"God has made women beautiful. I respect all women. I don't see any badness in them. I am doing my duty by making God's beautiful creation even more beautiful," Yash Chopra, on the occasion of his 80th birthday, told Shah Rukh Khan. Less than a month later, he succumbed to multi-organ failure but lives on to be the paramount king of romance and a true admirer of beauty.
But Chopra is also of the rarest kind, in whose films the women figures weren't lost in the overpowering presence of the angry young men. Besides, Chopra, as he is recalled, was a hopelessly romantic soul trying to pour it all into his poetry and films. From a Dhool Ka Phool, a whisk of love and regret to a Lamhe, probably his finest film, Hindi cinema found some of its finest female performers, all basking in the glint of their own merit.
By the time Waqt happened to her, Sharmila Tagore set her first footsteps into film strong with two consecutive films by Satyajit Ray, apart from a handful of others and made her first stint in Hindi films with Shakti Samanta's Kashmir Ki Kali. Waqt featured an enviable cast including Balraj Sahni, Sunil Dutt, Raaj Kumar and Shashi Kapoor. Sharmila, in her not so lengthy but neoteric appearance, romanced Shashi Kapoor and managed to grab eyes as well. The collaboration continued with Daag. This film is particularly important since it laid the foundation of Yash Raj Films, marking Chopra's beginning as a producer. In Daag, Tagore grapples with Raakhee Gulzar, trying to pot Rajesh Khanna's love. Chopra added some of his signature treatment to both the actresses and nobody ended up being a runner-up.
Chopra's association with Raakhee began with Joshila and four more films followed. Raakhee was rather a friend who knew both Chopra and his wife Pamela. She had earlier turned down Ittefaq owing to her commitment for Jeevan Mrityu. Raakhee's character in Daag, inspired by Gulshan Nanda's novel Maili Chandni, proved to be a meaty one although Raakhee, in that film, did not indulge in so many typically-heroine things, including a song. But the affectionate equation did not last forever and the sourness crept in with Kabhie Kabhie. It is said that Raakhee's deeply romantic scenes with Amitabh Bachchan did not get a thumbs up from either Gulzar or Jaya Bachchan. At one point, Chopra even planned to drop the film. However, Kabhie Kabhie happened, went on to become a classic but also initiated certain estrangement between Raakhee and Chopra.
Probably the biggest casting coup of Hindi cinema happened rather unplanned. Silsila was almost going to Smita Patil and Parveen Babi. Amitabh Bachchan, knowing that Chopra wanted Jaya Bachchan and Rekha in the film, suggested he should talk to the two ladies. Silsila is Rekha's only collaboration with Chopra but glows crimson bright even today. The love story that blossomed on the celluloid was getting too real, with Rekha playing the second woman...much like reality?
If not for a Chandni or a Lamhe, would Sridevi be Sridevi? Having hit gold with Sadma already, Sridevi gained widespread critical acclimation with Chandni. But the romantic musical was also a sigh of relief for Chopra who was subjected to a number of professional setbacks through the '80s. Later, in the beginning of 1991, Lamhe happened. This was arguably Chopra's favourite, out of all the 22 he directed. It was not a commercial success but is still considered a film way ahead of its time and has gained the status of a cult.
“I know that there something like an image about Yashji’s heroines, but maybe I am the new age Yash Chopra. There is going to be a white chiffon sari, but I am the white ganji girl and that’s what I am going to be wearing,” Anushka Sharma had stated, once signed for Jab Tak Hai Jaan, Chopra's last film. She said she did not fit into the 'saree image' but would have the same 'Yash Chopra' love . She did. Chopra's interpretetion of melifluous beauty had met with a certain fiestiness in Anushka's character, making Jab Tak Hai Jaan an unforgettable chapter in her carer.
Such elated was she on being offered Jab Tak Hai Jaan, that she exclaimed she would even dress up as a clown for a Yash Chopra film. Katrina Kaif, in 2004, watched Shah Rukh Khan carrying Preity Zinta over the bridge in the last sequence of Veer Zara abd knew she wanted to do a Yash Chopra film. She has only appeared in a few two-heroine films. This was one of them. " I think that the women in his films are not just beautiful outside but were strong multidimensional characters, whether they were pious (like my character in “Jab Tak Hai Jaan”) or flawed. They were deep and you could connect with them. And I don’t think that this came about without any reason: it was because Yash-ji deeply respected women," she later versed.
On the legendary filmmnaker's 8th birth anniversary, all we could probably ask is his vista of romance to meet more contemporariness and be carried forward. Hope you are resting in love!