Here is a story of love: Yash Chopras love for romantic stories and cinema. In 1971,Yash Chopra left brother director-producer B R Chopras home as well as company to set up his own production house. His sole mandate for the new venture was to tell stories from the heart,passionately. The following year,his first venture Daag-The Poem of Love,a story of love and sacrifice with Rajesh Khanna,Sharmila Tagore and Raakhee went on floor. It released in 1973 to houseful shows,establishing his banner,Yash Raj Films (YRF).
Daag was only one of the many cinematic love triangles that Yash Chopra churned out during the decades that followed. They became his trademark and spun a success formula. But in the 40 years of its existence and more so in the last decade the banner has become much more than the maker of love stories in dreamy locations. Since 2006,this self-sufficient production house has a technologically sound studio in the heart of Mumbai,a music label,talent and marketing departments,and Y Films their youth-oriented production house. The inevitable stamp of its success comes from the Khans of Bollywood. YRF is working with all three Salman,Shah Rukh and Aamir this year. Another sign of their success in selling dreams,is a crowd of aspirants,which is a permanent fixture outside its fortified studio.
YRF got off to an impressive start from the beginning. Yash Chopras impressive track record in filmmaking while working with his brother helped him rope in some of the best talents of that time. While the success of Kabhi Kabhie,Kaala Patthar and Silsila helped the banner,Yash Chopra grew as a director by working for some iconic projects he directed Deewaar and Trishul for Gulshan Rais Trimurti Films. The success of these made it easier for him to get big names for his home productions, says Ramesh Talwar,who assisted Yash Chopra in his early years. But what emerged as his biggest strength was the ability to feel the pulse of the audience. Thats the reason he has been able to survive and prosper in this fickle industry for so long, says Talwar.
Like most in the industry,YRFs career graph is marked by ups and downs. Chopra had a lean period in the early 80s when Mashaal and Vijay did average business. Post Chak De! India (2007),they had as many as 10 flops in a row,including Laaga Chunari Main Daag,Aaja Nachle,Tashan,Thoda Pyar Thoda Magic,Roadside Romeo and Dil Bole Hadippa! among others. YRF has not enjoyed desired success either. Their television software alliance with Sony too failed to reap profit.
However,YRF has come out of these low phases,using their magic formula of romantic movies. In the late 80s,Chopra made Chandni. It was the starting point for Yash Chopra brand of movies: heroine-oriented stories,leading ladies clad in chiffon saris,excellent music,songs picturised in Switzerland and unlimited romance. The movies that followed Lamhe,Darr,Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge,Dil Toh Pagal Hai,Mohabbatein and Veer Zaara mostly stuck to a the same formula. However,even as Chopra took his crew to foreign locales,he stuck to his roots in Punjab,having Punjabi characters in almost all films.
And for most actors,working with the banner has been a matter of prestige. Juhi Chawla,who has worked in three of their productions Chandni,Aaina and Darr cites signing Darr as a career-defining moment for her. I had worked in films where dialogues were written on sets. Yashji had a bound script even when he first narrated the film to me, says Chawla. It is also said that in the 1990s,most actors wanted to be a part of the YRF clan for two reasons stability and a makeover from the kind of roles they did.
Chopra has also introduced newcomers in different fields. Silsila introduced Javed Akhtar as a lyricist and Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma and Hari Prasad Chaurasia as music composers. Amrish Puris breakthrough came with Mashaal while Darr propelled Shah Rukh Khan to superstardom. In the recent past,Ranveer Singh and Anushka Sharma have been their biggest finds. Aditya Chopra has consciously decided that as industry leaders,we do need to be at the forefront of discovering and giving opportunities to new talent in all spheres of the filmmaking process, says Rafiq Gangjee,VP Marketing and Communications,YRF. Aditya,Yash Chopras elder son and vice chairman of YRF,has not taken over the reins of the banner,but has infused new energy in the company. Aditya after helming two successful films Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge and Mohabbatein,decided to usher in the new millenium with a new plan for YRF, says Sanjay Gadhvi,who was one of the first directors to be brought on board at YRF,along with Kunal Kohli. I believe it was a planned move to ensure the growth of the banner, says Gadhvi,whose second film Dhoom also witnessed YRF venture into the action genre,unknown to them for a long time.
Next month,YRF will be back in theatre once again with a love story featuring two young actors Arjun Kapoor and Parineeti Chopra in Ishaqzaade. This will pave way for the release of Salmans Ek Tha Tiger,Shah Rukhs untitled romantic movie and Aamirs action thriller Dhoom 3. Cinematic treats like these is what Indian audience dreams of and YRF will probably make them come true.