50 Years of Yash Raj Films: Landmark & Game-Changing Films Over Time

Aditya Chopra, the chairman and managing director of Yash Raj Films (YRF), has launched a new logo to commemorate 50 glorious years of the production house.

With the film Daag (1973), YRF was founded by the late Yash Chopra, a veteran of the Indian film industry, in 1970.

It is the only privately held and fully integrated studio in India producing and having produced over 80 films.

Over the last five decades, YRF’s catalogue of films could be easily India’s most enviable film catalogue in the entertainment business. 

The production’s highest grossing movies have already placed the company in the big league of producers worldwide, making it one of the largest film-making entities in the nation.

YRF has been one of the key makers of modern cinema and has heralded cinematic trends since its inception – the way films are made, the way films are marketed and the way films are consumed.

To mark the 50 years of Yash Raj Films, Filme Shilmy reflects on distinct movies and upped the game for the production house. 

Kabhi Kabhie (1976)

A dreamy ensemble cast and a love story that exceeds the paradigms of time and space.

It exhibits Amit (Amitabh Bachchan) and Pooja (Raakhee Gulzar) love each other but their parents are against their relationship. They decide to marry as per their parents’ wishes.

Things take a turn when they meet again after many years and their new generations cross paths.

Through heartwarming poetry, melodious numbers and visually arresting scenery, this movie is the epitome of Yash Chopra’s cinema.

Kabhi Kabhie conveys several emotions and moments of recollection, remorse and repentance, among others. There was an aura of unspoken love and compassion in the narrative.

With some sensitive performances and glamorous appeal (through costumes and locations), it is a pivotal work when it comes to ‘escapism’ in Hindi cinema.

Kaala Patthar (1979)

Kaala Patthar is a very special film as it arguably marks YRF’s first action venture and perhaps the initial Hindi ventures based on the 1975 Chasnala mining disaster.

Whilst the film may not have been a roaring commercial success, it has since gained a cult status and for good reason.

Another multi-starrer (of names like Amitabh Bachchan, Shatrughan Sinha, Shashi Kapoor, Neetu Kapoor and Rakhee, etc), it convolutedly showcases people from all walks of life showing courage and character to fight the forces of nature.

Furthermore, there is an emphasis on how the working class are those who bear the brunt of corruption and power-abuses.

Amidst Chopra’s grittier work which is powerful and resonates strongly with the common person.

Silsila (1981)

Given that rumour mills had spun regarding the cast of Silsila, it also explores the upper-class society and the social reactions towards extramarital affairs. A bold film and progressive, to some extent.

Pamela Chopra, wife of Yash Chopra describes this movie as:

“The marriage is a very, very sacred institution in India and when the director created sympathy for the two lovers who were willing to go outside their marriage and continue their love affair, he did not carry the audience with him.”

Adultery is an unethical practice and itself taboo topic, but this movie deals with such a subject in a  sensitive and mature manner.

Lamhe (1991)

Another bold and ahead-of-its-time is Lamhe, which is cited to be Yash Chopra’s favourite. After seeing Sridevi’s idyllic performance in Chandni (1989), we get to observe her in a double role in this romantic drama.

When the young Viren (Anil Kapoor) comes to Rajasthan for the first time, he is captivated by Pallavi (Sridevi). When he learns she is already spoken for, he returns to London a broken man.

When he gets the news of Pallavi and her husband dying and leaving their daughter Pooja (Sridevi) behind, Viren ensures that she is taken care of.  20 years on, Viren comes back to India and sees Pooja for the first time – a spitting image of her mother.

Viren feels that destiny is playing a cruel game with him when Pooja confesses she is in love with him – yet another moment that changes his life – forever.

A complex, brave and somewhat controversial love story which has since gained a cult status.

Darr (1993)

Yash Raj Films had shown the spirit of unconditional and poignant love. However, Darr showcases the violent spectrum of love (if we can call it that). Perhaps the most malevolent one for that time.

Kiran (Juhi Chawla) is in love with Sunil (Sunny Deol), a navy officer but soon becomes subject to the obsession of Rahul (Shah Rukh Khan), sparking the debate of whether the film normalises/glamourises the horrific crime of stalking.

Despite the premise being quite dark and sinister, the movie retains the signature trademarks of Yash Chopra – i.e. Switzerland, melodious music and stellar performances.

But for the production, it was a profitable venture and marked the start of Shah Rukh Khan’s legendary collaboration with YRF.

Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (DDLJ) (1995)

Years in Bollywood have passed and almost everyone knows. Even now, people talk about it with stars in eyes and gush over the beauty of it.

The film connected with different strata of society and the common factor which bound them was family values as well as the notion of following one’s heart.

As commercial cinema, it is among the initial Bollywood films to fully exhibit the lifestyles of non-resident Indians, cementing SRK and Kajol’s status as an iconic pairing.

A multi award-winner and blockbuster, over 24 years after its first release, it is still being shown at the Maratha Mandir theatre in Mumbai. Now, THAT is something to celebrate.

Dhoom series (2004-Present)

Whilst Bollywood had several successful action films – Dhoom paved the way for a new franchise and is a series which is different from other ‘love’ narratives depicted by YRF.

The ventures consist of high-octane stunts, glamourous names, foot-tapping soundtracks and intense narratives.

Headlined by the buddy-cop duo of Jai (Abhishek Bachchan) and Ali (Uday Chopra), every movie showcases them fighting robbers on a great scale in a cat-and-mouse chase.

Whilst critical receptions vary, the team certainly laugh their way to the bank!

Salaam Namaste (2005)

Moving away from the ‘star-crossed’ lover moulds of relationships, Salaam Namaste is a trendsetter of many sorts. Bold, but yet appeals to familial audiences.

It’s a film that discusses ‘taboo’ societal subjects like live-in relationships, pre-marital sex, pregnancy out of wedlock as well as tackling gender stereotypes.

Saif Ali Khan plays commitment-phobic Nick who falls in love with radio jockey Ambar (Preity Zinta).

The film showcases their love, hardships and how, as a couple, they overcome all the differences and hurdles.

Generally, the movie conveys the message that one needs to be aware of all benefits and responsibilities before entering a live-in relationship.

Kabul Express (2006)

Kabir Khan’s Kabul Express is a very unique movie to be backed by the production house.

Fusing various genres such as action, adventure, thriller and (some) comedy, the film delves into a post 9/11 Afghanistan.

It narrates two Indian journalists (John Abraham, Arshad Warsi), an American journalist, a Pakistani and an Afghan guide together are forced to take a 48-hour journey into a war-torn country.

Until this movie released, we had seen works of various genres, but this became the first to focus on modern history and the impact of war on a country.

Band Baaja Baaraat (2010)

BBB was the first time we saw a romantic-comedy in the world of wedding planning and it set the trend of small-town romances in Hindi cinema.

Marking the debut of (now) Bollywood superstar Ranveer Singh, this slice-of-life movie realistically presents the lives of ordinary youths in Delhi.

He plays a college dropout who teams up with the ambitious Shruti Kakkad (Anushka Sharma) to run the successful marriage bureau, ‘Shaadi Mubarak.’

The spunky pairing of Anushka (who was an established actor during the film’s release) and Ranveer has managed to gain iconic status.

Made on a very modest budget, The Maneesh Sharma emerged as the most-popular sleeper hit of 2010, proving that content is always king!

Mardaani series (2014-Present)

Pradeep Sarkar’s Mardaani marked Rani Mukerji’s comeback into Bollywood after a 3-year hiatus and what a return it was. A hard-hitting, intriguing and thought-provoking watch it proved to be.

With two films releasing so far (Mardaani 2 in 2019), they showcase IPS Shivani Shivaji Roy (Mukerji) investigating heinous crimes of child sex trafficking and serial rapes/murders in both respective instalments.

It’s the first YRF project to exhibit a female actor taking center stage, without the support of a male counterpart.  

A critical and commercial success, Mardaani movies set the benchmark for powerfully representing of Indian female cops and Rani’s iconic performance proves that heroism includes, but is not bound by gender.

On the whole, Yash Raj Films have been pioneers of romance in Bollywood and in many of their works, love has played a pivotal aspect.

However, as time has evolved, they too have begun to push the envelope further and in many cases, set various trends. 

Since we celebrate 50 years of the establishment, here’s hoping the forthcoming years will be just as challenging and creative!

About Anuj Radia 1013 Articles
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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