He had a way with weaving reel tangles

Murali Gopalan | | Updated on: Oct 24, 2012


He has been labelled the King of Romance in all the tributes pouring in after his death but filmmaker Yash Chopra was, in my view, the master of handling human relationships on screen. And the more awkward they were, the higher would he rise to the occasion.

Consider the first project of Yash Raj Films, Daag , released in 1973. Clearly inspired by Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge , the film dealt with a tricky issue like bigamy and a man’s attempt to walk the tightrope. For a film made four decades ago, Daag was a risky subject which was way ahead of its times. Yet, it was a huge box-office success.

Chopra’s next foray on relationships was Kabhi Kabhie, which hit the screens three years later. While Daag had three main characters grappling with a peculiar situation, this had four. Kabhi Kabhie was the epitome of sensitivity which focused on two former lovers who meet after decades. They are now married and Chopra’s genius was apparent in the deft handling of this delicate situation.

Kabhi Kabhie came on the heels of his all-time classic Deewaar (1975) whose theme was completely different. It dealt with the grim reality of Mumbai’s underworld and the doomed path of a dockyard worker-turned-gangster. Yet, at the core of Deewaar is the mother whose relationship with her two sons finally culminates in tragedy.

It is not as if all Chopra’s experiments were lapped up by the audience. For instance, my personal favourite is Lamhe (1991) which deals with a woman’s love for a much older man who unsuccessfully wooed her (now dead) mother. The movie, surprisingly, flopped and I wonder if filmgoers of the 1970s, who had given the thumbs up to Daag , had ended up being more old-fashioned in the 1990s.

Likewise, Chopra’s Silsila, which was released a decade earlier, did not quite set the big screen afire. Like Kabhie Kabhie , it dealt with two (mismatched) couples but went a step further when the lovers decide to bid adieu to their unhappy marriages and take the plunge. Perhaps, Silsila was way too bold for audiences to whom marriages were sacred and, therefore, had to be endured irrespective of how unhappy you were. The film attempted to show that love could defy all odds though it eventually opted for a conservative ending.

Chopra was clearly way ahead of his times and loved to experiment with themes involving unusual relationships. His later films were way too saccharine for my taste even though they were enormously successful. The Hindi film industry will be poorer with his death.

Published on October 22, 2012
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