19 Feb, 2020
Over 5 decades, the studio has remained true to the DNA that Yash Chopra originally implanted in the 70s - high emotion, stars and memorable songs
On a shady, tree-lined road in suburban Mumbai, stands a sprawling bungalow in which there used to exist the gadda room (it might still be there but I haven’t been in years). The gadda room, called thus because it had an outsized gadda at its centre, was where Yash Chopra liked to write and brainstorm. He also did music sessions there. Some of Hindi cinema’s most enduring films and songs originated in the gadda room. I have a distinct memory of Aditya Chopra showing me the trailer of Darr on a VCR system in the room sometime in the early 90s. He had made it. I remember thinking – this guy is really talented.
My mother Kamna Chandra wrote Yash ji’s 1989 blockbuster Chandni. Our relationship started on a personal note, which turned professional when I became a film journalist in the 90s. I interviewed him often but our conversation never became clinical. Yash ji had come to my wedding - so no matter what the topic was, it felt like I was chatting with extended family. The connection also extended to the films made at Yash Raj Studio. My ideas of romance, female beauty, chivalry, poetry, sacrifice, family, weddings and the sheer possibilities of the colour white – all came from YRF films.
Yash ji’s cinematic universe had little room for ugliness – literal or metaphorical. Instead we got a gossamer world in which beautiful men and women struggled nobly with matters of the heart. He gave us aspirational fantasies rooted in an emotional reality. He made us all pine for a sweeping romance that transforms us with passion and transports us, somehow, to Switzerland. For a while at least, we all wanted to sashay on snowy mountains in chiffon saris.
Over the years, the YRF worldview changed to include grimmer truths – movies like Kanu Behl’s Titli and the Mardaani franchise, in which a heroic female cop brings sadistically violent men to their knees, were also created. The emphasis on chasteness vanished – in his last film, Jab Tak Hai Jaan (2012), Yash ji had his lovers – Samar and Meera - kiss and even spend the night together before marriage. This was radical coming from the makers, who in 1995 had Raj tell Simran in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge that he did not take advantage of her inebriated state because he knew what honour meant for an Indian woman.
But at its core, the studio – steered by Aditya – remained true to the DNA that Yash ji originally implanted with his first film Daag in 1973 – high emotion, stars, memorable songs. On the 50th year of the celebrated studio (YRF was founded in 1970), here are my favourites in no particular order: