I don’t specifically remember the first Yash Chopra movie I ever watched. But as a notoriously filmy kid, I do remember being on stage in a kindergarten function in Lucknow, reciting my favourite Bollywood lines. Where other little children would sing ‘Twinkle, twinkle, little, star’, I remember trying to do a Shashi Kapoor accent and delivering his iconic Deewar line, “Mere paas maa hai,” amidst the cheering audience.
I remember many a banter with kids at school in my little time in Delhi, where my comeback to any insult would usually be, “Jinke khud ke ghar sheeshe ke bane hote hain, unhein doosron ke ghar pe patthar nahin phainkne chahiye.” I also remember coming back from school every day and announcing, “Maa, main aa gaya hoon.”
I remember, during my summer vacations at my hometown in Karnal, being devastated when Shatrughan Sinha died in Kaala Patthar. I remember being elated when ‘Saif Ali Khan and Aamir Khan reunited at the end of Parampara. I remember dancing to ‘Rang Barse’ during Holi and I remember falling in love with snow and learning about the magical ‘Switzerland’, watching ‘Chandni, O meri Chandni.’
I remember aksar talking to my tanhai when I first fell in love at the tender age of 11, I remember learning the chords of ‘Jadoo teri nazar’ to impress a girl who lived in my compound, I remember dancing to ‘Ole ole ole’ at a family function to impress another girl after the last one dissed me.
I remember Karisma Kapoor’s hotness ushering me into adolescence through Dil To Pagal Hai, I remember learning what love truly was as my heart skipped many beats when the lips of Madhuri Dixit and Shah Rukh Khan came dangerously close to each other, I remember feeling heartbroken myself, as I hoped Akshay Kumar would have a happy ending with Karisma Kapoor in an alternate universe. And I remember, thereafter, using the movie’s ‘Rahul, naam toh suna hoga?’ line to disastrous effects in real life.
I remember watching Veer Zaara first day, first show, and feeling proud of being an Indian because of both our army, and Madan Mohan. Ah, call me a romantic, but growing up in Bahrain, I remember wanting to come to India for further studies, to get my own whiff of my desh’s ‘mitti ki khushboo.’And, of course, I remember, for the longest time, looking for my Simran — any Simran — and contemplating changing my name to Raj, if it helped even a little bit.
I remember distinctly the time and place I watched every Yash Chopra production ever since — whether it was in the dingy, forlorn theaters during college days in Kurukshetra, where my buddies and I danced to ‘Dhoom Machale’ along with the locals in the aisles right in front of the screen, or in the sophisticated multiplex screens in Mani Majra, Chandigarh, which we’d travel to 250 kms away, because movies like Chak De! India deserved that respect, or in the single screens at Gaiety and Galaxy in Mumbai during work life, where I whistled to the entry of ‘Taani partner’ along with the crowds because no experience is singularly as awesome as that.
I remember the significant moments of my life in terms of the songs I’ve heard and the movies I’ve watched. And no matter which city — which country — I’ve stayed in, or what company I’ve had, I remember that nothing has ever mesmerised the collective consciousness of Bollywood fans than a movie by Yash Chopra.
Though I don’t specifically remember the first Yash Chopra movie I ever watched, I do remember every Yash Chopra movie I have ever watched. Because, for me, like the rest of the country, Yash Chopra is the definition of romance, drama, action, dialogues, emotions, music and dance, in all its wonderful glory. Because, for me, like the rest of the country, Yash Chopra is the movies. And for that and all the delightful memories we associate our growing up years with, we’ll always be thankful to the king of not just romance, but of Bollywood itself... jab tak hai jaan.