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This article was first published 1 year ago  » Movies » The Romantics: Of Yash Chopra and his biggest blockbuster: Adi!

The Romantics: Of Yash Chopra and his biggest blockbuster: Adi!

Last updated on: February 15, 2023 11:59 IST
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Aditya Chopra may be a household name in India, but few have seen his face, recognise his voice or know the brain behind the business outside his tight inner circle.
The Romantics makes sure it has its own to brag about when he, finally, appears before the camera, notes Sukanya Verma.

One of my earliest movie memories is a field of flowers and the look of love on two people sitting right in its middle. Yash Chopra's Sisila introduced me to tulips and true love. Two decades later, I would hop off a train at King's Cross Station and buy me a tulip reeling in the silly satisfaction and indescribable romance only Yash Chopra's cinema could provide.

I have a soft corner for this man. His deeply emotional and evocative creations got me started as a moviegoer, but it's his therapeutic ability to seek beauty even when things got dark and unbearable that made me a lifelong subscriber of his aesthetic and escapism.

The glass was always half full around Yash Chopra. But the entry of son Aditya Chopra in show business shifted the glass's fortunes, turning it into a reservoir that would never run short.

The Romantics, a four-part documentary by Smriti Mundhra, celebrates the duo and their 50-year-old banner's love story with the larger-than-life medium.

There's little about Yash Chopra that long-time fans won't know.

One of the most hands on, ubiquitous figures in the industry, he attended every mahurat, music launch, premiere or party extending his support towards his fraternity.

Accessible to the media for the simplest of quotes, an attribute I witnessed personally while writing an insurance story, his uncomplicated persona never made a big deal about his stardom or the reach of its influence.

Like the travel guide of a Swiss tour bus not realising one of the passengers happens to be the same Chopra after whom the lake he just introduced is named.

His colleagues and co-workers speak of him in an equally fond manner. Clearly, he was a breeze to work with. Those influenced by Yash Chopra's elegant craft and achievements in the romantic genre gush about its never-before-seen glamour.

Karan Johar remembers seeing him immersed in Vogue magazines for up-to-date fashion references while Designer Manish Malhotra recalls how as a kid he wondered if people really go to five star hotels for just a coffee?

But there are ample of comprehensive interviews, the best ones reserved by YRF, for YRF conducted by Karan Johar and Shah Rukh Khan where the film-maker speaks extensively about his body of work. The Romantics makes liberal use of that footage, but where it scores is the personal space.

Hearing his family, his spunky wife Pamela sharing her first impressions before they tied the knot or just another harmlessly-taken-for-granted dad by sons -- an enthusiastic Uday and elusive Aditya is when The Romantics becomes more about the man than his movies.

Aditya Chopra may be a household name in India, but few have seen his face, recognise his voice or know the brain behind the business outside his tight inner circle.

As it turns out, I've had this pleasure twice in my life. Once while watching him help out his dad on the sets of Veer Zaara.

The other time, he was sitting across the table at an Andheri eatery, Indigo, a few minutes away from the family studio, engaged in an animated discussion (about movies I am guessing) with Yash and Uday Chopra. The photo-op is framed in my memory.


The Romantics makes sure it has its own to brag about when he, finally, appears before the camera. Dressed in white casuals, he doesn't look anywhere like the big deal he is.

If you bumped into him in everyday life, you'd probably ask him for directions or complain about the annoyingly long queue at a bank. But under the deceptive ordinariness there's an ambition that precedes commonplace passion.

If episode one is a quick summary of Yash Chopra's legacy in the aftermath of Partition, the 1971 war and economic liberalisation, episode two focuses exclusively on the biggest blockbuster he ever produced -- Aditya Yashraj Chopra.

Childhood pictures strewn across the frames, scans of his meticulously maintained box-office reports, the first draft of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge in a single line notebook argue Aditya was writing his destiny all along.

He was born to wield the big screen. He watched every single movie to know what not to do. He embraced desi films and music to understand the audience he would speak to. He was the first to tell Director Sooraj R Barjatya, a massive influencer among film-makers like him and Karan, following the Maine Pyaar Kiya hysteria, editing out two-and-a-half songs out of Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! would make a telling difference. It did.

He understood the strengths of his star better than they did when he convinced Shah Rukh Khan to take on Raj Malhotra, "Your eyes have something. They cannot be wasted on action."

In good time, he offered him that long-due action movie too and made sure it was one to remember.

Looking at success stories in retrospect always makes us appreciate the note of humility and hope with which they begin. There's a clip showing KJo, who dropped his plan to study in France and assisted Aditya on DDLJ, earnestly combing Kajol's hair for that perfect scene.

Brother Uday who left his studies in America to do the same laughs remembering how he travelled back to India carrying the bulky Harley-Davidson jacket SRK wore in DDLJ.

Looking at the exuberant atmosphere on the sets around a bratty, chatty Kajol, hyper Shah Rukh Khan and the amount of grief the prankster team gave its tense, first-time director, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge's phenomenal box-office run is a whale of a bonus nobody was expecting.

But the wannabe Raj Malhotra syndrome it triggered within stars of today, kids back then -- Ranbir Kapoor calls it Disneyland while Ayushmann Khurrana cannot forget that afternoon in Chandigarh, Sector 17, Neelam theatre.

But Aditya Chopra was neither confused nor swayed by its success. Instead it led to two significant decisions about his life -- to go fiercely private as a person and full-throttle to turn his family production house into a state-of-art studio.

Episodes 3 and 4 document it in rich detail reiterating that old saying there's business like show business despite the other Chopra scion's inability to make it big.

Of the two episodes I saw at its media screening, there's no room for critical viewpoints in Mundhra's (Indian Matchmaking) love letter to Hindi films, which looks sympathetically at the triumphs and trials of a father-son duo.

What distinguishes it from a corporate film commemorating its milestone year is the numerous voices that gather across different generations to understand how stunning their contribution is even in Hindi cinema as a whole in India and abroad.

Of the extensive superstar roster, Shah Rukh Khan and the late Rishi Kapoor exude trademark wit and charm. Though it would have been nice to hear a word or two from YRF's original Chandnis -- Raakhee and Rekha as well, Sridevi's gorgeous presence looms large in the series. Whereas Hrithik Roshan and Abhishek Bachchan's candid confessions about their bachpan ka dost reveal 'Adi' as both-- a terror and terrific dancer.

Mostly though The Romantics is a feel-good exchange between artists about their favourite subject and favourite people. Their eyes light up telling the stories we mostly know but don't mind hearing one more time.

The Romantics streams on Netflix.

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