Legendary filmmaker B.R. Chopra passes away

Legendary filmmaker B.R. Chopra passes away
Mumbai, Nov 5 (PTI) Legendary filmmaker Baldev Raj Chopra, better known as B R Chopra died today at his residence here following prolonged illness.

He was 94.

Chopra was not keeping well for some time and the end came at 0830 hours at his residence in suburban Juhu.

Chopra, one of India's most respected film personalities is survived by his filmmaker son Ravi Chopra and two daughters.

The eminent producer-director was the elder brother of filmmaker Yash Chopra.

The funeral will take place at the Juhu crematorium at 4.30 pm, family sources said.

The filmmaker was known for converting offbeat stories highlighting socially relevant issues into immortal classics like 'Dhool Ka Phool' (1959), 'Waqt'(1965) and 'Naya Daur' (1957), 'Kanoon' (1958), 'Humraz' (1967), 'Insaf Ka Tarazu' (1980) and 'Nikah' (1982) to name a few.

Born on 22nd April 1914, in undivided Punjab, Chopra's interest in films started as a movie journalist.

After partition, he moved to Delhi and then to Mumbai. He began his celluloid career writing and editing film reviews for the Cine Herald Journal.

A Long Journey

In 1949, he produced his first film 'Karwat', which unfortunately turned out to be a flop.

In 1951, he tried his luck again as producer and director of film 'Afsana' which became a mega hit at the box office. The movie, a tale of mistaken identity with Ashok Kumar in double role, went for a silver jubilee run.

In 1955, B R formed his own production house 'B.R. Films'. His first movie for this production house was highly successful 'Naya Daur'.

Encouraged by this success, B R started off on a roll with the release of 'Ek Hi Raasta '(1956), a drama about widow remarriage and then churned out a string of successful films, the most notable being 'Naya Daur'(1957), 'Sadhana' (1958), 'Kanoon' (1960), 'Gumrah' (1963) and 'Humraaz' (1967).

He also gave his younger brother Yash Chopra, his first directorial opportunity with the box-office hit 'Dhool Ka Phool (1959) and in the subsequent years Yash made four more films, including 'Waqt' (1965) and 'Ittefaq' (1969).

B R was instrumental in developing the career of singer Mahendra Kapoor and utilised him in most of his movies.

His foray into television led to 'Mahabharat', one of the most successful TV serials in Indian television history. B.R. Chopra had always endeavoured to make socially relevant films, which at the same time tried to cater to popular sentiments.

For instance, 'Naya Daur' (1957) told the story of a traditional rural community threatened with modernism and mechanism. B R perceived mechanism as evil and had the protagonist, a horse carriage rider, defeat an automobile in a race.

He also made films that were regarded as ahead of their time. 'Kanoon' (1960) was a courtroom drama without any songs at all (music being essential of all Hindi films, this was a novel technique).

'Gumrah' (1963) told the tale of a woman resuming her affair after marriage and 'Ittefaq' (1969) showed the heroine as a killer of her husband.

B R continued to make films into the 1970s and 1980s, and met success with 'Insaf Ka Tarazu' (1980) focusing on the issue of rape, and Nikaah (1982), a Muslim love triangle.

His son Ravi did try to keep the banner going but none of the films did well except for 'Aaj Ki Awaz' (1984), another courtroom tale, and the family epic 'Baghban' (2003).

B R Films turned to television in 1985 and made several successful television programmes, the most successful of the being the serial 'Mahabharata' (1988).

It entered the 'Guinness Book of World Records' by registering 96 per cent world viewership. In 1999, B.R. was awarded the Dada Saheb Phalke Award for his contribution to Indian cinema.

B.R's third generation has also taken its bow with one of Ravi's son turning director and another an actor.

Socially relevant films, catering popular sentiment

Substance was the hallmark of B R Chopra's films but the legendary filmmaker who passed away here today at the age of 94 always felt that the rise of money and stardom have vitiated the image of Indian cinema.

The eminent producer-director was of the view that a film is not just about jugglery with money. He believed that a film addresses itself to the society and it is the duty of filmmakers to make healthy and wholesome films, preferably with good story and social significance.

Chopra practised what he preached. Whether it was adultery (Gumraah), the politics of rape (Insaaf Ka Tarazu), Muslim matrimony laws (Nikaah), rehabilitation of prostitutes (Sadhana), widow remarriage (Ek Hi Raasta), Chopra always had a sharp, clear and effective non-formula tale to tell.

Baldev Raj Chopra gave great importance to story because he himself had started his career as a writer.

An MA in English literature, he would have continued to work as a film journalist with the Cine Herald had it not been the partition of India. Post Independence, he came to Mumbai and after a stint in production, made his first directorial venture with 'Afsana' (1951).

The story was about good and evil featuring twin brothers, both played by Ashok Kumar in a double role. 'Afsana' was a success and Chopra's narrative cohesion was widely admired.

When Chopra entered the film business after coming from Lahore, he had no experience of filmmaking and did not know how to contact stars.

He wanted to sign Ashok Kumar for 'Afsana' and had to use the good offices of J P Tiwari, Chairman of Bombay Talkies.

With the success of 'Insaaf ka Taraazu' 'Nikaah' and 'Tawaif', Chopra reasserted the superiority of a director even in the era of megastars.

It is to B R Chopra's credit that he always picked up socially relevant topics and yet catering to popular sentiment so as to convey his message to larger audience effectively.

Chopra's magnum opus 'Naya Daur' portrayed the conflict between rural tradition and modern technology. The protogenist of the film defeats a motor vehicle in a race.

The film is a quintessentially Nehruvian film that fitted in nicely with the new initiatives in economic planning and rural community development in the first decade of Indian independence.

It hailed by critics as a powerful and vibrantly gripping film. "B R Films' 'Naya Daur' is a distinctly successful combination of pertinent social education and moral and top rate entertainment," critics had said.

The black and white film was recently re-released with coloured print but failed to capture the magic of the original.

Many of Chopra's films were regarded as bold and ahead of their time. He dared to try a songless film with a hard- hitting suspense courtroom drama, 'Kanoon'; showed a woman resuming her affair with her lover after marriage in 'Gumrah', a tale of marital infidelity.

In 'Ittefaq' (1969) his heroine kills her husband with the help of her lover and in 'Dhund' (1973), a woman married to a paralytic takes on a lover.

'Gumrah' needs special mention because it describes the 'Lakshmanrekha', the sacred threshold of a traditional family inside which lies the safety of a married woman and the consequences of what happens if she crosses the line and goes astray.

In the film, the heroine (Mala Sinha) has to marry her sister's husband for sake of the children when the sister dies even though when she is involved with another person.

As the woman caught between her husband and lover, otherwise having a tendency to work herself into hysterical, melodramatic histrionics of the highest order, responds with perhaps her career's most effective performance.

However ending of all these films was in keeping with the popular norms of the day. The sanctity and purity of marriage had to be preserved. Duty and sacrifice had to take preference to matters of the heart. So in 'Gumrah' the woman finally chooses to live with her husband, while in 'Ittefaq' the woman kills herself as repentance.

Chopra continued to make films in the 1970s and 80s and tasted big success with 'Insaaf ka Taraazu' (1980) and 'Nikaah' (1982).

His son Ravi did try to keep the BR Banner going but the films directed by him barring a stray 'Aaj ki Awaaz' (1984) have not done well at the box-office.

However Ravi and the banner made a grand comeback when Baghban (2003), looking at the journey of an elderly couple (Amitabh Bachchan and Hema Malini) who are let down by their children.

Today B R Films has diversified into Television after the the success of television serial 'Mahabarat' in the 80s.

B R Chopra has for long been the Hindi film industry's senior spokesman and was deservedly awarded the Dadasaheb Phalke Award for his contribution to Indian Cinema in 1999.

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