(Updated: May 25, 2020) In his 50-year illustrious career, Yash Chopra gave us some of the most iconic films across genres, from action thriller Deewar to the romance musical Chandni. A master weaver of stories, Yash Chopra always had a way with involving audiences in the simplest of narratives. His cinema doesn’t grow stale even after multiple viewings. He was among the few instrumental in shaping and defining mainstream Hindi cinema.
Here’s a look back at some of his best works of the filmmaker:
1. Waqt (1965)
The biggest hit of the year and among the best of the decade, Yash Chopra’s family drama was a welcome break from the socio-political themes of the 50s and 60s. A well-written and a thorough entertainer, Waqt is equally memorable for exceptional performances from its multi-starrer ensemble — Sunil Dutt, Shashi Kapoor, Sadhana, Raaj Kumar, Sharmila Tagore Balraj Sahni, Achala Sachdev.
Watch Waqt on Amazon Prime
2. Kaala Patthar (1979)
A former Navy officer is disowned by his family. He is forced to work in a coal mine. He has to rely on his wit and skills in order to escape a flooded mine when he is trapped in it with other mine workers.
Writers Salim-Javed and director Yash Chopra’s finest, Kaala Patthar is an underrated gem. Bolstered by stellar performances from Amitabh Bachchan, Shatrughan Sinha as much as the supporting cast, this ‘disaster film’ was unlike trademark Yash Chopra films he came to be identified with in the latter part of his career.
3. Deewar (1975)
After Zanjeer which established Amitabh Bachchan’s Angry Young Man persona in his first major hit, the iconic Deewar further reinforced that image in viewers’ minds. The anti-hero persona was tremendously received by audiences. Deewar was a massive box office and critical success for Bachchan. (The feminists might judge his behaviour as toxic masculinity and ultra-aggressive. But we’ll leave that discussion for another day).
Did you know Deewar was among the few Hindi films featured in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, alongside Mother India (1957) and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995)?
4. Kabhie Kabhie (1976)
This arrived at a time when the audience had warmed up to Amitabh Bachchan in action thrillers like Deewar, Zanjeer and Sholay. The Angry Young Man image was about to get a makeover. Kabhie Kabhie was a huge risk. And this wasn’t a template love story. Starring Amitabh Bachchan, Rakhie, Shashi Kapoor, Waheeda Rehman, Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh, Kabhie Kabhie is Yash Chopra’s favourite from his filmography. What truly made this one a classic are Sahir Ludhianvi’s poetry and Khayyam’s music!
5. Silsila (1981)
Silsila bombed at the box office at the time of its release, but has come to acquire a cult status over the years. A classic Yash Chopra film, Silsila redefined romance. Starring Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bachchan, Rekha, Shashi Kapoor, the film boasts of remarkable performances and unforgettable music.
Silsila is yet another testament to the versatility of Amitabh Bachchan. The movie is purely a romantic drama. Nothing more and nothing less. Why it was a commercial failure will perhaps, remain one of the enduring mysteries of Bollywood. The film featured Bachchan along with Rekha and Jaya and attempted to portray their real-life love triangle, which should have influenced numbers quite a bit. Bollywood gossip, after all, is forever a rage. The ‘hero’ committing adultery, possibly was more than what the audience could chew at the time.
Watch Silsila on Amazon Prime
6. Chandni (1989)
Chandni came at a time when mainstream Bollywood was inundated with corny and cringe-worthy action films. Yash Chopra’s musical starring Sridevi, Rishi Kapoor, Vinod Khanna was a celebration of romance in his signature style of storytelling. But more than that, it was a celebration of Sridevi, her beauty, charm, tremendous flair for acting. Her innate ability to light up the screen with her presence alone is enough to justify her character as the central role. She stood tall among the more experienced actors — Waheeda Rahman, Rishi Kapoor, Vinod Khanna, Sushma Seth.
There wouldn’t have been a bigger risk for Yash Chopra to do a heroine-centric film at a time when mainstream Bollywood was confined to the hero-villain template. But the film turned out to be hugely successful both critically and commercially.
Trivia: Yash Chopra was keen to cast Rekha as Chandni. That didn’t work out and Rekha apparently herself recommended Sridevi for the part.
Recommended: The Biggest Movies Rejected By Bollywood Stars
7. Lamhe (1991)
This film was well ahead of its time. A man loves a girl. She marries another man. The couple dies and leaves behind a daughter who falls in love with the same man who loved her mother. Awkward much? But there’s a but in between. The direction and execution by Yash Chopra gives it a very playful and innocent characteristic. It’s a simple film, the premise of which might be hard to stomach for some, but it has its heart in the right place. What a brave film for its times. Watch it for its execution.
Watch Lamhe on Amazon Prime
8. Darr (1993)
After his first hit Deewana (1992), Shah Rukh played dark, negative characters, a risk few actors would take at that stage of their careers. In Darr, the pivotal character was an anti-hero. At a time when the hero-villain template perpetually dominated Hindi cinema, he could’ve comfortably been sidelined. But Shah Rukh made the most of the opportunity. He portrayed the obsessive, psychopathic stalker astoundingly well. And for a director enamoured with the idea of romance, whose biggest successes were mostly rooted in romance, experimenting in a genre like this and faring brilliantly at it deserves as much applause. Darr became the third highest grosser that year; its overseas collections trumped all other films in 1993.
9. Veer Zara (2004)
From a well-knit, engaging story to compelling performances from Shahrukh Khan, Amitabh Bachchan, Preity Zinta, Rani Mukerji, this cross-border period romance had everything going for it. Manoj Bajpayee was impressive in a brief role. Madan Mohan’s soulful tunes brought alive the narrative, infusing it with depth and a certain sensitivity. Musically, this is one of Yash Chopra’s finest alongside Kabhie Kabhie and Chandni. (Trivia: Did you know Veer Zara was originally titled Yeh Kahaan Aa Gaye Hum, after the song from Silsila (1981)?)
10. Dil Toh Pagal Hai (1997)
The multi-starrer featuring Shah Rukh Khan, Madhuri Dixit, Akshay Kumar, Karisma Kapoor was one of the biggest hits of the 90s and the highest grosser that year. With Deewana (1992), Darr (1993), Baazigar (1993) followed by the iconic success of DDLJ (1995), Shahrukh was a roll, delivering one hit after the other. Dil Toh Pagal Hai was another turning point. He’d been crowned the king of romance by then. But it is also to Yash Chopra’s credit, who’d persuaded him to do romantic films. Yash Chopra-Shahrukh Khan duo headlined the 90s. Together they gave us Bollywood’s most memorable romantic films. The association that began with Darr continued till the director’s last film Jab Tak Hai Jaan (2012).
By Deepjyoti Roy, Mansi Dutta