Yash Chopra, the grand old man of Bollywood directors, turned 80 today. And as a birthday treat, actor Shah Rukh Khan hosted a very special live chat with Mr Chopra who has directed SRK in Darr, Dil Toh Pagal Hai, Veer-Zaara and now in Jab Tak Hai Jaan.
In conversation with SRK, Yash Chopra spoke about he became a filmmaker even though his family originally wanted him to become an engineer. His elder brother, director-producer B R Chopra, wanted the young Yash to study engineering. With his mother's blessing and Rs 200 in his pocket, Yash Chopra arrived in Mumbai in the 1950s and was given a job assisting his brother. He ended up working with B R Chopra, who wanted the young Yash to work with Raj Kapoor's RK Films, for two years and directed his first film Dhool Ka Phool in 1959.
Mr Chopra also spoke about his love for poetry and how he became good friends with actress Meena Kumari after he wrote her a poem. "I was a Punjabi munda and I had hair," said Mr Chopra, adding that Meena Kumari encouraged him to be an actor. He said to her, "I speak so fast that the film made will be very short." While working on his brother B R Chopra's Sadhna (1958), Yash Chopra became acquainted with the film's heroine Vyajayanthimala, who told him he had the focus to be a director.
Yash Chopra spoke about how his elder brother gave him his first break as director with Dhool Ka Phool. The elder Chopra decided to allow his assistants on Naya Daur and Sadhna to direct their own films. Yash Chopra landed the director's job after O P Bedi, the chief assistant, left to do an independent film.
SRK, an admirer of Dilip Kumar, asked Mr Chopra what it was like working with the actor in Mashaal. Mr Chopra spoke about how Dilipsaab had rejected his film initially even though he said he liked the story. When he later agreed to do the film, he invited Mr Chopra to his Juhu cottage where they discussed each scene in detail, over some home-cooked chicken meals. Mr Chopra said that he found Dilipsaab's inputs very helpful, and the food delicious - especially a keema and egg dish!
Shah Rukh Khan related to Yash Chopra an anecdote about how he had abandoned watching Mr Chopra's Lamhe, starring Sridevi, halfway through the movie. He had just started out in Bollywood and had gone to watch the film with his friend Vivek Vaswani, his co-star from Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman. Midway through the movie, SRK's secretary arrived to tell him that Yash Chopra was considering casting him in a movie and was asking to meet him. SRK left the movie straightaway, without even pausing to ask if Mr Chopra wanted to meet him at that very moment, and went to the director's office. The movie was, of course, Darr.
Why did Yash Chopra wait for eight years after Veer-Zaara to make Jab Tak Hai Jaan? The biggest reason that he didn't direct a film for this long was because he felt there very good films were being made and that he would have to make something extra special to match up, said Mr Chopra.
And what about the "Yash Chopra heroine?" What is it about the Yash Chopra treatment that makes the heroines look so beautiful, asked SRK. Mr Chopra's answer: "God has made women beautiful. I respect all women. I don't see any badness in them. I am doing my duty by making God's beautiful creation even more beautiful."
The director ended his chat by saying that he would retire after Jab Tak Hai Jaan, his 22nd and last movie.
Yash Chopra and Shah Rukh Khan also treated the audience to an impromptu rendition of classic hit song Ae Meri Zohrajabeen from Mr Chopra's movie Waqt.