I have never been die hard fan of Yash Chopra’s movies. His romantic angles mired in illicit relationship always left me appalled. He was a noted filmmaker having Midas touch for conceiving interesting themes, hinging around three people in one single relationship, either due to providence or chance. His penchant for such complex relationships, on par with illicit love affairs, could be gauged from the fact that barring his early years of film making when he made gems like Waqt, Dharamputra, Ittefaq, Mashaal, Trishul, Deewar and Kala Patthar, nearly all his movies in later years depicted adultery in one or other form. It can be safely opined that his movies, both explicitly and implicitly, promoted illegal relationships. That’s pretty unfortunate as filmmaker of his caliber should have been more sensible in application of his mind.
He had the brilliant ability to present romance with all its elements in grand style. The grandeur and colourful imagery noticeable in his movies takes away our breath. It’s true that average cine-goer likes to flirt with unfulfilled dreams and wishes as he/she enters inside the theater, and tries to dissolve the harsh realities in the silken world appearing and disappearing on the silver screen. Any average filmmaker is not very much interested in exposing his viewers to shades of realism. Yash Chopra understood this well and so in his movies we have characters, borrowed straight from Mills and Boon novels, flirting with their ladies against scenic backdrop. No wonder Swiss government honoured Yash Chopra for promoting tourism in Switzerland!
To make his romance stories gain some substance, he was but compelled to fall in the arms of “illicit relationship” so as to provide some shock value to his films. However, he lacked the ability to seriously contemplate over any issue, which demanded deep attention, but in the same genre his brother B R Chopra exhibited the art of serious presentation in an effortless manner. That’s why B R Chopra’s “Gumrah”, having adultery as central theme, depicted the conflict emanating out of such relationship quite well. Yash Chopra’s movies based on the same plot stand nowhere to pathos exhibited in Gumrah. Yash was more governed by the desire to emerge as a successful director in the genre of popular cinema despite being person of immense capabilities. He was a pure entertainer, who used “arrival of third person” as perfect masala element to make his movies mint money. That’s why we cannot contrast him with likes of Raj Kapoor. He failed to attain the stature of Raj Kapoor, who was also governed by the desire to emerge as great entertainer but with a difference: Raj’s sensitivity always managed to find a suitable cause, which under his brilliant directorial treatment ripped apart our emotions. In fact, lot is said about depiction of grandeur/ style in his movies but Gulshan Rai and Feroz Khan stand miles ahead of him even in this department.
Let’s take into cognizance “illicit relationship” – a dominant feature of his movies. He should not have roped in this angle unless he had enough reasons to substantiate his viewpoint. For instance, let’s take “Darr” promoted as a violent love story. What was Yash Chopra trying to demonstrate? That Sunny Deol (husband) has to be equally cunning, powerful and mad like Shah Rukh Khan (lover) to save his wife from the shrewd moves. The greatest irony is that evil gets checkmated by good doesn’t sound convincing in the end when evil enjoys the upper hand, dancing with some else’s beloved for most of the time. One of the salient features of movies made by Yash Raj Films has been that one has to be shrewd and street smart to emerge as a winner. Idealism is of little use in world dominated by market-oriented world, wherein end justifies the means. That’s the guiding principle of protagonists appearing in “Trishul” and “Deewar”. Aditya Chopra’s “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge” highlights the same trait. The protagonist even as he is reluctant to run away with his beloved, enters into ridiculousness and pathetic gestures to woo his would be wife. The success of this movie is remark on the declining standards of a viewer’s approach towards cinema.
That’s the aberration which marred the movies churned out by Yash Raj Films. The movies having candyfloss flavour, embedded in synthetic sentiments, depicted a section of society, which barely depicted the real face of India. For instance, Salaam Namaste was entirely shot in Australia, talked about reunion of two lovers, caught in problems born out of “laid-back lifestyle”. Hum Tum, Mohabbatein, Dil To Pagal Hai and etc. turned out be old wine in new bottle. Even patriotic perceptions were effectively used in “Chak De India” to keep the cash box ringing. The point is that Yash Chopra and his successors have realized this pretty well that market forces and not the theme of the movie, which ensures success or failure. The global world, which made the boundaries meaningless, opened new markets, and, therefore, themes also got focused on people who sustained these markets. Both Bollywood and Hollywood rely on stereotyped emotions to make their movies emerge as blockbuster. So scenic landscape, stunning faces, big cars and pulsating music became the essential ingredients of romantic movies be its made by Yash Chopra or anyone else from Hollywood.
Some might find it unpalatable, and unbearable as well, to treat his movies as promoter of illegal relationships. However, it’s not a misplaced belief when one becomes aware of the fact that cinema, life and society are intimately linked to each other. Chandni, Dhool Ka Phool, Kabhi Kabhi, Silsila, Doosra Aadmi, Darr, Faasle, Lamhe, Daag, Aaina, Yeh Dillagi and Mere Brother Ki Dulhan to name a few, more or less, had controversial themes, wherein secret lover or illicit relationship added a complex twist to the story line. It’s a cliche to state that cinema borrows its concept from society. The ultimate truth is that it borrows the clues from society, exaggerates them, turning them into saleable scripts and, in the process, creates scope for more distorted themes. In a combined research conducted by the ” American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the National Institute of Mental Health” to establish the negative impact of movies on youths in USA, it was clearly established that “just as every cigarette increases the chance that someday you will get lung cancer, every exposure to violence increases the chances that some day a child will behave more violently than they otherwise would.”
The point is when you are genuinely depicting the harsh realities of life, be it centered on illegal relationship, it adds a new dimension in your understanding but when you use such themes to carve unrealistic presentation, merely to ensure commercial success, it’s altogether a different story. Yash Chopra was more conscious of commercial success then ensuring a perfect treatment to a substantial story line. Ironically, Mahesh Bhatt also used illicit relationship as effective plot but he ensured that he remained close to the real life. Anyway, Yash Chopra makes me realize that attaining success is different thing than doing good work which makes difference in lives of people. He got success by promoting flawed romance, which served no greater cause other than ensuring flow of money.