The Romantics is archival nostalgia with tinge of self-aggrandizement
This near four-hour and 4-episode docu-series exposes us to the grand Yash Chopra legacy with stories panned out into four sections: The Boy from Jalandhar about the late filmmaker’s beginnings, The Prodigal Son showcasing Yash’s son Aditya Chopra, The New Guard about the change in the kind of movies coming out of the studio, and Legacy, about the roadmap ahead in Aditya’s eyes and the demise of Yash Chopra.
All in all, this is perfect nostalgia value of archives from the Yash Chopra pantheon that began with this Jalandhar boy’s arrival in Mumbai, his debut with Dhool Ka Phool in 1959 and his exit just before the release of his swan song, Jab Tak Hai Jaan in 2012. And beyond!
During this long phase, he had a major blockbuster and often more in each decade, a bad phase in the 1980s, a renaissance for the banner that began with Chandni in 1989 and went on to the Aditya Chopra era that began with Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge and a change of guard that ensured diverse movies like Dhoom and Dun Laga Ke Haisha from the banner.
A deluge of audiovisual “bites”, exciting footage comprising videos and pictures, and interviews spanning a bevy of top stars, Yash Chopra’s manager, his family (including wife Pamela, son Uday and star daughter-in-law Rani Mukerji) adorn this family trip down melody lane that marks the spectacular and long on-screen debut of the hitherto invisible charioteer of YRF Studios, as it is known today—Aditya Chopra.
The reclusive filmmaker, who has never given interviews or been seen in public, makes a dazzlingly candid on-screen debut by talking about his life, approach, relationships with his father and sibling, career moves and vision. Associates like casting director Shanoo Sharma, writers Salim Khan and Jaideep Sahni and editor Namrata Rao come in, along with surprising footage from names like Sooraj R. Barjatya and not-so-surprising accolades from Karan Johar.
We, of course, have obscure names like Lilly Singh and a scribe named Tarun something—names that we do not know at all—voicing their opinions on the YRF canon. And Shah Rukh Khan, perhaps rightly, holds centerstage more frequently than anyone else among the celebrities outside the family.
The ‘foreign hand’ is clearly seen—the co-writer and composer are not Indian. Perhaps that leads to a more objective glance at the material given, or “up-scales” it technically, I do not know. What I do know is that the flaws that come in could have been ironed out in the name of factual accuracy without taking away any Chopra glories: like the Angry Young Man was the creation of Salim-Javed with Prakash Mehra in Zanjeer (1973) and not of Yash Chopra (with Salim-Javed again) in Deewaar (1975). If Zanjeer had not worked, there would have been no Deewaar! And that is one hundred percent fact!
Some other factual errors are glossed over too, with even celebs making such slips that might have been deliberate as a let’s-not-talk-about-the correct-fact thing. Among the glaring omissions, we have the entire Salman Khan chapter, that began spectacularly with Ek Tha Tiger and went on to Sultan and Tiger Zinda Hai, and the Y Films idea that did not click, along with a few un-YRF-like films that sadly did not work, like Kabul Express and Detective Byomkesh Bakshy.
A heartwarming revisit to Rishi Kapoor speaking about Yash and Aditya and Uday’s candid views on Aditya and Amitabh Bachchan make for among the more endearing moments in this otherwise gripping narration.
A glaring miss is the total indifference to the music of Yash Raj Films. It’s creators are shown in random shots, but the music is never highlighted or even discussed, such as the role of the songs in the mega-success of YRF’s first film, Daag, the epic score of Jatin-Lalit in DDLJ that contributed so much to its unprecedented performance and longevity, or the YRF introduction of talents as varied as Shiv-Hari and Pritam as well as the epic shift from Sahir Ludhianvi to Anand Bakshi.
A section of my fraternity has spoken about the self-aggrandizement by the Chopra clan in this docu-series. But, honestly, I have no objection to that at all: after all, if OTT and business prospects for such series had existed in the era gone by, we would have seen similar productions on epic filmmakers like V. Shantaram, S. Mukerji, Raj Kapoor, B.R. Chopra and more!
Netflix presents The Romantics Directed by: Smriti Mundhra Written by: Smriti Mundhra & Michael T. Vollmann Music: Saul Simon MacWilliams