The Yash Chopra melody traversed a spectrum from the fields of Punjab to the Swiss Alps, but remained what it was - essentially desi melody. His music was a complex canvas - influenced as it was through his early films for B.R.Chopra's banner to what came to be known post-Chandni as classic YRF music.
When YRF later moved on to the trendier sounds of films that were Yash Chopra 'presentations', that is, the films that were produced by YRF or its Y Films wing, what we heard was clearly not the sensibility of the legendary director, and there are cogent reasons for opining this. First and foremost, there was short shrift given (with some standout exceptions) to meaningful lyrics and deep melodies, two, when Chopra did venture into direction in his last two decades from 1993 to 2012, he did not opt for any of the 'trendy' music makers or songwriters who were churning out most of YRF's music.
Last but not the least, Yash Chopra's swan song Jab Tak Hai Jaan sort of lacks his flavour. The album has gone into frequencies that are not much like Chopra's; also because of the fact that Lata Mangeshkar is completely absent, her first absence from a film directed by Chopra after the 1975 Gulshan Rai production Deewaar! Five of six songs in the first-ever YRF film Daag, five of eight in Kabhi Kabhie, all except one song in Lamhe: that was the kind of mellifluous hold Lata would have in a Yash Chopra-directed film.
The BR-Yash melody
Sahir remained a constant in the first two decades of Chopra's directorial innings. Chopra had the talented composer N.Dutta in his first film Dhool Ka Phool, spinning classics like 'Tu Hindu Banega Na Mussalman Banega', 'Tere Pyar Ka Aasra Chahata Hoon' and 'Dhadakne Lagi Dil Ke Taaron Ki Duniya'. His second film Dharamputra saw N.Dutta create the dulcet 'Main Jab Bhi Akeli Hoti Hoon' and the rouser 'Jai Janani Jai Bharat Maa'.
The music of these films somewhere seemed to set the pattern for Yash Chopra's sensibilities. Other than the Punjabi song that was to become his signature stamp soon, Chopra preferred sedate melodies rather than peppy ones even for his bright romantic songs. Being a closet poet himself, he gave lyrics a lot of importance, one more tip he took from bade bhai B.R.Chopra who was himself a writer.
Given this background, a benchmark song like 'O Meri Zohra Jabeen' from Waqt - considered one of Hindi cinema's most intense romantic songs ever -practically seemed effervescent, given the setting of a not-so-young husband complimenting his wife! The same Waqt, a film originally offered to Shankar-Jaikishan, who turned it down because Hasrat and Shailendra would not be a part of it, had what easily ranks as one of the finest masterpieces ever in his films - 'Aage Bhi Jaane Na Tu' sung with a mix of sizzle and a subtle sense of foreboding by Asha and composed by Ravi. But once again, sobriety pervaded the romantic duets like 'Hum Sab Simatke Aap Ki Baahon Mein Aa Gaye' and 'Din Hai Bahaar Ke'.
The Ravi-Sahir team scored another winner in Aadmi Aur Insaan, with 'Neele Parbaton Ki Dhaara, Zindagi Ittefaq Hai' and the inspiring 'Dil Karta O Yaara Dildaara' and 'Jaagega Insaan Zamana Dekhega' coming in.
YRF's opening notes
When Yash Chopra branched out to form Yash Raj Films, he had to put his best foot forward. Laxmikant-Pyarelal, then already the topmost names, were signed for the music. By the time the film was completed, however, Rajesh Khanna had been affected by six flops, and it was L-P's music that became the biggest initial draw as the distributors thought that the film's bold end of a man living with two women was commercially dicey.
And so it was the all-hit score led by 'Mere Dil Mein Aaj Kya Hai' and the two duets 'Ab Chahe Maa Roothe Ya Baba' and 'Hum Aur Tum', with YRF's first Punjabi theka - based number 'Ni Main Yaar Manana Ni', 'Hawa Chale Kaise' and finally the Sahir tour de force, 'Jab Bhi Ji Chahe' rounding up the score.
L-P were next signed for YRF's Gardish, starring Amitabh Bachchan and Parveen Babi that was to be directed by the Chopra brothers' then-permanent editor, Pran Mehra. The project was stillborn and then came Kabhi Kabhie, the trans-generation love story. This time, a sitting with the duo did not work out and Sahir brought in the out-of-work talent Khayyam. Khayyam staged a great comeback with this film, especially with the songs sung by Mukesh for the poet played by Amitabh Bachchan, 'Kabhi Kabhi Mere Dil Mein' (with Lata) and 'Main Pal Do Pal Ka Shaayar Hoon'.
The trilogy of Chopra's films for Rai, however, was not noted for their melodies. And if Chopra had made L-P go sober, he did the same with R.D.Burman in Joshila and Deewaar, with 'Kiska Rasta Dekhe', Dev Anand's litany in jail in the former film, later forming the base for RD's future hit 'Kuch Na Kaho' (in terms of the musical metre). And Sahir was at his cynical best in 'Koi Mar Jaaye Kisi Pe' in Deewaar!
At this point, Chopra emulated his brother by giving directorial breaks to others in his productions, and while Khayyam shouldered Noorie (with its cult 'Aaja Re' title-track by Lata and Nitin Mukesh), Rajesh Roshan came in to compose the brilliant soundtracks of Doosra Aadmi and the Chopra-directed Kaala Patthar. While other songs held center-stage when these films first hit the marquee, the gems that have truly endured over the decades have been 'Aao Manaaye Jashn-E-Mohabbat' from the first film and 'Ek Raasta Hai Zindagi' and Lata-Rafi's 'Baahon Mein Teri Masti Ke Dere' from the latter. Doosara Aadmi's music was significant also because Chopra's wife Pamela Chopra turned singer with two popular duets, 'Jaan Meri Rooth Gayi' with Kishore, and one with comedian Deven Verma - 'Angna Aayenge Saawariya'.
The '80s saw YRF music launching future icons: Pt. Shivkumar Sharma and Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia, legendary santoor and flute experts, formed the Shiv-Hari due with Silsila, in which Chopra made scriptwriter Javed Akhtar turn to his genetic trait of poetry and lyrics with classics like 'Neela Aasmaan So Gaya' and 'Dekha Ek Khwab'. And if the legendary veteran Rajendra Krishan had his only tryst with Chopra in the hit 'Pehli Pehli Baar Dekha Aisa Jalwa', Chopra introduced Hasan Kamal too as a lyricist with 'Sar Se Sarki' a year before his major break with the senior Chopra's Nikaah.
Silsila's mega-score also saw Amitabh Bachchan being a vocalist in three songs in a single film - 22 years before B.R.Films' Baghban! -with 'Neela Aasmaan', 'Yeh Kahaan Aa Gaye Hum' with Lata, and of course the song his father Dr Harvanshrai Bachchan came in to write to the situation: 'Rang Barse'. Chopra later was to make actors like Anupam Kher (Vijay) and Sridevi (Chandni, Lamhe) also sing in his films.
In the other 1981 score, Nakhuda, the qawwali 'Haq Ali' marked the singing debut of a Pakistani singer called Nusrat Ali and his brother Mujahad Ali under Khayyam's baton: in the '90s, the singer was to achieve international fame as Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan!
While his other '80s films like Mashaal, Sawaal, Faasle and Vijay had nothing 'note'worthy in them, it was Chandni (composed by Shiv-Hari) that finally became the flagship score of what came to be known as the 'YRF brand of music'.
Chandni was also significant for a great turn in Chopra's music - the entry of Anand Bakshi, who was supposed to do Joshila at one point of time. Chopra had been experimenting with different lyricists after Sahir's death, and he found the perfect mix of pith and mass-appealing simplicity in Bakshi that lasted through landmark scores like Lamhe, Darr, Dil To Pagal Hai and his productions Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Mohabbatein and Mujhse Dosti Karoge!, till fate snatched Bakshi away too. In this phase, the music composers changed - from Shiv-Hari to Jatin-Lalit, Uttam Singh and Pt. Shivkumar's son Rahul Sharma - but Bakshi was a Sahir-like fixture.
In between, Chopra also went to Sameer for three films of lyrical note that were quite popular musically: Dilip Sen-Sameer Sen's Aaina and Yeh Dillagi and his only tele-film made to launch a television music competition winners, Humko Ishq Ne Maara, composed by Aadesh Shrivastava.
Yash Chopra, if sources are to be believed, had sittings with several composers when he was planning the music of his Indo-Pak film Veer-Zaara. Unable to tune with the youngsters, he decided to use the late Madan Mohan's unrecorded tunes as the entire soundtrack of the film, and aided by Javed Akhtar's lyrics, made it a super-selling soundtrack, making even tunes composed by the stalwart from the '70s sound as fresh as 2004 when the film hit the screen. Yash Chopra always knew his melody.