As Yash Raj Films turns 50, listing the production house's underrated gems, from Doosra Aadmi to Titli
Yash Raj Films has churned out over a dozen blockbusters since 1970 but it has also offered many films that were equally good yet less successful.
Yash Raj Films, founded by late filmmaker Yash Chopra, is currently in its 50th year. The production house, popularly known for its romantic dramas and colourful palette, has experimented with its offerings over the years, particularly when Aditya Chopra took over. From stylised action dramas to films set in small-town India, YRF has brought many a flavour to the big screen. Through a series of throwbacks, we will celebrate the legacy of the production house across the year.
As is common knowledge, YRF is best remembered for its spate of blockbusters like Kabhi Kabhie, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Dil Toh Pagal Hai, Mohabbatein, Hum Tum, the Dhoom franchise, Veer-Zara, Bunty Aur Babli, Chak De! India, Band Baaja Baaraat, the Tiger franchise, Sultan, and most recently, War.
But several smaller films are peppered all over these big hits. Some may have bombed at the box office while the others may have been successes in their own right (as per their modest budgets) but were not given their due because they did not rake in the same numbers as the films mentioned above.
Below, we list some underrated films by YRF which may have not been as widely memorable as its historical blockbusters. They have been spelled out in chronological order, starting from the most recent to the oldest.
Dibakar Banerjee, who was credited as the producer of debut director Kanu Behl's Titli, was known for his eccentric slate, from debut film Khosla Ka Ghosla to Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!, and from Love, Sex Aur Dhokha to Detective Byomkesh Bakshi (a YRF film). Naturally, the fact he was involved in a film would imply it is a conventional YRF release.
Titli was morbidly fascinating and arguably the rawest, most hard-hitting film of the production house till date. It was a peek into the vicious cycle of patriarchy, and how a woman has little space in a family dominated by men. Ranvir Shorey was in his A-game, and his energy bounced off well on the impressive newcomers Shivani Raghuvanshi and Shashank Arora.
Shuddh Desi Romance (2013)
Three years after he made his debut with a milestone like Band Baaja Baaraat, Maneesh Sharma went further into the interiors of India by setting his film in the walled city of Jaipur. But it did not adhere to the quintessential small-town template that has become a norm in Bollywood now. It was a very urban story about commitment phobia, insecurity associated with love, and the perennially confused generation of today. Basically, it was like an Imtiaz Ali film set in Jaipur, and focused more on the chaotic atmosphere than the inner turmoil.
Also, it was a film that was centred on a live-in relationship six years before Laxman Utetkar's Luka Chuppi addressed the taboo again, through the small-town India lens. But Shuddh Desi Romance considered small town as only the setting, not the perspective. It was not a film that revolved around families but the self. It bridged the gap between the tier-1 cities and tier-2 cities, and how the new generation started thinking alike irrespective of the geography.
Dil Bole Hadippa! (2009)
Ten years before he returned to Hindi cinema with the period war drama Kesari, Punjabi filmmaker Anurag Singh made his Bollywood debut with Dil Bole Hadippa!, starring Rani Mukerji and Shahid Kapoor. While Kesari was widely criticised for lack of a female presence (Parineeti Chopra only had a guest appearance), Dil Bole Hadippa! stood out because it was thoroughly a Punjabi woman's journey to become a cricketer despite all odds of "women don't play cricket."
Fresh off his breakthrough in Imtiaz Ali's romantic comedy Jab We Met, Shahid lent an able helping hand to Mukerji, who delivered one of the finest performances of her career while carrying the film on her shoulders.
New York (2009)
Three years before Kabir Khan made it to the A-league of filmmakers through the espionage thriller Ek Tha Tiger, he made films that were less Bollywoodised and more inspired from his previous profession of documentary filmmaking.
New York was one such attempt, set against the backdrop of what the Indian diaspora in the US had to face after the infamous 9/11 terrorist attacks. At heart, it was a love triangle cleverly embedded with the macro issue of terrorism and its casualties. It saw inspired performances from the entire cast, including Neil Nitin Mukesh, Irrfan Khan, John Abraham, and most notably the dark horse, Katrina Kaif.
Aaja Nachle (2007)
Undoubtedly the most well-knit ensemble in the history of YRF, this dance film had a story arc for every character and a moment to shine for every actor, including Konkona Sensharma, Ranvir Shorey, Akshaye Khanna, Vinay Pathak, Divya Dutta, and Irrfan Khan. It had Madhuri Dixit-Nene in the central role as she graced the screen five years after Sanjay Leela Bhansali's historical romance Devdas. Though she showed no rust, she never eclipsed the equally crucial supporting cast with her superstar-presence.
Technically, Aaja Nachle was a dream combination of 'Kajra Re' choreographer Vaibhavi Merchant and debut director Anil Mehta, best known for his cinematography in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Lagaan, and Veer-Zaara. The dance sequences, particularly the closing 25-minute stage sequence, was stunning to look at, given the combined talent of Anil, Vaibhavi, and Madhuri.
Salaam Namaste (2005)
Siddharth Anand may have given YRF hits in action entertainers like Bang Bang and War but for this writer, his best film remains his debut film. Salaam Namaste addressed live-in relationships too but since it was eight years before Shuddh Desi Romance, the film was set in Melbourne in order to cater to Indian audience's sensibilities at that time.
While Kunal Kohli's Hum Tum, a remake of When Harry Met Sally, may have stolen the spotlight in the Battle of the Sexes department, Saif Ali Khan and Preity Zinta's nok-jhok in Salaam Namaste was more hilarious. Anand mostly allowed the two to jam in scenes, and tightened the narrative at the editing stage, to present a compelling rom-com that was ahead of its time, but not immune to the curse of the second half.
Doosra Aadmi (1977)
Between the two landmark Yash Chopra romantic drams, Kabhi Kabhie and Silsila, came a film that escaped the limelight. Ramesh Talwar's Doosra Aadmi featured Raakhee as an advertising agency employee (a rare working woman from that time) who falls for Rishi Kapoor's character, who looks eerily similar to her late lover (Shashi Kapoor).
The casting of Rishi and Shashi was a masterstroke on part of YRF. But the film stood out the most for it was the first of YRF's signature twist-of-fate films (read: Lamhe), and was shouldered by Raakhi, who did a commendable job in walking the tightrope between vulnerability and assertion.
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