The Dream Maker
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Over the past three days, there has been a unanimous outpouring of grief at the sudden demise of Bollywood veteran Yash Chopra. From Manmohan Singh to Mamata Banerjee, Amitabh Bachchan to Shah Rukh Khan, the overriding sentiment was that Chopra, who turned 80 on September 27, had gone too soon. On his birthday, he had announced that Jab Tak Hai Jaan would be his last film, and his death came weeks before the Diwali release of the Shah Rukh Khan-Katrina Kaif starrer. He had been shooting till his last breath, literally.
Through his five-decade journey in Bollywood, he enthralled audiences—and the box office—with his brand of movies, from revenge dramas with moral dilemma at the heart of it like Deewar and Trishul, or romances that spread over generations like Kabhi Kabhie or Veer Zaara and even beautiful song-and-dance turns like Chandni and Dil To Pagal Hai. He may have been known as the "king of romance", but Chopra dealt with complex issues and somehow managed to have mainstream written all over them. Silsila and Lamhe are just two examples of how Chopra delved into the tricky space of family and society.
And, of course, he gave the world two superstars, Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan. He also presented Switzerland to India, for which he was duly honoured by the Swiss authorities last year, naming him the "Ambassador of Interlaken". The luxurious Victoria Jungfrau Grand Hotel in Interlaken has a suite named after Yash Chopra, and Jungfrau Railways has a Yash Chopra Train. Many of his films, including Chandni and son Aditya Chopra's Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, were partly shot in Switzerland.
In 1970, he set up Yash Raj Studios, branching off from brother BR Chopra, and decades later, when the winds of corporatisation would sweep across Bollywood, Chopra's studio adapted quickly to produce a slate of films, mixing genres and budgets to draw a wider audience. Kabul Express and Ek Tha Tiger, Chak De! India and Rab Ne Bana De Jodi would co-exist. According to industry estimates, the last five films from Yash Raj Studios, including Ek Tha Tiger, have grossed over R250 crore at the box office. Despite talks about a divide between the Khans in Bollywood, all top three Khans, Aamir (Dhoom 3), Shah Rukh (Jab Tak Hai Jaan) and Salman (Ek Tha Tiger) have worked with the Chopra studio this year.
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