On Saturday 7th June, as part of the currently ongoing London Asian Film Festival 2014, a very special tribute and remembrance event took place for the legendary late filmmaker Yash Chopra. With the promise of being a part of the audience hearing an in conversation between his wife Pamela Chopra and family friend and actor Anupam Kher, talking to Professor Rachel Dwyer, delving into what made the filmmaker tick and what kind of person he was, the BAFTA location seemed apt for this once-in-a-lifetime event.
BizAsia was ecstatic to be able to not only attend the prestigious event but also to catch up with some of the special guests of the night beforehand. Talking to Bollywood playback singer Ash King, who gave a rendition of the title track of ‘Kabhi Kabhie’ (1976) and Main Yahaan Hoon from ‘Veer-Zaara’ (2004) during the in conversation, he spoke about his feeling of being there, “It feels great to be invited to sing at this event which celebrates a pioneer of Indian cinema. I recently met Khayyamji (composer of the ‘Kabhi Kabhie’ track) at his house and he played me this song on the same harmonium that he composed it on. I saw it as a sign and therefore I simply had to sing this song tonight. I have come back to London just for this event and it is worth coming back for”. King was joined by another well-known name Nikhil George who accompanied him on the guitar when on stage.
Karan Pangali, British contestant of the first season of Hrithik Roshan’s debut as a TV show judge, ‘Just Dance’, was also present and told us about how he felt being at BAFTA for such an event. “For me, one of the reasons for pursuing a career in dance is heavily influenced by the movies. There was noone like Yashji to influence, when I was growing up, how much I loved this genre of entertainment… What I really appreciate about his movies are that he brings us back to our roots. In Dil To Pagal Hai, Madhuri mixes modern dance with Kathak and that’s what I’m doing today – merging East with West. Tonight is a unique chance to get a unique and personal glimpse into his life.”
Pangali also told BizAsia that he will be doing an opening performance at the forthcoming England vs India test match at Lords Cricket Ground next month.
Vinky Singh, writer and director of the documentary ‘The Master Stroke’ which was shown at the start of the event on Yash Chopra’s cinematic style also spoke to us, “It is an honour to be offering a tribute to Yashji. We’ve made ‘The Master Stroke’ to relish the six decades that Yashji had been a filmmaker.”
“‘Master Stroke’ explores Yashji’s work from his first film through to his last film through the Navrasas, the dominant emotional theme in a piece of art. We try to see his journey through the Navrasas. I want to give a lot of thanks to Pandit Birju Maharajji who has given us the beautiful pieces of Navrasas through the film. I feel enriched with this experience of making this film,” continued Singh. When asked to describe Yashji in one word, she called him a “genius”.
Extracts from the in conversation:
Pamela Chopra: “After I married, someone asked me what is my favourite film of all. At that time, Yash had not made Kabhi Kabhie, not Silsila, not Dil To Pagal Hai, not Veer-Zaara. I said my most favourite film in the world is Sangam. I said it was a perfect film! Beautiful music, beautiful actors, beautiful performances and beautiful visuals. I said I could watch the film again and again. Little did I know that it would be Yash’s film that would be my favourite after that.”
Anupam Kher: “When they were shooting Trishul, it was just near my hostel and one of my friends would say that Yashji’s shooting is happening. I had gone there as an extra and they were shooting at a construction building… I have done almost 481 films over the last 30 years but I have never had such a great time in outdoors as I had working on one of Yashji’s films, thanks to Pam. Only when you’re married to a director does the husband get up in the middle of the night to make notes… When we shot for Lamhe in England, we shot for 40 days and it was the 40 most amazing days of our lives. It was like a picnic…”
Pamela Chopra: “But Yash’s outdoors were always like a picnic”.
Pamela Chopra: “The music sittings were held in our house. It was one of the beauties of making films at that time. That one room in my house… oh yes and there’s so much music in the air there. It was amazing.”
Prof Rachel Dwyer: “Where did Yashji’s love for music come from?”
Pamela Chopra: “I don’t know but I think it was his love for Punjab. He liked Punjabi khaana, he loved the culture and also the music.”
Prof Rachel Dwyer: “I suppose that’s something that really came across in Veer-Zaara, which was your favourite film wasn’t it?”
Pamela Chopra: “Yes, it was my favourite but now my favourite is Jab Tak Hai Jaan”.
Anupam Kher: “Yashji knew more than 10,000 couplets and I’m not exaggerating. He had a great memory and he could talk on anything with such poetry. He was a great storyteller. I was his unofficial biographer (laughs). He used to talk about food. He told me once he had a competition with Dilip Kumar saab of eating mangoes. He said I made Dilip saab lose. I asked him why and he said I have eaten 105 mangoes. I asked how many Dilip saab ate and he said 93.”
Prof Rachel Dwyer: “Yashji had what I suppose today we would call emotional intelligence. He would instantly know if something was bugging you but he also had a child-like quality which as a combination I don’t think I’ve really seen in anybody.
Anupam Kher: “I said to someone outside that how people change your life is very silent. It’s not black and white. I sometimes behave in a certain way and I discovered it’s something Yashji used to do… Being good to people, it came very naturally to him.”
Pamela Chopra: “That was a great quality; his humility.”
Prof Rachel Dwyer: “There was an extraordinary bond between him and his boys”.
Anupam Kher: “Yes, he was a great father.”
Pamela Chopra: “He always had time for them, no matter what he was doing and no matter how urgent.”
Prof Rachel Dwyer: “And to allow Adi to grow up and flourish and create his own life.. to allow your son to be that good at something you’re also good at; it’s a big thing to do… the way he listened to Adi I thought was extraordinary.”
Anupam Kher: “He had great faith in Adi’s ability. He discovered the brilliance of Aditya Chopra and he was not just a father but also a person who had so much background and Adi proved that he is capable of that. And he was an assistant to Aditya Chopra during Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge and the best production manager.”
Prof Rachel Dywer: “That must’ve been an extraordinary film for you”.
Anupam Kher: “Yep. It’s going to be it’s 1000th week in the next to next week. It’s a record and it’s still running in that particular theatre.”
Prof Rachel Dwyer: “I remember once he told me that he’s always told that he makes films about such rich people. He said to me that he did that because he didn’t want them to have any problems in their life other than the emotional problems. He said their lives should be otherwise straight-forward. He coined this phrase which I quoted called glamorous realism. People have picked that up because it’s such a wonderful term for what he did. Yet the emotional trueness was in his work”.
Pamela Chopra: “He was very very fond of her [Rani Mukerji]. When he first learnt that Adi was with her, he was very happy. So there was no controversy. We’re very happy that she’s now a member of the family. She makes my son happy so I’m very happy”.
Photos courtesy: Shyama Sudra