By Rashmi Talwar
The swish of chiffon Sarees had already mesmerised our generation of teenagers or those in their early 20s. Yash Raj films had introduced us to ‘Tulips’ and ‘Windmills’ of Amsterdam for the first time in Silsila – a film that took much from the real-time high profile romance of Rekha with the most handsome baritone voiced Amitabh Bachchan.
The fragrance of mountains from Kashmir to the Swiss Alps, the lakes and flora had seemed like the stars in his films were floating on whispering clouds, endless rainbows, the bluest waters.
Kabhi Kabhi, Chandni, Lamhe, Darr had the leading lady so dreamlike, that one wondered if such creatures actually existed. We, as young girls then, all wanted to emulate them. So, school and college farewells, saw girls in sheer chiffons with a swaying paalu following them. Never mind if some of starry-eyed ones tripped on the edges, but they had to be one amongst the exalted queens of Yash Raj films, to be able to garner a tall-dark-handsome, Mills and Boons, type of guy.
During my journalistic years much later, as women journalists were often saddled with soft beats- like it or not, I too was put to task on film personalities. I do not feel any guilt in saying, I enjoyed it thoroughly, much to the smirks of fellow women journalists, who felt it was a page3 type story. Hardly journalism! as they called it. In, came a chance to interview Yash Chopra, the King maker of Romance.
He was here in Amritsar with his wife Pamela Chopra and was conferred the degree of Doctorate of Philosophy (honors causa) for his contributions to art and culture by Guru Nanak Dev University, in 2004.
The then Vice Chancellor (VC) Dr SP Singh was more like a father figure to me. He invited me, individually to have special lunch with the awardees at the 30th Convocation of the Univ.
As I saw Yash ji and his wife holding a plate, Dr Singh, a bright glint in his eye, egged me on to interview him there and then. “A journalist must never lose a chance. I know this, because I too was journalist at one time,” he urged.
But I couldn’t bring myself to barge in upon a couple, cosily eating lunch together. I told Dr Singh, that I shall do the interview only after, he is over with his lunch. Later the honoured VC even related this incident to my Bureau Chief, as all laughed at me, in our office.
Perhaps Yash ji had heard our conversation and quickly finished his lunch and joined us. “Tell me what do you want to ask?” ‘Sirrr! I wanted to talk to your wife’, I blurted out in confusion. ‘About what?’ he asked. Sirrr ji! I want to know how she views your films, your profession and your success.’ I said.
He gave a coy smile and said, ‘ No, Pamela doesn’t like to talk to the media’, as I stole a glance at his wife enjoying the lip smacking Amritsari cuisine, in a world of her own. I remembered that they had a love marriage. Soon, we reached an unoccupied cane sofa and Yash ji, made me sit beside him. The rest of the media persons too had been let in as the lunch was almost over.
We all sat with him, some at his feet glancing at him, some standing over his head and others surrounding the little sofa. Once on the route to queries, I asked him if he would ever make an Indo-Pak film as he was connected to Lahore as his birthplace. Yash Chopra said his forthcoming film would be exactly that but categorically ruled out taking his film troupe and artistes to Pakistan. He expressed his apprehensions over security issues. However he said he did not like to project any Anti-Pak sentiment in his films. He had not named his film at the time but ‘Veer Zara’ was already in the pipeline. On being asked if he would ever make a Punjabi movie, He smilingly retorted ‘but I always bring Punjab in my films’. Well, DDLJ, Silsila, Dil Toh Pagal Hai, Veer Zara had plentiful of Punjabi flavor in them. About getting the Rekha, Amitabh and Jaya in love triangle in Silsila which was a seen as scoop of sorts, Yash ji said, I signed them and the next day flew off to Switzerland. Those were the times of only landline phones’ he laughed. We all understood and looked gigglingly at each other.
Yash Chopra, who was then on the advisory board of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, showed no qualms about taking on the government on censorship issue for their leniency in passing vulgarity in films and TV programmes. He said remixed songs were jarring to him as they mutilated a beautiful composition and made it like a ‘Hijra’neither man nor woman. ‘No one can see these vulgar videos with their family’. Over reports of a nexus between films and International Mafia raging at the time in 2004, he said he was unaware of it, if it did exist.
Interestingly, I was one of the first ones to cover the story of Indian Prisoner Sarbjit Singh still imprisoned in Kot Lakhpat Jail in Pakistan which is known to be a case of mistaken identity and by some strange coincidence another case of mistaken identity was also underway at that time in the sessions court in Amritsar and I had minutely studied it and verily reported it even as it was a sub-judice case , but had led to release of the accused, a 70 year old .
It was, but a wild thought then, that Yash ji too would be including a twist of ‘mistaken identity’ in his forthcoming Indo Pak movie. Lo and Behold! This hunch came true in Veer Zara. Later, I covered the entire shooting of the film in Amritsar at Khalsa College, Attari International Railway station, Samjhauta Express, Harike, Wagah Land route and various other sequences shot in Amritsar and around.
When I went to Lahore the very next year in 2005, for the first time . People there were thrilled over this very Indo-Pak romance. However, some said the language used was not authentic lahori and petulantly pointed out that the sets too could have been improved had Yash ji come to Pakistan and noted the minute details as he is wont to do in all his movies. One elderly lady in Pakistan had a question to ask –‘Why is the boy from India and the girl from Pakistan in the movie?’ She asked sweetly, ‘Why not vice-versa?’ I gave her beaming smile, How could I have an answer about the storyline of one of the topmost Directors of Bollywood in whose honor the government of Switzerland named a lake as ‘Chopra Lake’ in a place called Alpenrausch.
True to the title of his last film-‘Jab Tak Hai Jaan’ Yash ji passionately took on his work.
In Yash ji’s sad demise, I feel as if the Heavens had their quota house-full for this ominous year 2012, wherein many greats in performing and other arts, musical legends and now even the most loved comic- Jaspal Bhatti of ‘Ulta Pulta’ fame has his Powerlines cut, true to his forthcoming release ‘Power Cut’. Along with Amritsaris heavy weight Dara Singh – the benign grandfather figure, Rajesh Khanna the ultimate in romantic hero, Jaspal too has journeyed to the Gods to provide the endearing comic touch, to the Grand Play being mastered in the World Beyond.
First Published in RISING KASHMIR after Yash Chopra passed away ….