Yash Raj Chopra (27 September 1932 – 21 October 2012) born in Lahore, British India, was an Indian film director, screenwriter and film producer, predominantly working in Hindi cinema. Chopra began his career as an assistant director to I.S. Johar and his elder brother, B.R. Chopra.
He made his directorial debut with Dhool Ka Phool in 1959, a melodrama about illegitimacy and followed it with the hard-hitting social drama Dharmputra (1961). Encouraged by the success of both films, the Chopra brothers made several more movies together during the late fifties and sixties. Chopra then rose to prominence after the commercially and critically successful drama, Waqt (1965), which pioneered the concept of multi-starters in Bollywood.
In 1973, Chopra founded his own production company, Yash Raj Films, and launched it with Daag: A Poem of Love (1973), a successful melodrama about a polygamous man.
His success continued in the seventies, with some of Indian cinema’s most successful and iconic films, including the action thriller Deewar (1975) which established Amitabh Bachchan as the “angry young man” of Bollywood, the romantic drama Kabhi Kabhie (1976) and Trishul (1978).
The eighties marked a professional setbacks in Chopra’s career as several films he directed and produced in that period failed to leave a mark at the Indian box office, notably Silsila (1981), Mashaal (1984) and Vijay (1988). However, in 1989, Chopra directed the commercially and critically successful cult film Chandni which became instrumental in ending the era of violence in Bollywood and bringing back music into Hindi films.
Chopra then directed and produced the cult classic Lamhe in 1991. Considered by critics and Chopra himself as his best work to date. The film was critically acclaimed and became one of the biggest Bollywood hits in the overseas market.
Chopra followed it with the box-office hit and trend setter Darr (1993). Starring the then-débutant Shahrukh Khan, it showed a sympathetic look at obsessive love and defied the image of the conventional hero. Since then, Chopra directed three more romantic films, all starring Khan; Dil To Pagal Hai (1997), Veer-Zaara (2004) and Jab Tak Hai Jaan (2012) before he announced his retirement from directing in 2012.
Chopra is chairman and founder of both the motion picture production and distribution company Yash Raj Films which ranks as India’s biggest production company as of 2006 and the Yash Raj Studios.
Chopra’s career has spanned over five decades and over 50 films.He is considered among one of the greatest filmmakers in the history of Hindi cinema. Chopra has won several film awards, including six National Film Awards and eleven Filmfare awards including four Filmfare Award for Best Director.
The Government of India honoured him with the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 2001 and the Padma Bhushan in 2005 for his contributions towards Indian cinema. BAFTA presented him with a lifetime membership for his contribution to the films, making him the first Indian to receive the honour in the 59-year history of the academy. His last movie was Jab Tak Hai Jaan (2012).
Chopra was born on 27 September 1932 in Lahore (now in Pakistan) to a Punjabi family. The youngest of eight children, the oldest of whom was almost 30 years his senior, he was largely brought up in the Lahore house of his second brother, B.R Chopra, then a film journalist.
Chopra went to Jullundur in 1945 to continue his education and later moved to Ludhiana in Punjab (in India) after the partition. He was originally ought to pursuit a career in engineering. However, his passion for filmmaking led him to travel to Bombay (now Mumbai) where he initially worked as an assistant director to I. S. Johar, and then for his director-producer brother, B.R. Chopra.
Chopra received his first directorial opportunity in 1959 with the social drama Dhool Ka Phool. Produced by his elder B.R.Chopra and starring Mala Sinha, Rajendra Kumar and Leela Chitnis. The film revolved around a Muslim bringing up an `illegitimate’ Hindu child.
The film was well received by critics and became the fourth highest grossing film of the year. Encouraged by their success, the Chopra’s made another hard-hitting social drama, Dharmputra (1961) which was one of the first films to depict the scenario of partition of India and and the Hindu fundamentalism.
The film marked the debut of Shashi Kapoor in a fully fledged role and was awarded with the National award for Best Feature Film in Hindi. The theatres screenings of the film were disturbed with violent demonstration due to the raw reconstruction of the partition riots and sloganeering featured in it. This led Chopra to never make a political film again.
Chopra’s collaboration with his brother continued in the form of 1965’s film Waqt which featured an ensemble cast including Sunil Dutt, Raaj Kumar, Shashi Kapoor, Sadhana, Balraj Sahni, Madan Puri, Sharmila Tagore, Achala Sachdev and Rehman.
The film became a commercial and a critical success and is acknowledged as a ‘found film’ of the ‘lost and found’ genre. Setting many other trends, it was one of Indian cinema’s first multi-starrers, a mode which became increasingly popular among the producers during the 1970s.
It also began the now obligatory style of depicting wealth and social classes. Additionally, Chopra received his first Filmfare Best Director Award for the film. In 1969, Chopra directed two movies which were again produced by B. R. Chopra. The first was Aadmi Aur Insaan, the Chopra film to feature Dharmendra in the lead. It was an average grosser.
He then directed, Ittefaq, a suspense movie based on a Gujarati play, depicting the events of a single night. Shot in a month and on a low budget, the film was deemed unusual by critics as it was one of the first Hindi films which did not have any songs or an interval. it was eventually declared a semi-hit at the box office and won Chopra an other Filmfare award for best director.
In 1971, Chopra founded Yash Raj Films, thus terminating the creative collaboration between him and his brother. His first independently produced film Daag, a melodrama about a man with two wives, was a great success. He then made a number of classic cult films starring Amitabh Bachchan and scripted by Salim-Javed notably Deewaar and Trishul which were great hits and remain popular even today. These films set the trend for the late 70s and 80s, establishing Bachchan as a star, in his role as the angry young man.
Chopra won yet another Filmfare Best Director Award for Deewaar. Chopra produced, directed and scripted two more films starring Bachchan, unlike his earlier action oriented films, the two cinematic outings were romantic dramas, First, it was Kabhi Kabhie in 1976 followed by Silsila in 1981.
The eighties marked a professional setbacks in Chopra’s career as several films he directed and produced in that period failed to leave a mark at the Indian box office. The first film he directed and produced was Mashaal in 1984, his first collaboration with the legendary actor, Dilip Kumar. The action-oriented film which was based on the well-known Marathi play titled “Ashroonchi Zhali Phule” won critical acclaim but fared only averagely at the box-office. A year later, he made Faasle.
The romantic drama starring Sunil Dutt, Rekha,and Rohan Kapoor was a critical and commercial failure. And is often seen (by both him and critics) as his worst movie to date. Another action oriented film by him, Vijay (1988) was met with the same fate at the box office. The film received mixed reviews from critics and was dubbed as a remake of Trishul.
However, Chopra’s lean phase ended in 1989 with the highly successful cult classic Chandni, a film with all the hallmarks of what has come to be known as the “Yash Chopra style”: heroine-oriented, romantic, emotional, depicting the lifestyle of the super elite, with melodic music used in songs picturised in foreign locations.
It also marked the first collaboration between the filmmaker and established heroine, Sridevi, The huge success of its music was instrumental in ending the era of violence in Bollywood films and bringing back music into Hindi films. It also reaffirmed Sridevi’s position as the top female star of the Eighties. Though it was not the first time Chopra shot a film in Switzerland, the extensive scenes shot there made it a popular destination to visit for Indians.
The film won the National Film Award for Best Popular Film of that year. He then followed it with Lamhe in 1991, starring frequent collaborators Anil Kapoor and Sridevi. The film was critically acclaimed, had exceptional music and was one of the biggest Bollywood hits in the overseas market. However, it was not a box-office success in India.
The film won five Filmfare awards including the Filmfare Award for Best Movie. Over the years the film has been hailed as a cult classic and is regarded as a modern masterpiece and possibly his finest film to date. It was featured in Outlook magazine’s list of All-Time Great Indian films. It has also been cited by Chopra as his personal favourite of the films he has done.
In 1993, Yash Chopra directed newcomer Shah Rukh Khan along with Juhi Chawla and Sunny Deol in the musical thriller Darr. The movie was the the story of an obsessed lover (Khan) and the lengths to which he goes to get the girl (Chawla) who is already happily engaged to another man (Deol). The film was not only a runaway success but is considered a cult classic today. It also established Khan as a bankable star.
He then directed, produced and co-wrote the 1997 highly successful romantic musical Dil To Pagal Hai, starring yet again Khan in a love triangle with Madhuri Dixit and Karisma Kapoor. It was the first Bollywood movie to be shot in Germany. The film became the second highest grosser for the year.
It won many awards, including sweeping seven Filmfare Awards including that of Best Film and three National Awards, notably for Best Film providing popular and wholesome entertainment yet again. Chopra then took a sabbatical from directing and focused solely on producing films for over eight years. However, in 2004, he returned to direction through the love saga Veer-Zaara.
Starring Khan again, Preity Zinta and Rani Mukerji in the leading roles, the film was the biggest hit of 2004 in both India and overseas, with a worldwide gross of over 940 million and was screened at the 55th Berlin Film Festival to critical appreciation.
 The film which narrated the love story of an Indian air-force officer veer Pratabh Singh (Khan) and a Pakistani woman, Zaara Haayat Khan (Zinta) was appreciated by critics. Rama Sharma from The Tribune write, “Giving love its due, Yash Chopra has understandably linked the script to the life of a common man.
The pace is exacting. Drawing from the best of the two countries, the story is made more colourful by a spray of the Punjabi culture — be it celebrating Lohri in India or visiting a dargah in Pakistan. He has handled the script cleverly. Whenever the pace begins to slacken, he introduces a new character and a twist.
In September 2012, in an special interview with actor Shahrukh Khan on the occasion of his eightieth birthday, Chopra announced that Jab Tak Hai Jaan (2012) would be his last directorial venture and that he will opt to focus on his production company and his personal life.
For the shoot of the last remaining song in Jab Tak Hai Jaan, director Yash Chopra had a grand vision: a sari-clad Katrina Kaif romancing Shah Rukh Khan in the lush meadows of the Swiss Alps. But unfortunately, his illness, caused by a bout of dengue, stymied the plan for the song, which would have reflected his trademark directorial style.
Chopra’s trip to Switzerland with SRK and Katrina had to be cancelled after he was admitted to Lilavati hospital on Saturday.
In 1970 Chopra married Pamela Singh and together they have two sons Aditya and Uday, born in 1971 and 1973. respectively. Aditya is also a film director and producer and holds the position of vice-chairman and general manager of Yash Raj Films while Uday is an assistant director turned actor who made his acting debut in 2000 in his brother’s film.
Yash Chopra was admitted to Lilavati Hospital on 13th October, 2012 due to dengue. He died on 21 October, 2012 after a brief battle with the illness.