Yash Chopra—Multi-faceted legend

Yash Chopra was known best as a director, but was much more. Photo: Publicity Photo

He was essentially a film director, but much more than that.

Yash Chopra, whose 90th birth anniversary falls September 27, came to Mumbai with the encouragement of his mother in the mid-1950s. His elder brother, B.R. Chopra, had already established himself as a top producer and director and while the family wanted him to be an engineer, his mother saw to it that the 20-something Yash left his Punjab home with Rs. 200 in his pocket and a massive dream.

His brother encouraged him, and Yash assisted B.R. Chopra right from Ek Hi Rasta in 1956 to Naya Daur, Sadhana and Kanoon, which came in 1960. Simultaneously, his brother introduced him as an independent director with Dhool Ka Phool in 1959, a major hit.


Since then, Yash Chopra emerged as one of Hindi cinema’s longest-lasting directors, until his swan song Jab Tak Hai Jaan in 2012. His list of directorials include huge hits and classics of all genres, and a terrific spread that includes Dharamputra (on the subject of communal harmony, but a different angle from Dhool Ka Phool), Waqt, Trishul and Mashaal among socials, crime thrillers Ittefaq, Deewaar and Darr, and romances Daag, Kabhi Kabhie, Silsila, Chandni, Lamhe, Dil To Pagal Hai and Veer-Zaara.

Among the angles brought into romance on screen was that of the other woman (Daag, Silsila), Indo-Pak love (Veer-Zaara), a man who falls in love with the daughter of his sweetheart from another man s she resembles her (Lamhe) and dangerous obsession (Darr). Trishul examined the angst of an illegitimate son, Ittefaq (adapted from a foreign play) and Deewaar told the stories of a killer and a smuggler respectively, while Waqt looked at the supremacy of Time, which affects everyone from the biggest to the smallest in this world.

In a 22-film career over 54 years, Yash Chopra directed many super-hits.


In a moral dilemma following his wife Pamela Chopra becoming pregnant, Yash wants to start his own company and leave his brother who had given him so much. His mother again encouraged him and Yash took the step in 1971 by branching out and launching Yash Raj Films with Daag, released in 1973. A blockbuster next only to Bobby and Zanjeer that year, it catapulted him to the top as a producer.

Yash Raj Films, today, remains among the frontline banners of Hindi cinema, with Kabhi Kabhie, Noorie, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Mohabbatein, the super-hit Dhoom franchise (the only one in which all three films have grossed high numbers), Chak De! India and Ek Tha Tiger, among a long array of films across all genres.

In his lifetime, Yash Chopra also produced a telefilm, Humko Ishq Ne Maara, some TV series and co-produced with Disney the animation movie, Roadside Romeo. 

Studio owner

In the millennium, Yash Chopra with son Aditya Chopra had started Yash Raj Studios. Today, the institution is not just a Mumbai landmark but a one-stop production, recording and post-production facility even for outside producers. It also houses the largest song recording studio today for live recordings.

After his demise, the banner continues to make movies, among which were mega-hits like Sultan, Tiger Zinda Hai and War as well as smaller delights like Dum Laga Ke Haisha.


While unofficially involved in scripting most of his films, Yash took official credit only for Daag, Silsila and Dil To Pagal Hai as co-writer.

A loyalist to his team

Yash Chopra formed memorable and long associations with many of his artistes and technicians, signifying his emotional bond with them. Writers Salim-Javed and Sagar Sarhadi, cameramen Kaygee and Manmohan Singh, editor Pran Mehra, singer Lata Mangeshkar, lyricists Sahir Ludhianvi and Anand Bakshi and actors Raakhee, Amitabh Bachchan, Shashi Kapoor, Shah Rukh Khan and some more. He was also responsible for composer Khayyam’s comeback with Kabhi Kabhie.


Yash Chopra’s legacy continues with his writer-producer-director son Aditay Chopra. In 1977, his wife Pamela Chopra made her debut as a singer in one of Yash Chopra’s boldest films, Doosara Aadmi. She later produced Aaina (1993). He later introduced younger son Uday Chopra as a producer (Yeh Dillagi), writer (Dil To Pagal Hai) and actor in Mohabbatein.

But outside his family, Yash Chopra introduced over 50 talents on and behind the screen. Among the most famous on-screen names were Poonam Dhillon (Trishul), Farouque Shaikh (Noorie), Farha (Faasle), Sonam (Vijay), Anushka Sharma (Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi), Ranveer Singh (Band Baaja Baraat), Parineeti Chopra (Ladies Vs. Ricky Behl) and Arjun Kapoor (Ishaqzaade).

The rest included writers Sagar Sarhadi and Honey Irani, cinematographer Manmohan Singh, art director Sharmistha Roy, lyricists Javed Akhtar, Hasan Kamaal and Kausar Munir, composer Pritam (in his first independent film, Dhoom), classical musician stalwarts Pt. Shivkumar Sharma and Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia as composers Shiv-Hari and a bevy of directors like Ramesh Talwar, Manmohan Krishna, Sanjay Gadhvi, Shaad Ali, Siddharth Anand, Kabir Khan, Maneesh Sharma and Ali Abbas Zafar.

A relentless award winner

Yash Chopra has won a parade of awards, nationally and globally! For starters, he has won 14 Filmfare award nominations, winning in four cases (Waqt, Ittefaq, Daag, Deewaar) as Best Director and some more awards from Filmfare and others. The list includes multiple National awards.

Apart from a slew of doctorates, he has won India’s highest distinction for a film personality, the Dadasaheb Phalke award, the Padma Bhushan, France’s Legion of Honor and many, many more.

Yash Chopra will be remembered, indeed, as nothing less than a colossal talent.




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