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Yash Chopra

Early life

B. R. Chopra (sitting left) and Yash Chopra attending audio release of Naya Daur. At the start of his career Yash Chopra worked as an assistant director for his director-producer older brother, Baldev Raj Chopra.

Chopra was born on 27 September 1932 in Lahore, British India, into a Punjabi Hindu family in British India (now Pakistan).His father was an accountant in the PWD division of the British Punjab administration. He was the youngest of eight children, the oldest of whom was almost 30 years his senior. The eminent film-maker BR Chopra is one of his brothers.

Chopra was largely brought up in the Lahore house of his second brother, BR Chopra, then a film journalist. Chopra went to Jalandhar in 1945 to continue his education, and studied at Doaba College, Jalandhar. He moved to Ludhiana in Punjab (in India) after the Partition. He originally sought to pursue a career in engineering.

His passion for film-making led him to travel to Bombay (now Mumbai), where he initially worked as an assistant director to I. S. Johar, and then for his director-producer brother, Baldev Raj Chopra.

Early career

Chopra received his first directorial opportunity in 1959 with the social drama Dhool Ka Phool, produced by his elder brother B.R. Chopra and starring Mala Sinha, Rajendra Kumar and Leela Chitnis. The film revolved around a Muslim bringing up an “illegitimate” Hindu child. The film was well received by critics and became the fourth highest-grossing film of the year. Encouraged by their success, the Chopras made another hard-hitting social drama, Dharmputra (1961).It was one of the first films to depict the Partition of India and Hindu fundamentalism. The film marked the debut of Shashi Kapoor in a fully fledged role and was awarded with the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Hindi. Theatrical screenings of the film were disrupted by violent demonstrations in response to its raw depiction of the partition riots and related sloganeering and hence became a box office flop. Chopra avoided making political films after that.

Chopra’s collaboration with his brother continued in the form of the 1965 film Waqt,which featured an ensemble cast including Sunil Dutt, Raaj Kumar, Shashi Kapoor, Sadhana, Balraj Sahni, Madan Puri, Sharmila Tagore, Achala Sachdev and Rehman. The film became a commercial and a critical success. It is acknowledged as a “found film” of the “lost and found” genre. Setting many other trends, it was one of Indian cinema’s first multi-starrers,a mode which became increasingly popular among the producers during the 1970s. It also began the now obligatory style of depicting wealth and social class. Chopra received his first Filmfare Best Director Award for the film.

In 1969, Chopra directed two movies produced by his brother. The first was Aadmi Aur Insaan,the Chopra film to feature Dharmendra in the lead. It was an average grosser. He directed Ittefaq (1969), a suspense movie based on a Gujarati play, depicting the events of a single night, with Rajesh Khanna in the lead role. Shot in a month and on a low budget, the film was deemed unusual by critics. It one of the first Hindi films which did not have any songs or an interval. It was eventually declared a semi-hitat the box office and won Chopra another Filmfare award for best director.

Formation of Yash Raj Films

Amitabh Bachchan (left) and Yash Chopra in the premiere of Paa Chopra made a number of classic cult films starring Amitabh Bachchan. Chopra’s Deewaar gave Amitabh Bachchan the tag “Angry Young Man”.

In 1971, Chopra founded the independent Yash Raj Films, terminating his creative collaboration with his brother.His first independently produced film, Daag: A Poem of Love (1973), a melodrama about a man with two wives, with Rajesh Khannain the lead role, was a great success and Chopra won his third Filmfare Award for Best Director for the film.

He directed a number of classic cult films starring Amitabh Bachchan and scripted by Salim-Javed, notably Deewaar and Trishul, which were great hits and remain popular even today. These films set the trend for the late 70s and 80s, establishing Bachchan as the “angry young man”. Chopra won another Filmfare Best Director Award for Deewaar. Chopra produced, directed and scripted two more films starring Bachchan. Unlike his earlier action-oriented films, these two were romantic dramas: Kabhi Kabhie (1976)followed by Silsila (1981).Yash Chopra suggested Javed Akhtar to become a lyricist, starting from this film.

The eighties marked a professional setback in Chopra’s career, as several films he directed and produced in that period failed to leave a mark at the Indian box office. His film Mashaal (1984) was his first collaboration with the legendary actor, Dilip Kumar. The action-oriented film, which was based on the well-known Marathi play titled Ashroonchi Zhali Phule, won critical acclaim, but fared only average at the box office. A year later, he made Faasle. The romantic drama starring Sunil Dutt, Rekha, Rohan Kapoor and Farah was a critical and commercial failure.He and critics consider it his worst film. Vijay (1988)was also a box office failure. The film received mixed reviews from critics and was dubbed a remake of Trishul.

Chopra’s lean phase ended in 1989 with the highly successful cult classic Chandni,a film with all the hallmarks of what has come to be known as the “Yash Chopra style”: heroine-oriented, romantic, emotional, depicting the lifestyle of the super elite, with melodic music used in songs picturised in foreign locations. It marked the first collaboration between the Chopra and Sridevi. The huge success of its music was instrumental in ending the era of violence in Bollywood films and bringing back music into Hindi films. After string of critically and commercially movies, the success of Chandni consolidated Sridevi’s position as the top female Bollywood star of the era. Though it was not the first time Chopra shot a film in Switzerland, the extensive scenes shot there made it a popular tourist destination for Indians. The film won the National Film Award for Best Popular Film of that year.

He followed it with Lamhe (1991), starring frequent collaborators Anil Kapoor and Sridevi. The film was critically acclaimed, had exceptional music, and was one of the biggest Bollywood hits in the overseas market. But it was not a box office success in India. The film won five Filmfare awards, including the Filmfare Award for Best Movie. Over the years the film has been hailed as a cult classic; it is regarded as a modern masterpiece and possibly his finest film to date. It was featured in Outlookmagazine’s list of All-Time Great Indian films. It has been cited by Chopra as his personal favourite of his films. In 1992, Chopra directed Parampara. Despite an all-star cast of Ramya Krishnan, Aamir Khan, Raveena Tandon, Sunil Dutt, Anupam Kher, Vinod Khanna, Ashwini Bhave and Saif Ali Khan (In his film debut), the film was a commercial flop and was panned by critics for its weak storyline, music and direction.

1993–2012

Yash Chopra and Shahrukh Khan (left). Chopra was responsible for shaping Khan’s career.

In 1993, Yash Chopra directed the newcomer Shah Rukh Khan along with Juhi Chawla and Sunny Deol in the musical thriller Darr. The movie was the story of an obsessed lover (Khan) and the lengths to which he goes to get the girl (Chawla) who is already happily engaged to another man (Deol). The film was a runaway success and is considered a cult classic today. It also established Khan as a bankable star. Four years later, Chopra then directed, produced and co-wrote the highly successful 1997 musical romantic drama Dil To Pagal Hai, starring yet again Shahrukh Khan in a love triangle with Madhuri Dixit and Karisma Kapoor. It also starred Akshay Kumar in an extended guest appearance. It was the first Bollywood movie to be shot in Germany. The film became the highest grosser for the year. It won many awards, including seven Filmfare Awards and three National Awards, notably for Best Film, providing popular and wholesome entertainment yet again. Chopra then took a sabbatical from directing and focused solely on producing films for over eight years.

In 2004, he returned to direction with the love saga Veer-Zaara.Starring Shahrukh Khan again, Preity Zinta and Rani Mukerji in the leading roles, the film was the biggest hit of 2004 in both India and overseas, with a worldwide gross of over ₹940 million and was screened at the Berlin Film Festival to critical appreciation. The film which narrated the love story of an Indian air-force officer Veer Pratap Singh (Khan) and a Pakistani woman, Zaara Hayaat Khan (Zinta) was appreciated by critics. Rama Sharma from The Tribune wrote: “Giving love its due, Yash Chopra has understandably linked the script to the life of a common man. The pace is exacting. Drawing from the best of the two countries, the story is made more colourful by a spray of the Punjabi culture— be it celebrating Lohri in India or visiting a Dargah in Pakistan. He has handled the script cleverly. Whenever the pace begins to slacken, he introduces a new character and a twist.”

In September 2012, in a special interview with actor Shahrukh Khan on the occasion of his eightieth birthday, Chopra announced that Jab Tak Hai Jaan (2012) would be his last directorial venture and that he would opt to focus on his production company and his personal life. For the shoot of the last remaining song in Jab Tak Hai Jaan, director Yash Chopra wanted to shoot a scene of a sari-clad Katrina Kaif romancing Shah Rukh Khan in the lush meadows of the Swiss Alps. But his illness, caused by a bout of dengue, stymied the plan for the song, which would have reflected his trademark directorial style. Chopra’s trip to Switzerland with Shahrukh and Katrina had to be cancelled after his death.

Yash Raj Films (YRF) is the most dominant production company in Hindi filmmaking. Yash Raj Chopra has continuously featured in the top five hit Indian movies of the year since 2000. The Indian film director and producer used a range of directors. He repetitively used the star power of Bollywood’s most popular actors, Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan.

Yash Raj Films is a highlight of India’s post-colonial identity. It has grown to be the forefront of the global rise of Bollywood cinema. Yash Raj Films have expanded their company from locally based Hindi films to global achievements. They have managed to attract home based and diasporic Indians. Yash Raj Films have used a smart technique by incorporating foreign locations as a site which succeeded.

Frequent collaborations

Chopra was known to often cast the same actors in his films, his most famous collaborations being with Amitabh Bachchan, Shashi Kapoor, Raakhee, Waheeda Rehman and more recently, Shah Rukh Khan.

Personal life

In 1970, Chopra married Pamela Singh and together they have two sons Aditya Chopra and Uday Chopra,born in 1971 and 1973, respectively. Aditya is also a film director and producer and held the position of vice-chairman and general manager of Yash Raj Films, while Uday is an assistant director turned actor who made his acting debut in 2000 in his brother’s film, Mohabbatein.

Death

On 13 October 2012, Chopra was diagnosed with dengue fever and was admitted to Lilavati Hospital, Bandra, in Mumbai. He subsequently died of the disease on 21 October at the age of 80.

Filmography

Producer

Director

No Title Year released Starring
1 Dhool Ka Phool 1959 Mala Sinha, Rajendra Kumar, Nanda, Ashok Kumar
2 Dharmputra 1961 Mala Sinha, Shashi Kapoor, Ashok Kumar
3 Waqt 1965 Balraj Sahni, Achala Sachdev, Sunil Dutt, Sadhana Shivdasani, Raaj Kumar, Shashi Kapoor, Sharmila Tagore
4 Aadmi Aur Insaan 1969 Dharmendra, Saira Banu, Feroze Khan, Mumtaz
5 Ittefaq 1969 Rajesh Khanna, Nanda, Bindu
6 Daag 1973 Sharmila Tagore, Rajesh Khanna, Raakhee
7 Joshila 1973 Dev Anand, Raakhee, Hema Malini
8 Deewaar 1975 Amitabh Bachchan, Shashi Kapoor, Neetu Singh, Parveen Babi
9 Kabhi Kabhie 1976 Amitabh Bachchan, Shashi Kapoor, Waheeda Rehman, Raakhee, Rishi Kapoor, Neetu Singh
10 Trishul 1978 Amitabh Bachchan, Sanjeev Kumar, Shashi Kapoor, Hema Malini, Raakhee, Waheeda Rehman, Poonam Dhillon, Sachin.
11 Kaala Patthar 1979 Amitabh Bachchan, Shashi Kapoor, Shatrughan Sinha, Raakhee, Neetu Singh, Parveen Babi, Poonam Dhillon.
12 Silsila 1981 Amitabh Bachchan, Shashi Kapoor, Jaya Bachchan, Sanjeev Kumar, Rekha
13 Mashaal 1984 Dilip Kumar, Anil Kapoor, Waheeda Rehman, Rati Agnihotri
14 Faasle 1985 Sunil Dutt, Rekha, Farooq Sheikh, Deepti Naval, Rohan Kapoor
15 Vijay 1988 Rajesh Khanna, Hema Malini, Rishi Kapoor, Anil Kapoor, Meenakshi Sheshadri
16 Chandni 1989 Sridevi, Rishi Kapoor, Vinod Khanna
17 Lamhe 1991 Sridevi, Anil Kapoor, Waheeda Rehman
18 Parampara 1993 Sunil Dutt, Vinod Khanna, Aamir Khan, Ashwini Bhave, Raveena Tandon, Saif Ali Khan
19 Darr 1993 Sunny Deol, Juhi Chawla, Shah Rukh Khan
20 Dil To Pagal Hai 1997 Shah Rukh Khan, Madhuri Dixit, Karishma Kapoor, Akshay Kumar
21 Veer-Zaara 2004 Shah Rukh Khan, Preity Zinta, Rani Mukherji, Manoj Bajpai
22 Jab Tak Hai Jaan 2012 Shah Rukh Khan, Katrina Kaif, Anushka Sharma

Awards

Chopra with his wife Pamela. Yash Chopra is being honoured with the title of Ambassador of Interlaken (2011).

Year Award Category Film
1961 National Film Awards Best Feature Film in Hindi Dharamputra
1989 Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment Chandni
1993 Darr
1995 Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge
1997 Dil To Pagal Hai
2004 Veer Zaara
2008 Chak De India
1966 Filmfare Awards Best Director Waqt
1970 Ittefaq
1974 Daag
1976 Deewaar
1992 Best Film Lamhe
1996 Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge
1998 Dil To Pagal Hai
2005 Veer Zaara
2006 Power Award Special Award
2007
2008
2013 Lifetime Achievement Award All of his films
2002 IIFA Awards Outstanding Contribution to Indian Cinema
2005 Best Picture Veer Zaara
Best Director
2008 Best Picture Chak De India
2013 IIFA 2013 Macau is Dedicated to Mr. Yash Chopra Special Award
1998 Zee Cine Awards Best Film Dil To Pagal Hai
2005 Veer Zaara
Best Director Veer Zaara
2008 Best Film Chak De India
1996 Screen Awards Best Film Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge
2005 Veer Zaara
2008 Chak De India
2013 Lifetime Achievement Award All of his films
2005 Bollywood Movie Awards Best Film Veer Zaara
Best Director

Honours and recognitions

  • 2005: Padma Bhushan, India’s third highest civilian honours.
  • 2006: Punjab Rattan, Punjab’s highest civilian honour.
  • France’s highest civilian honour, Legion of Honour,
  • Vice President of the Film Producers’ Guild of India for the last 10 years.
  • Handpicked by the British Film Institute for a book written by Rachel Dwyer in their “World Directors Series”. This book showcases the glorious five-decade career of Yash Chopra.
  • Pusan International Film Festival – Asian Filmmaker of the Year, 2009
  • Honoured along with the Egyptian comedian Adel Emam and the Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman as the Asian, Arab and Hollywood honorees in the Dubai International Film Festival “In the Spotlight”, which honours the work of eminent actors, producers and directors from around the world for their distinguished service to the film industry.
  • Honoured by the Swiss Government for rediscovering Switzerland, and recently, he was presented a Special Award by Ursula Andress on behalf of the Swiss Government.
  • The veteran Director was on the Advisory Board of the Information & Broadcasting Ministry of the Government of India.
  • Founder Trustee of Film Industry Welfare Trust established in the year 1996.
  • Received the BBC Asia Awards twice – in 1998 and 2001 for his outstanding contribution to films.
  • Dr. Dadabhai Naoroji Millennium Lifetime Achievement award in 2001.
  • Certificate of Recognition from the British Tourist Authority and British Film Commission for promoting tourism in the UK through his films.
  • Vocational Excellence Award by the Rotary Club
  • Outstanding Achievement Awards by the apex bodies of Indian Industry – like the CII (Confederation of Indian Industry).
  • Honoured by NAASCOM (National Association of Software and Service Companies) and AIAI (All India Association of Industries) for his outstanding achievements.
  • He has also been awarded the Priyadarshini Award for his outstanding contribution to Indian cinema.
  • Dadasaheb Phalke Award for 2001, the topmost and the highest honour given in the Indian film industry.
  • He has been given the Maharashtra state government’s Raj Kapoor and V. Shantaram’ Awards, in recognition of his impressive contributions to the Hindi film industry.
  • Lifetime Achievement Award at the 4th Pune International Film Festival 2006 [P.I.F.F.]
  • A lifetime membership to BAFTA for his contribution to the Indian film industry. He is the first Indian to be honoured at BAFTA in 59-year history of the academy.
  • On 13 November 2007, Chopra was conferred the Zenith Asia Honour for his contribution to Indian cinema.
  • FIAPF Award for Outstanding Achievement in Film at the 2008 Asia Pacific Screen Awards.
  • National Kishore Kumar Award by the Government of Madhya Pradesh.
  • Swiss Ambassador’s Award 2010 for his contribution in promoting “Brand Switzerland” through his movies.
  • Yash Chopra received the Lifetime Achievement Award at Satya Brahma-founded India Leadership Conclave in 2009, moderated by NDTV.
  • In October 2010 he was given the Outstanding Achievement in Cinema award at The Asian Awards.
  • In 2011 Chopra was honoured with the title of Ambassador of Interlaken.
  • India Leadership Conclave felicitated in the year 2011 in Mumbai in the category of “Excellence in outstanding contribution to Indian Cinema”.
  • A postage stamp, bearing his likeness, was released by India Post to honour him on 3 May 2013.
Honorary Doctorate degrees
  • 2004: by the Guru Nanak University, Amritsar, India in recognition of his stature as a leading luminary of India.
  • 2007: by the Leeds Metropolitan University in Yorkshire.
  • 2008: by the Punjab University, Chandigarh, India for his contribution to Indian cinema.
  • 2010: from the School of Oriental and African Studies.
  • 2012 Honorary Professorship from Trinity College Dublin.