In 1984, I was just 13 and way too young to know about a man called Yash Chopra. Having been brought up on just three films – The Sound of Music, My Fair Lady and Sholay (my brother, sister and I were allowed to watch the first two almost every Sunday if we wanted to, and Sholay whenever dad was in an exceptional mood!) – Mashaal was unbelievably only the second Hindi film we had been allowed to watch. Mashaal was like a cult classic! Dilip Kumar was like my father, high on principles and therefore always winning enemies; and those days, I was often made to feel like the vagabond that Anil Kapoor played in the movie. The film made me feel good, for, as Anil Kapoor changed and became a hero, I felt I also had a hero inside. My dad liked the movie not because he ever believed that he would have a role reversal in his life like Dilip Kumar had in the movie, but because watching such a role reversal at least made him happy somewhere deep inside, for very often, we all feel like hitting back with a vengeance. He also loved the dialogue, “Zamana bahut kharab hai Tolaram.” It was only the second Hindi film he had ever liked, and we added another Hindi film to our really short list of films to be watched when we were being good children! All other times, our black and white portable TV set used to be kept locked up inside a big Godrej almirah that we, like most middle class families, had those days. Slowly and steadily, over the years, we were allowed to watch more movies, especially once I had given my class tenth boards. And we started to catch up on all good movies with a vengeance.
Deewar, Trishul, Kaala Patthar, Silsila and Kabhi Kabhi followed soon and they, along with Mashaal, became six of my top ten personal favourites! It was only in 1988, when I was watching another movie Vijay (a remake of Trishul) and loved that too, that I suddenly realised that all my favourite films had one factor in common – a director by the name of Yash Chopra! There were traits through all these movies which were common! They had extremely hummable songs. A tune already established in one movie would go on to become a full fledged song in the next. The movies had exceptional storylines with great love stories enmeshed within. They were all attuned to the times they were made in. As India liberalised, the theme shifted from the angry young man and the rich versus poor fight to the Swiss valley love stories of the affluent class. And of course, all his movies always had the biggest element required for assured commercial success – the biggest stars of the day. The ones who were passé were ruthlessly dropped. Sharmila Tagore paved the way for Rekha; Rekha for Sridevi; and Sridevi for Madhuri. But they were all the most gorgeous of their times. If Shashi Kapoor was in Dharmaputra and Waqt, then it was Dharmendra in Aadmi Aur Insan, Rajesh Khanna in Ittefaq and Daag and the Big B in all those five I just mentioned; and then Anil Kapoor from Mashaal till Lamhe; and thereupon, only King Khan, from Darr to the latest in the offing!