Yash Chopra: The man who discovered new talents

Yash Chopra

Besides his films, and the unique banner that is Yash Raj Films that later also expanded into YRF Studios, Yash Chopra has given the industry an army of new talent on and behind the screen.

The list begins with himself as a screenplay writer (Daag, his debut production), his wife Pamela Chopra as singer (Doosara Aadmi) and later producer (Aaina) and co-writer (Dil To Pagal Hai, which was also co-written as a first by Uday Chopra), Aditya Chopra as writer-director (Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge or DDLJ) and later as a prolific producer (the 2004 Hum Tum was the first) and Uday again as producer (Yeh Dillagi) and later actor (Mohabbatein).

Nepotism? Far from it!! Given the chance, Chopra even brought talents who had been introduced by others but were languishing, to the fore – like Kajol who really became a superstar only after DDLJ, ditto Jatin-Lalit, its music directors. Music directors Dilip Sen-Sameer Sen hit A-list category when Chopra gave them Aaina and Yeh Dillagi, while Jolly Mukherjee’s brief tryst with fame as a singer was primarily due to the title-track of Chandni rather than his debut hit from Dayavan earlier.

Khayyam was a musical talent who had been around since the late ’40s, but it took a Kabhi Kabhie (1976) for him to hit big-time! Rajesh Khanna, of course, came back after a cavalcade of flops with Daag. And Parveen Babi really took off after Deewaar.

Among the lesser-known associations was Feroz Khan, the man who was rapidly evolving as an actor since his 1962 action debut, but was noticed only after his award-winning grey role in Aadmi Aur Insaan (1970) that made his career hit the fast lane. Nitin Mukesh’s career also went into fast gear after the hit title-track of Noorie¸ almost a full decade after his debut. Last but emphatically not the least, Amitabh Bachchan began his unique second innings with Mohabbatein and his flop-ridden but hugely talented son Abhishek Bachchan‘s career was set on track by Hum Tum (in a brief but memorable cameo) and Dhoom, the latter also proving to be Hema Malini’s daughter Esha Deol’s breakthrough. Ranbir Kapoor‘s Bachna Ae Haseeno too was his first success ever.

Let us also take a dekko at the lesser-known cases: Kirron Kher spotted in a cameo in Silsila – it was she who suggested the DDLJ title later, Karan Johar first seen on screen (and behind as an assistant director) in the same cult mega-hit, and Neil Nitin Mukesh’s first screen appearance as a child actor in Vijay.

An eye for acting talent

Yash Chopra

Every Yash Chopra protege did not become a star in their fields: after all, luck, hard work, talent and destiny all had their roles to play. Naseem, Mumtaz’s cousin, got a break opposite Rishi Kapoor in a blockbuster like Kabhi Kabhie, but disappeared after that. Poonam Dhillon, however, became a star after her small role in Trishul and her solo lead in Noorie. The later film saw Farooq Sheikh – later to become the reigning name in offbeat cinema alongside Naseeruddin Shah – turn hero after his television innings.

Miss India Swaroop Sampat was introduced in Nakhuda, and another singer’s son – Mahendra Kapoor’s beta Rohan Kapoor and Farha in Faasle. Vijay saw the debut of actress Sonam, and Farha and Sonam had a good innings as stars till their marriages. Lamhe also saw model Deepak Malhotra being introduced, while Saif Ali Khan and South star Ramya Krishnan made their debuts in Parampara (Ramya had done a cameo and a character role earlier).

Mohabbatein saw a slew of newcomers – besides Chopra’s son Uday, there was Shilpa Shetty’s sister Shamita Shetty, Preeti Jhangiani and Kim Sharma. It was also the first big film of Jimmy Sheirgill and Jugal Hansraj and Chopra even employed six fresh playback voices for them, two of whom had debuted along with a new team of director and artistes in the only tele-film he presented, Humko Ishq Ne Maara in the mid-’90s. Tulip Joshi played the lead in Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi Hai, using the screen name Sanjana.

Under the aegis of YRF, Aditya Chopra continues his father’s tradition. In the blockbuster Chak De! India (2007), 15 new girls were introduced as sportswomen: Anaitha Nair, Tanya Abrol, Shilpa Shukla, Sagarika Ghatge, Arya Menon, Chitrashi Rawat, Kimi Laldawla, Masochon Zimik, Sandia Furtado, Nichola Sequeira, Shubhi Mehta, Kimberly Miranda, Seema Azmi, Raynia Mascerhanas and Nisha Nair. The first six have since been seen in several films since.

YRF’s brightest discoveries of late have been Anushka Sharma, Ranveer Singh and Parineeti Chopra. The spitfire Anushka (Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi followed in quick succession by four other films with YRF) is an actor to watch, as is Ranveer who began with Band Baaja Baaraat. Parineeti began as one of the four ladies of Ladies Vs Ricky Bahl before graduating – Poonam Dhillon fashion complete with a reel ‘death’ – into a solo lead in Ishaqzaade alongside Boney Kapoor’s son Arjun Kapoor. In Luv Ka The End, Taaha Shah was introduced in a film that was also a re-launch for Shraddha Kapoor, Shakti Kapoor’s daughter, while in Mujhse Fraaandship Karoge Saba Azad (seen earlier in a non-starter), Tara D’Souza, Saqib Saleem and Nishant Dahiya started out.

Melody Makers

Yash Chopra
It was Yash Chopra who made Deewaar and Trishul co-writer Javed Akhtar pick up his pen to write lyrics for the first time in Silsila. In the same film, Hasan Kamaal wrote one song. Jaideep Sahni got his solo lyricist break in Salaam Namaste, and the now fast-rising Kausar Munir first wrote in Tashan.

Pandit Shivkumar Sharma joined hands with Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia to form the Shiv-Hari duo with Silsila, while Jeet-Pritam got their first big film in Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi Hai. When the duo split, it was YRF that gave Pritam, today’s hotshot, his first assignment, Dhoom. Pop name Raghav Sachar was introduced in Kabul Express, and Raghu Dixit scored Mujhse Fraaandship Karoge.

From Pakistan, it was Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan who was introduced in Nakhuda, while the six singers of Mohabbatein included Shweta Pandit, Jatin-Lalit’s niece.

Behind the screen

Yash Chopra’s mastery at direction gave him the skill to spot those good in their fields. The standout names among many that he introduced were Manmohan Krishna (the veteran character actor who was a favorite with him) in Noorie, future theater ace Ramesh Talwar (Doosara Aadmi), Deepak Sarin (Aaina) and Naresh Malhotra (Yeh Dillagi), Sanjay Gadhvi (Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi Hai), the director’s first film to be noticed and Kunal Kohli (Mujhse Dosti Karoge! )

In Chopra’s presentations we had Shaad Ali (Saathiya), Kabir Khan (New York), actor Parmeet Sethi (Badmaash Company), Maneesh Sharma (Band Baaja Baaraat) and child actor-turned- hero-turned director Jugal Hansraj (Roadside Romeo, the animation film). Nupur Asthana (Mujhse Fraaandship Karoge) is another bright talent.

Writers and technicians galore also started out or had their first trysts with fame under Chopra or his banner were ace production design Sharmistha Roy (Yeh Dillagi), writers Sagar Sarhadi (Kabhi Kabhie), Javed Akhtar’s wife and Farhan Akhtar‘s mother Honey Irani (Lamhe), Vijay Krishna Acharya (Dhoom, who is also directing Dhoom 3), audiographer Anuj Mathur (Lamhe) and Aseem Mishra (New York) – among many more.

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