Yash Chopra’s 89th birth anniversary: Revisiting the making of Kabhie Kabhie

Yash Chopra’s 89th birth anniversary: Revisiting the making of Kabhie Kabhie

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Milind Dharmasena

Bengaluru: ‘Kabhie kabhie mere dil mein khayaal aata hai
Ke zindagi teri zulfon ki naram chhaon mein guzarne padi
Toh shadaab ho bhi sakti thi
Yeh ranj-o-gham ki siyahi joh dil pe chayi hai
Teri nazar ki shuaon mein kho bhi sakti thi
Magar yeh ho na saka, Magar yeh ho na saka
Aur ab yeh aalam hai, Ki tu nahi tera gham teri justaju bhi nahi’

(‘Sometimes, this thought crosses my heart,
That had life passed in the soft shadow of your tresses, it could have been delightful,
This ink of sorrow and grief that is spread on the heart,
It could have been lost in the warmth of your eyes,
But it could not happen, but it could not happen,
But, alas, this could not be and now the state is;
That neither you are here, nor sorrow for your absence nor longing for your presence’)

This beautiful rendering of the above poetry by Big B Amitabh Bachchan in the movie Kabhi Kabhie is still relevant for all times to come of a lover pining for his lost mate. That’s Yash Raj Chopra, who was a visionary director, producer and legendary dream merchant of Indian cinema.

If there’s one man who single-handedly redefined human emotions on screen, it was none other than Chopra. His understanding of fragile feelings was so deep, it’s hard to watch his films and not marvel at the man’s handling of various subjects. From portraying love across generations in Kabhi Kabhie to showcasing infidelity in Silsila, from the white-sari-clad Sridevi of a love triangle in ‘Chandni’ to ‘Dil Toh Pagal Hai ‘s ‘ Maya’ Madhuri Dixit, he had mastered every shade of romance.

One of the highlights of his films, though, were the dialogues. Not only did they perfectly summed up a character’s thoughts, they also left the audience brimming with emotions.

The making of ‘Kabhi Kabhie ‘ movie was the greatest challenge in Chopra’s career as he had to fight all the odds, including commercial norms and breaking the trend of action movies which was predominant in the `70s. Chopra wanted to make an experimental movie on romance with Kabhi Kabhie with an assemble of big stars with the likes of Amitabh Bachchan, Shashi Kapoor, Rakhee, Rishi Kapoor, Neetu Singh , Waheeda Rehman and others .It was a story about a poet who falls in love with his fellow student , but love fails as she marries an architect in an arranged marriage forced by parents.

Many things went against making of this movie. Chopra’s financer Gulshan Rai was skeptical of casting Bachchan in this role as the latter was a matinee idol with the image of an angry young man. Hence, casting him as a poet without any single fight, sporting a moustache and father of a college going girl in the latter half of the movie would go against his stardom and people would reject the movie outright .

Rai invited Chopra for dinner and advised him to shelve the project after watching the movie during re-recording. Rai had explained to Chopra as Bachchan had already given two action oriented blockbuster movies ‘Sholay ‘ and ‘ Deewar the previous year. Secondly, the music was an issue .Music director R D Burman was reigning the music industry with pacy chart busters ,while yester- year’s music composer Khayyam was roped in to compose songs for Kabhie Kabhie.Rai said this will make distributors to back out which disappointed Chopra.

But Chopra stood his ground and tried to convince Rai that he was confident of the script and music. Besides Sahiir Ludhianvi’s lyrics needed a maestro, who could understand poetry and hence Khayyam was roped in .The rest is history as the film’s songs are still a gem with every music lover.

Even as everyone advised Chopra against making this movie, it was sound recordist Mangesh Desai, who encouraged Yash Chopra, saying this will be a block-buster. The movie released to a low turn out in metros like Mumbai while New Delhi had huge collections initially. Even film critics were harsh on Chopra and one noted English daily said Chopra should quit making movies, don saffron and spend rest of his life in Himalayas. Gulshan Rai left Mumbai to Mahabaleshwar depressed fearing a huge loss. But an optimistice Chopra asked his technicians including music director Khayyam to pray for the movie’s success.

After two weeks the movie ran to full houses across country for the next 37 weeks. What worked for Chopra here was his magic of weaving romance with poetry and music together.

The title song Kabhi Kabhie Mere dil Mein Khayaal…was a chart -buster for years .It made every loving hearts render poetry for their loved ones and songs of this movie became anthem of love.
Chopra took his mastery of romance in this movie to a different level.

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