Bollywood 'cellu-lord' Yash Chopra is 72
India's most successful filmmaker turned 72 Monday, and Yash Chopra was treating the day like any other at his Juhu home which was filled with flowers.
By Subhash K. Jha, IANS
"I don't believe my birthday is an occasion to celebrate though last night my sons Aditya and Uday and their close friends did ring in my birthday with a small get-together.
"I feel every day is a celebration of life. Today being the immersion of Ganpati idols, all of Mumbai is stranded. So in any case I can't invite anyone home. I'll have a havan at home and hope the coming year will be peaceful for everyone," says the moviemaker whose name features in every discussion of mainstream Hindi cinema.
Yash Chopra stands apart among the aggressive brood of self-promotional filmmakers. In spite of his unparalleled success ratio, his humility precedes his tremendous achievements as a moviemaker.
Immensely accessible and genial to the point of seeming utterly humble, Yash Chopra represents a largely disintegrating school of stardom in Bollywood where 'action' (not to mention 'cut') always speaks louder than words.
He not only lets his work speak for him but also refuses to publicly accept his track record. Yash Chopra is the only filmmaker in this country to have had trend-setting box-office successes in every decade since the 1950s.
And these are no ordinary successes -- "Dhool Ka Phool" in the 1950s, "Waqt" and "Ittefaq" in the 1960s, "Daag", "Kabhi Kabhie", "Deewaar" and "Trishul" in the 1970s, "Chandni" in the 1980s, "Darr", "Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge" and "Dil To Pagal Hai" in the 1990s and "Mohabbatein" in the new millennium.
I met this iconic moviemaker for the first time after "Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge" directed by his son had become a success beyond all measure. I met Chopra at his beautifully appointed home on a peaceful morning. His living room done in cream looked like a replica of a set in "Chandni".
When I congratulated him for the success of "Dilwale..." he beamed with the innocence of a child who had just won the lottery. "I've never seen so much money in my life," said the man who has rewritten every rule of filmmaking in Mumbai and has reached a point in his career where success or failure seems irrelevant.
Yash Chopra can easily rest on his laurels. No one would bat an eyelid. But he chooses not to get carried away. He wears humility as his second skin. He's tolerant of fools but will not suffer deception.
Yashraj Films is a very closely-knit organisation. When filmmaker Arjun Sablok broke away from the fold to make a film independently, there was no rancour. When he wanted to return to Yashraj Films he was allowed in quietly, without fuss or recrimination.
Father Yash and son Aditya Chopra run the multimillion-rupee empire, where everyone has a say. The real power behind the empire is Yash Chopra's wife Pamela who has guided and manoeuvred the visionary within her husband beyond the skies.
In 1973, after they married it was she who convinced the future cellu-lord that he should branch out from his illustrious brother B.R. Chopra's banner to grow on his own.
The parting between the two brothers was utterly amicable. Yash Chopra isn't capable of malice or acrimony. His favourite phrase is "so sweet of you", which he uses in both positive and negative situations to either imply appreciation or irony.
Very simple with his words, and thoroughly unassuming in his dealings with others, under the humble Punjabi exterior, Yash Chopra hides a very sharp mind that knows exactly what to give the audience, and in what quantity.
The one quality that binds me with this dream merchant is his affinity to the mighty Lata Mangeshkar. Not only is their birth separated by one day, they're also bonded in their positive attitude to life. "Though I'm three years her junior, I call her didi," Chopra smiles indulgently.
The Nightingale returns the compliment. "Yashji is part of my family. He says he cannot imagine making a film without my voice. I remember I was very ill when he was making 'Chandni' in 1989. I told him I couldn't sing for him. But he refused to listen. 'No, I'll wait for you to get well no matter how long it takes', he said.
"Which filmmaker would allow his heart to rule his head? I think the secret of his success is that he values human relationships above profits and losses. That attitude shows in his cinema."
He has been advised by well-wishers many times to opt for another voice. But as far as Yash Chopra is concerned, there's no choice. "As long as I'm around Lataji will sing for all my films. I don't form short-term relationships. For me every relationship has its own value. And I give every human being the respect he or she deserves," he says in his 72nd year when two of his productions "Hum Tum" and "Dhoom" have become money-spinners while his own directorial venture "Veer-Zaara" is the most eagerly awaited film of the year.
Yash Chopra defines generations of excellence in his cinema. You'll come across very few people in the industry who don't like him. His next-door neighbour Sunny Deol is one such rarity. They had a difference of opinion over the way Shah Rukh Khan was projected in "Darr", the film where Sunny played the formal leading man.
Shah Rukh is described by Yash Chopra as "ghar ka bachcha". Every leading star in Mumbai wants that privilege for many reasons, including the sumptuous food that's incessantly fed to the pampered stars of a Yash Chopra film.
"Yashji fattens the stars and then cuts on their fees," says a producer. That may be true. But for Yash Chopra and the people who work for him, the dil (heart) and not the bill is the issue.