”, the ending smacked of compromise. Yashji admitted he’d changed the end because he didn’t think the audience was ready for the “truth”. But they didn’t accept the watered down conclusion either.
Perhaps that’s why, when he made Lamhe a decade later, he took the risk of letting Viren return home to a spirited and much-younger Pooja. His justification was that for her, he had never been a surrogate father who had silently idolised her dead mother, but the Kunwarji she had grown up waiting to marry. To his shock, the ending was seen as “morally outrageous” making the relationship “almost incestuous”.
It was a big blow. “Way back in the ’70s, people had accepted a man taking on two wives in Daag. In the ’90s, they rejected a young girl’s love for her guardian. We certainly are hypocritical when admitting to human realities,” Yashji raged.
Twenty years have since passed. On September 27, Yash Chopra turned 79. Early next year, he will return to the studio lights to direct another movie. Next Diwali, Shah Rukh Khan and Katrina Kaif’s love story will light up the screen. “A Yash Chopra heroine for me has always epitomised beauty, grace and elegance,” Katrina told me recently. “For years, I’ve aspired to be one and now I’m finally getting the chance. It’s going to be a really romantic movie, like my favourite Veer-Zaara. I can’t wait.”
Neither can I. I’ve learnt a lot about love since Dhool Ke Phool. But knowing my love guru, he’ll manage to surprise me yet again by breaking through another barrier that had kept the feelings fettered inside. Pyar, ishq, mohabbat; no one knows the heart better than you do, Yashji!