Smriti Mundhara on getting reclusive YRF chief Aditya Chopra to speak on Netflix docu-series ‘The Romantics’

Indian-American filmmaker Smriti Mundhara is once again collaborating with Netflix on a docu-series romanticwhich looks back on 50 years of the iconic Indian film studio Yash Raj Films (YRF) and its late founder Yash Chopra.

The four-part series is streaming worldwide from today (February 14), deliberately coinciding with Valentine’s Day, as Chopra is known for directing romantic films. Kavi Kavi, Vir-Zara, Chandni And Lamhe.

Mundhara filmed interviews with 35 personalities from the Hindi language film industry, ranging from major stars including the three ‘Khans’, Shahrukh Khan, Salman Khan and Aamir Khan, to producers, writers, critics, journalists and costume designers.

But the real coup is getting Chopra’s famously reclusive son Aditya Chopra to speak on camera. A filmmaker in his own right, Chopra directed the longest-running Hindi film of all time, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (known as dialogue DDLJand took over the reins of the studio after his father’s death in 2012, but hasn’t given an interview since 1995.

Mundhara, who also produced the reality series Indian Matchmaking As for Netflix, most grew up in the US but says YRF films are “part of the fabric of my upbringing”. Her parents ran a movie theater in Los Angeles, which was one of the first US venues to show Hindi films and held a premiere for Chopra. Kavi Kavi In 1970.

He says that for most NRI (non-resident Indian) kids growing up in the US, YRF films played a big role in how they learned to speak Hindi. “Especially in the 90s as we came of age and movies became more accessible to us, they started to have a new resonance. DDLJ That was a great example. This was the first time we weren’t just watching our parents’ movies; It was speaking directly to our experiences as third culture kids. It was so exciting to see your kind of family, your kind of people and weddings on screen.”

When he approached YRF’s Los Angeles office about making the series, they gave him the keys to the archives, their blessing and all the necessary support. Except for one thing. Aditya Chopra was not going to talk.

But being the hard-hitting journalist that he is, Mundhara refused to give up. He advised her to speak in the background, then persuaded him to stay on camera, “just so you’ll have this record for the archives”, and inch by inch convinced him to let her have his input on the finished series. “It was a bit of a risk because we were editing his interviews into the series, and he might never agree, and we’d have to start editing again.”

Smriti Mundhara

“But any filmmaker who has worked with Aditya Chopra knows that his Achilles’ heel is creative integrity, and if it’s for the creative integrity of a project, he’ll move mountains,” Mundhara continued. “And when I showed him the series, complete with his interviews, I think it became clear to him how important his presence and his voice were to the series. I said, look, this is your family legacy and your family and your father’s and you. The ultimate story of the studio that created it. So your voice should be a part of it. And he gratefully agreed.”

In addition to footage of Yash Chopra and interviews with his son and wife, playback singer Pamela Chopra, the series includes one of the last interviews with Rishi Kapoor, who died in 2020. Apart from Khan, other stars include Amitabh Bachchan, Juhi Chawla, Rani Mukerji, Madhuri Dixit, Ranbir Kapoor, Ranveer Singh and Hrithik Roshan. Karan Johar, who started his career by assisting his cousin Aditya Chopra DDLJ And now a major producer-director in his own right, is widely interviewed.

Apart from being a fun, nostalgia-filled look at the history of Hindi cinema, Mundhara says the series has deep resonance. “While I was working on the series, I realized that it is not just the story of this iconic studio, the films are intertwined with India’s own story – from Partition, to the present day. They reflected many major trends, not only in filmmaking and cinema, but also the larger cultural, political and socio-economic changes that were taking place in the country over the decades.”

Since the series ended last year, it does not feature the latest development in YRF’s history, the fact that the studio has produced the biggest Hindi film ever, send, starring Shah Rukh Khan, opened on January 25 and grossed over $100 million worldwide. The Indian film industry has changed a lot in the last half century, but sendIts success indicates that its studios, stars and of course its audience are still hopeless romantics.

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