Video: A Fond Look Back at Bollywood's Master of Epic Romance, Yash Chopra

I've lived in America for nearly ten years. And in those ten years, while I've picked up a ton of pop culture references and phrases like "that's what she said" from The Office and "oily bohunk" from Sixteen Candles, I still draw a blank when my friends make Star Wars or Star Trek references. Blasphemous! — I know. But while most of my American friends growing up were having the "Holy Cow! Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker's dad?" moment (sorry if I ruined that for someone), I was glued to our 1975-model Sony television watching Bollywood movies. And not just any Bollywood movies — specifically those by epic romantic film producer and director Yash Chopra.

Thus, when my Facebook page exploded with "R.I.P. Yash Chopra" messages this weekend, I was sad to read that the iconic Bollywood filmmaker passed away at the age of 80 on October 22, 2012, after contracting dengue fever. Chopra was also suffering from kidney ailments.

For those unfamiliar with Chopra's work, I like to think of his films as a blend of Nora Ephron's romantic scripts, Baz Luhrman's dramatic plots and villains and James Cameron's over-the-top production values. You'll hear critics say that the elaborate European backdrops for his stories, the numerous costume changes within a three-minute song and the same old "love will conquer all" plot in many of his romantic films had become quite predictable. But to me, Chopra will always be an epic director of romance and a maestro of emotional plots that kept moviegoers like me enthralled.

So here's a look back at some of Chopra's best work, spanning a career over more than 50 years.

(1973): This movie earned Chopra a Filmfare Best Director award. The trailer, while dramatic, offers some comic relief too.

(1975): This emotional scene features actor Amitabh Bachchan asking a higher power to return his mother to him. Watch the full movie here.

Kabhi Kabhi
(1976): This is an evergreen Chopra love ballad. The music from this movie won the Filmfare Best Music Award. It's also special because of the location — the entire movie was filmed in Kashmir. 

(1981): This song once again shows Chopra's talent for filming in breathtaking locations. The gist of the song is that even blooming flowers create a distance between two people in love. Wonder why he chose a field with row upon row of tulips for this?

(1989): Actress Sridevi is considered one of Chopra's top romantic heroines. Chandni was one of the films that made her one of Bollywood's top leading ladies in the 1980s. 

(1991): This movie won five Filmfare awards including best film, actress, comedian, story and dialogue. We picked a scene that shows you a Yash Chopra-style catfight! 

(1993): In this dark romance, Chopra deviates from his classic style to tell the story of a man obsessed with a woman who loves someone else. Despite all the murders in the movie, it won the National Film Award for Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment in India.

Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge
(1995): Considered one of Chopra's quintessential works, "DDLJ," as it is commonly referred to, is one of the first movies to highlight actor Shahrukh Khan's talent as a romantic hero. Spoiler alert! This is the film's epic finale. We could have chosen one of the iconic songs from this movie but this excerpt best demonstrates how Chopra was so skilled at creating dramatic and heart-wrenching scenes.

Band Baaja Baaraat
(2010): Throughout his career, Chopra was known for launching and showcasing the female leads in his movies. This movie about two wedding planners featured Anushka Sharma, who got her start in Chopra's 2008 movie Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi. This movie was also the debut for actor Ranveer Singh.

Jab Tak Hain Jaan
 (2012): Set to release on November 13, 2012, this is Chopra's last movie. The trailer aptly looks at his life's work as a filmmaker of romantic movies.

Lastly, an interview with another famous, romantic Bollywood director, Karan Johar — who coincidentally played the supporting role of best friend in Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge. To watch the whole series of videos of Chopra and Johar discussing his film career, click here.

About the Author

Profile picture for user Tahiat Mahboob
Tahiat Mahboob is Asia Society's Senior Multimedia Producer. She grew up in Bangladesh, worked at New York Fashion Week and taught at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.