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The last movie mogul

Yash Chopra captured both the romance and the essence of Urdu with elan. Pankaj Vohra reports.

india Updated: Oct 22, 2012 22:49 IST
Pankaj Vohra

Yash Chopra was perhaps the most successful commercial filmmaker in Indian cinema. He was not only the King of Romance but also one of the few who effectively used Urdu dialogues and literature in his movies. Chopra also shaped the careers of some of Bollywood's biggest stars, including Raaj Kumar, Sunil Dutt, Shashi Kapoor, Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan.

After drifting away from BR Chopra, his elder brother and an equally renowned filmmaker, Chopra founded Yashraj Films, an entertainment company. The Lahore-born producer-director was eagerly waiting for the release of his last directorial venture, the upcoming movie Jab Tak Hai Jaan when he passed away on Sunday following multi-organ failure. The winner of the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke award and many other honours, Chopra made his directorial debut with BR Films' Dhool Ka Phool when he was in his 20s. After the legendary Guru Dutt, Chopra was the only prominent producer-director who relied heavily on his lyricists. If Dutt used Sahir Ludhianvi so uniquely in Pyaasa, Chopra did not lag behind in basing his hugely successful Kabhie Kabhie on Ludhianvi's immortal poetry. In fact, Ludhianvi wrote the lyrics for almost every movie made by the two Chopra brothers. The 'Emperor of Urdu poetry', as Ludhianvi was usually called, was also at his best when he wrote for the Chopras, with some of his finest creations being 'Tu Hindu Banega Ya Musalmaan Banega' (Dhool Ka Phool), 'Bhool Sakta Hai Bhala Kaun Yeh Pyari Aankhen' (Dharamputra), 'Waqt Se Din Aur Raat' (Waqt), 'Mere Dil Mein Aaj Kya Hai' (Daag) and, of course, 'Kabhie Kabhie Mere Dil Mein Khayal Aata Hai' (Kabhie Kabhie).

Chopra's love for Urdu was also evident from the fact that he made Akhtar ul-Iman write the immortal dialogues for Waqt. The dialogues gave Raaj Kumar a new lease of life and they are popular with movie buffs even today. Similarly, Salim-Javed gave their best for Deewar, which established Amitabh Bachchan as a superstar. The immortal line from the movie, "Mere paas maa hai", spoken effectively by Shashi Kapoor while responding to Bachchan, is a part of Hindi filmlore and AR Rahman repeated this line while accepting an Oscar award in 2011.

Chopra also had a flair for music. Though he initially relied on N Dutta and Ravi for compositions, he later settled for Lakshmikant Pyarelal, Khayyam and many young music maestros like Uttam Singh, who is best remembered for his magical tunes in Dil to Pagal Hai. Chopra could never hide his weakness for 'Punjabiat'. Punjabi folk music and lines were always an integral part of his movies. Chopra also directed a song-less movie Ittefaq, starring Rajesh Khanna, who went on to play an unforgettable role in Daag.

But Chopra did not work with just veteran actors. The prime example of this is Chopra's long association with Shah Rukh Khan, who shot to fame with Chopra's Darr, in which Khan played the villain for the first time. Together, they have produced some of the most commercially successful movies like Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, Dil To Pagal Hai and Veer-Zaara.

Chopra will be greatly missed by lovers of Indian cinema across the world, since he was the last of the great 'movie moguls'. It's highly unlikely that there will be a filmmaker who will be able to capture both the romance and the essence of the Urdu language like Chopra did. His films will live forever.