This is an excellently made documentary. Just, very very solid. Tells a cohesive story entirely through multiple interviews stitched together, and cohesive mini-stories within each of the 4 episodes. It’s the kind of thing that used to be an Event and my family would sit down and watch it every week on PBS. Intelligent, clear, informative, and fully fully factchecked and researched.
Gonna go on a bit of a tangent to start. The friend I am about to visit in California I have known for 8 years now. But it feels even longer because she was into Hindi film at the same time I was, in parallel, for years before we met. From literally our first meeting, it was like we’d grown up together, because we had so many references, theories, thought patterns, all in common. And that’s what this documentary feels like to me. It feels like something I’ve already watched 20 times, like literally I was predicting what was about to be said 1 minute before it happened. Not that it is bad or trite or anything, it’s just so EXACTLY the way I think of Hindi film history and things that I could feel the next point coming before it happened. And I am guessing it felt similar for a lot of you (tiny blowing of my horn here, if you are reading DCIB Hindi Film 101s, everything in the film is already covered, so that might be part of why it feels familiar).
Now, for discussion purposes, breaking my points down into simple topics!
Quality as a documentary
My mind boggles at the idea of the making of this thing. It looks like they just interviewed everyone and anyone who had experience with Yash Raj films, from behind the scenes to major stars, did hours of interviews on all kinds of random topics with each of them, then somehow managed to edit all those quotes into a cohesive whole that tells a story. I didn’t even realize until well into episode 2 that there was no narrator. It feels like a voice over narration, but it’s just perfectly linked interview quotes. And fun interesting quotes as well! I very much respect that they just used the best bits regardless of who said them. Aamir Khan and Salman Khan were barely in this, and someone identified as “Friend of the Chopras” got a lot of screen time. He just had better stories. This is not a work of celebrity, it’s a serious attempt to tell a clear informative narrative through interviews.
Shah Rukh Khan
I appreciated how they handled him in this. He was present a lot, and it was for two separate but equal reasons. First, he is just a GREAT interview. He opens the whole thing with his story of going to the movies as a boy. And then there’s a bunch of other people talking about the movies. I think SRK came first not because he is SRK, but because he just told a better story. And the same is through for the whole thing, they are hitting points like “movies are for family” or “action in the 80s, romance in the 90s” or whatever, and they choose Shahrukh’s soundbite just because it’s BETTER.
Second, they very quietly gave him his place in the Chopra family. He was there, first hand, for a lot of their stories. You see shots of Adi on set, and Shahrukh is goofing with him. Or Yash as an older director, there’s Shah Rukh. It’s show, not tell, on an almost subconscious level. No one says “Shahrukh is like a brother to me” or “It’s like he was a part of the family”. you just notice more and more “wait, is that Shahrukh in the background? Of everything???” Up to and including when they are talking about Yash Chopra’s death and you see Shahrukh standing outside the hospital as he is carried in to the ambulance.
This is a trickier one than Shahrukh. Because, yes, again, he is part of the family. Again, you have the stories he tells, his presence constantly in the background of images, the way he was there for Yashji’s death. But he’s a harder interview, because Karan tends to go big. In this case, he stayed mostly in control. Which also meant he was a little dull. Some good stories, but not that many, probably comes off as almost boring to folks who don’t know his usual presence.
But the REALLY tricky thing is that the last two episodes deal with the globalization of the industry and Adi’s strong moral ethical feeling that he has to build a studio within India without outside money. And Karan….not so much. Yes, he built a studio. Yes, he fosters new talent. But he has made a decision to embrace globalization and global money. It feels a bit odd to not have Karan talk about Adi as a business person, since he is the most qualified person on earth, and instead we have various other folks. But if you do ask him that question, would it open up a philosophical can of worms?
Huh. What an interesting turn in his interviews. It’s a lot to have your own brother pick you out as an example of Nepotism Fail. And it’s a lot to be asked to go deep on all the other failures of your life, and finally your unending loneliness and grief after the death of your father. Maybe even the filmmakers felt bad by the end? Because they didn’t hit the “Grace of Monaco is an infamously bad movie that you produced” button as hard as they could.
Lack of Personal Narrative
They left a lot of stuff on the cutting room floor. Adi’s first wife, Yashji’s feud with BR, the later years of the BR Studio, and (strangest when I start to think about it) any reference to Adi’s daughter, who presumably will take over the studio in a few decades. I’m not necessarily going to complain about leaving all that out, that wasn’t the story they wanted to tell. There were no actual lies, not even lies by omission. Yes, Rani is Adi’s wife. No one ever says or even suggests she is his FIRST wife. I am pretty sure it is stronger this way? Focus on Uday/Adi/Pam Aunty/Yashji and their relationships, and how that effected the history of Indian film, and how the history of India affected films and so on in a big loop. No need to dig into all the other complex things.
But then, maybe it is a distraction? Like, when Rani is talking about her early interactions with Adi as a producer, it was really hard not to wonder if this was when he was going through a divorce or not. Similar with talking about the “hard time” he was going through at another point. I know, because I was paying attention back then, that the “hard time” wasn’t just movies failing and family illness, but his marriage falling apart. Would it have hurt too much to bring that into the film? Because otherwise I’m just sitting here wondering.
Ending in 2012
On the one hand, Yash Chopra’s death really was epic, and a confirmation of the whole family’s stature in the industry. And it was a lovely touching way to look back and look forward at the same time. On the other hand, we got Adi’s thought’s on globalization, foreign investment, diversification, etc. I wanted to know about streaming, about the YRF youtube channel, about all that other stuff that happened in the past decade.
Wow, that was a GOOD interview! He was charming, he was relaxed, he was intelligent, and it was all seamless. I don’t know what kind of alchemy they did to achieve it, but it was amazing. It’s the Adi I feel I know from his writing, and from the way his closest friends describe him, but no one else. Somehow he managed to slow himself down and speak out what he wanted to say without offense or tension. Maybe he wrote it out in advance? Like those lovely press releases he does sometimes?
70s versus 90s/2000s
Was it just me that felt like it came more alive when it got to the 90s/2000s? The first episode was fun, obviously I whistled and cheered for BR (I did a lot of whistling and cheering in this movie), but it didn’t really grip me. And then the other three were just reviting.
It could be because I am shallow and I like my era better than other eras. But I’m going to be charitable to myself and say this was the weakness of the interview format. There aren’t that many people who are around who can speak to the early years. Because of Death. You get the story, sure, but it’s only from a few voices, and not necessarily the most interesting voices. But once you get to the 90s, you have loads of folks who were front and center and happy to speak to it.
UGH! He almost ruined it for me. How is that man so empty headed? And why do all his statements begin with “I”? There’s one moment that was really dramatic, you go straight from Ranbir who is all “I felt” “I experienced” blah blah blah, straight to Karan who only speaks in “we” statements. He was also the only interview that I legitimately felt was not needed. He had no new insights, he could have been left on the cutting room floor.
I know I had other thoughts, but now I am too sleepy to remember them. Oh well.
Okay, what are your thoughts?
They must have been interviewing over quite a period of time because Rishi died in 2020.
I more or less binge watched the series – liked it very much.
I watched two episodes in groggy sleepiness and then i started to look for SRK parts. Apparently Shahrukh had the longest interview and it was great and they had to really find the bits to show in this. I was frustrated because I wanted to see all of it so I abandoned it after two and a half episodes. In a way it was nothing new to me as you said after all the reading on here and watching a lot of interviews from Shahrukh and Karan over the years.
I am glad it was made and someone cares about Indian cinema. But other than that I’m kind of distracted and just looking for more SRK.
I want to add that I paid for a Netflix subscription only to see SRK in the romantics 😝
Watch the Letterman special so long as you’ve got access!
Yes last year I paid Netflix subscription to watch that and I did rewatch it again 😀😝
I kind of want to find someone who had no context before this and ask them if they also found the SRK parts the most interesting. Because even just as a talking head in interviews, he was so much more charismatic and just BETTER than everyone else.
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You need to find someone who hasn’t read your blog extensively 😀😂
I felt the same and soon I was annoyed why there was not more of him 🙂
To me, the most interesting thing was when they asked the question “What do you think of the term Bollywood?” and everyone was either Like it, Hate it, “If only you knew the origins” etc. and SRK was the one who dived into an etymology thing with “The B likely comes from Bombay, and my only objection is that it doesn’t cover the rest of Indian cinema”.
Such a great and simple thought and well articulated that you never even notice that he didn’t actually answer the question which was posed. Everyone else got on a soapbox whereas SRK felt like he was genuinely informing viewers.
Aditya Chopra stole the show just because this is the first time we ever hear him, but SRK almost gave him a run for it. And as you mentioned, Karan was very understated with Aamir and Salman almost being absent.
I am going to kind of give you what you want. I am writing down husband’s reaction to the documentary and will post it when we are done. You have met him, so you know he is white, he has not read your 101s or knows much about Hindi cinema besides being a weirdo who gets mesmerized by anything on screen and ends up watching movies with me even when there are no subtitles. He is ridiculously detail oriented (probably Adi level) and notices things in a completely different manner than I do. And his absolute favorite song to date is Good Morning from Ek Ladki Ko Dekha to Aisa Laga.
Well, that’s just good taste in music!
My friend’s husband just watched part of it with us, long enough to be impressed with Adi’s insane obsession and work ethic. And also to suggest that the older photos and the newer interview where he seems to have a gap in his teeth indicate he might have had a cleft palate or similar. Which might help explain why he was always so camera shy.
Oooh interesting. Husband watched the first two episodes and was similarly very impressed with Adi.
Here were his thoughts on the first episode. ““Who is that?!?!” As it relates to Sridevi. He was completely mesmerized by Sridevi. He said that was by far that stood out to him in the entire episode. He would have loved to see interviews with her. I had to tell him that she unfortunately died. It also made me realized how captivating she was. Her death by far affected me more than anyone else’s as far as cinema goes. She was magnetic. Husband noticed how in tuned her dance moves and expressions were with Rishi Kapoor. Something I had never noticed before. Without even looking at him, she somehow mimicked his every move.
My thoughts of the first episode:
I miss Rishi Kapoor. Yes, he was a giant brat as a child and an abusive a$$ as a husband and father. No excuses there. But he is something else when it comes to his candor. Who else is going to talk about sex and films on camera. I really wish there were more people who spoke with his level of candor today.
OMG the shots of Simi Grewal, Shashi Kapoor, and Mumtaz at Yash and Pam Chopra’s wedding! It just seemed like such a filmi wedding!
When did Rani and Aditya start dating?! They came together as a couple at Abhishek’s wedding in 2007, which means by then she was accepted by the Bachchans as Aditya’s partner. I don’t know why I am fascinated by this but I am.
I’ve always been curious about Adi’s first wife! Why did he marry her? His parents didn’t get married until much later in life, was it an effort to grow up, or young love sweeping him away, family pressure somehow? The whole thing just seems like a terrible mistake and Rani is such a good partner for him in business and in life, how did he end up withe wrong person for so long?
I think probably childhood sweetheart, I don’t see family pressure. I feel like Adi’s shyness may have gotten him close and attached to his first wife and then he got swept away by a film heroine.
I think Adi and his first wife had just been together for so long. They met at Bombay Scottish so basically they met when they were kids. I am guessing they got married because it was just expected that they get married. But people grow up. They evolve. Goodness, I cannot even imagine being still being with my high school boyfriend! And I am assuming after a few years they just realized that they grew apart.
My cousin ran in the same circles as Rani in Mumbai when they were highschool/college age and she always said that Rani was always very quiet and homely (by this I mean, not big on parties, liked to stay to herself). I can see that fitting very well with Adi’s personality.
Exception that proves the rule: Gauri and SRK, TruLuv4EVA
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It’s hard not to be mesmerized by Sridevi. She was so beautiful and full of charisma on screen.
I found very interesting this little detail that she was always with her mother and it was the mother who talked with people and did stuff. I mean, it’s normal for young actresses even now, to bring the mother on the movie sets, but, from what I read after her death, she was always like that. Even when she was 50 she depended on others, and it shocks and fascinates me at the same time.
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I agree. She is one of those people where her on-screen personality was so drastically different from her off-screen personality She truly was a superstar and her ability to translate on screen the director’s vision is just remarkable.
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+1 to cleft palate
Yes! Definitely think he had a cleft palate. There was a moment that made me think he used to have a stammer too. Both would be understandable reasons to prefer behind the camera to in front of it.
Many people, me inculded, were disappointed nobody talked about Veer-Zaara. They talked about Mujhse Dosti Karoge, Hum Tum and Dhoom and no Veer-Zaara. Some folks in internet said: “If you paid attention you would know why they focused about those movies”, and I know why, but still I feel they should add V-Z too. After all the documentary’s name is “The Romantics”. I enjoyed the buisness part of the show, but I hoped there will be more about Yash Chopra’s movies.
The other thing that I was thinking: There is this part about how big YRF was, and with every Adi’s decision the studio grow bigger and bigger. Sure then there was this “hard time”, but later they overcame it and are big again. Everything great, but in the end, to show how the studio is working well, they added some scenes from making Bunty and Babli 2 and Shamseera’s . 2 biggest flops! It was almost like watching Titanic nearing an iceberg. At least they didn’t added scenes from Thugs of Hindustan! IMO they shouldn’t include those scenes because it ruins the finale. Before I was like: Adi is a genius. Sometimes he makes mistakes but as long as he listens to his intuitions we are fine. And now I’m like: OMG We are doomed, he lost his magic touch.
I noticed the lack of Veer-Zaara as well, although they did show clips from the premiere which made it even odder to me.
Personally, I don’t think there was any big political reason to cut it. I think it would have just felt repetitive in the narrative, they also didn’t really talk about DTPH in depth. Jab Tak Hain Jaan covered Yashji as an elderly director, as dedicated to romance, as still working even in old age, etc. etc. Veer-Zaara didn’t have that much to add to that storyline. In the same way, they sort of lumped all the Dhooms together without going into detail on each one, because after the first set the tone they were sort of similar. There’s just too many movies to cover and not enough time, they had to go with what worked for their examples.
I had the same problem with the on set bits! But of course, it actually released with Pathaan, a big comeback for the studio, so I could still go out on a high based on what I knew in reality. I wonder if in some edit they put more emphasis in Shamshera and B&B 2? Maybe that’s why there was Ranbir and Saif in it so much? And then once the documentary got delayed until long after the release, they removed anything specific about those movies.
I felt very bad from Uday Chopra’s whole segment on nepotism but I also think it was slightly unneeded. Like Uday wasn’t the only one who failed per say. Fardeen Khan and Tushar Kapoor also failed as actors and the former is quite good looking, the latter a good actor at times. So I agree with Adi that people just can’t connect with someone just because we feel we can.
I think the major problem is they didn’t have Yashji discussing about the 70’s. That would make us understand how the film industry was and the setting. Most of the people in the series are ones who grew up in the 80’s and 90’s. Their image of the 70’s is very hazy and they had to rely a lot on his old interviews for the 70’s segment.
Yes, Ranbir was useless. Me and my mom were discussing the exact same thing. He had a lack of insight into things which made it feel so pointless. Like what I liked about SRK was he was honest that he was confused why Amitabh would play a poet as a kid. However Ranbir I felt was faking the love for DDLJ because it seemed like he unlike Ranveer/Ayushman who genuinely liked DDLJ, he was faking it for the cameras.
Also I have never heard Yashji speak but my god does he speak so well. That last interview I feel like I was there with SRK as he said that he will not direct a film again. It’s so sad that JTHJ wasn’t what it should’ve been which I blame partly on Katrina’s acting. However you can really see the passion he had for cinema.
I wish they had figured out a better way to integrate the 70s, or even the 80s. They had Anupam and Amitabh there, and also Pam Aunty. If they’d pushed, they probably could have gotten more stories about it.
Yes, I am so glad you brought up Ranveer/Ayushmann!!! I didn’t feel like their interviews were included because they are Stars, but because they grew up in the YRF era and could emotionally honestly convey the impact of the films on their childhood. And it felt honest, it felt like “as an average kid in India, this is what it was”. And then there’s Ranbir where everything just feels like superficial fluff and we never get the real person.
I felt like the only new things I learned were how Uday fit into his family and how he deals with his lack of success. So yes, you can pat yourself on the back because all else in this series I learned through reading your words. However I LOVED hearing it all again! It may not have been new information, but it came in a beautiful package.
It was so well done!!!! Honestly, I’m gonna tell people to just watch this as a primer from now on. If you are truly curious about Indian film, watch this doc, then come back and ask me follow up questions.
I loved hearing Adi speak since he is such a recluse. My eyes literally bulged wide once I saw the end of episode 1 and saw the empty chair. I probably would have screamed in surprise if the walls weren’t so thin. Also, I love that he was technically a better dancer than Hrithik at one point, I like to think that helped Hrithik become the dancing star he is now, and the idea of them going about it is just so cute.
I cried by the end and watched it twice on the same day because it made me feel warm inside. Yeah, Ranbir was not needed. Ayushman and Ranveer were so utterly charming. Even though I may not like all of his “important message” movies, I do love Ayushmann as a person more after this. Just this sparkle in his eyes and smile as he talked that I just found so endearing.
Would have loved it if there had been an episode dedicated to YRF heroines alone, not just the men all the time, that, though important, even Yash overshadowed with his heroines in his films. Heck, even the music. I know Shamshera was a disaster (also a Ranbir film), but the music in that film is top-notch (well, it at least appeals to me). That would have been an excellent episode, talking about the music, the lyricists and other production people who make the magic happen.
I wish they would do another documentary like this, concentrating on Dharma, some other production house, or even other language industries. It would be amazing!
There must have been so much cut out!!!! I imagine they could easily make a whole other documentary just on the things removed, like you said, what about the music? What about the heroines?
I really appreciated what they included of the heroines, that they described them as knowing their own minds and having agency. But it would have been nice to have more about it. Like, I would have LOVED to have a Jaya interview along with Amitabh, to learn how Yashji directed women when he was younger.
I wonder if they could do something PBS Frontline documentary style! Like show the uncut interviews separately. I vaguely recall somewhere the director Smriti Mundhra mentioning something about a Director’s Cut somewhere…would love to see something like that.
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This reminded me of all the reasons I love Hindi films, so satisfying! You’re right, I was aware of most of the things already, thanks in no small part to you! My only wish after coming out of it, and I understand this doc wasn’t aiming to do that, was for more focus on Yash Chopra, his films, heroines, music, etc. I want someone to make that documentary. It was surprising there wasn’t any yesteryear actress – Waheeda, Sharmila, Rekha. Anyway, they clearly wanted to focus on Aditya, his journey and contribution. It was very interesting to hear him talk, he wasn’t anything like the image I had of him. But come to think of it, I shouldn’t have been surprised. To have that kind of vision from a young age, execute it and run the giant behemoth that is YRF, one would have to have the confidence, assuredness and articulation he displayed. He just chooses not to show it to the world.
I heard the creator say that they recorded 400 hours of footage!!! That they managed to streamline it into a cohesive story is impressive. I wish they release those in some way.
Agree about Shahrukh and as usual, him and Yashji together were adorable. Fav tidbit I’d heard and Madhuri confirmed here – she struggled to understand Yashji on DTPH sets, so Shahrukh used to translate for her! The JTHJ anecdotes made me tear up, the way Yashji kept saying this would be his last😭
Dharma has a physical studio? That’s news to me.
I didn’t know I’d come out of this feeling for Uday Chopra! He was pretty candid and vulnerable. Lol at big brother throwing him under the bus to make a point😁
This is very much a sanitized take on Adi, so no wonder they stayed away from any uncomfortable and thorny topics.
I think they wanted to bookend the doc with Yash Chopra, hence the 2012 ending. But then why leave out his later films? Make it seem like he retired after Darr, and came back after 20 years for one last round? Someone said this and I kinda agree that they wanted to sell the narrative that Adi was the new cool filmmaker of the younger generation, different from his father. Showing Yashji also being an active and successful director around the same time wouldn’t have sold that narrative.
They clearly wanted to focus on post 90s. I was craving for more 70s stuff – especially Trishul and Kaala Patthar.
Come on now, Ranbir was no more useless than Arjun, Aamir, Salman and Salim (what a waste of Salim Khan, I’m sure he had plenty of interesting things to say)! I didn’t find him any different from Ranveer and Ayushman in that DDLJ segment.
Dharma has a physical office building I should say. With full time staff, training, development, everything except the massive filming spaces YRF has. Which would also be interesting to hear Karan talk about! Why did he decide to focus on human resources instead of a big building?
I love watching documentaries – esp documentaries on film or the film industry – and I think it’s a real pity we don’t have that many that are very well-backed (one I used to love watching often was a short Saroj Khan documentary, but even then I was a bit disappointed because it left out her first few forays into actual choreography and skipped straight from her group dancing days to Ek Do Teen. It was also done on a thin budget I think). So I had a BALL watching The Romantics, that too about YRF which produced a lot of the stuff I still love.
I did love how they set up the major interviews for each era (Amitabh/Rishi-Neetu for the Silsila/Kabhi Kabhie era, SRK and Karan for the 90s and Ranveer for the 00s), along with smaller sections that exist to give us a more personal look into the era or the Chopras themselves. Like Abhishek/Hrithik definitely gave you a closer look at Adi but also an alternative view of Uday.
I remembered this blog often while watching the documentary. One was obviously the three-part Hindi Film 101 you wrote about the B.R and Yash branches of the Chopra family, but also because of what you’d said long ago about how not a lot was done to save the RK studios by the surviving members (esp male) of the Kapoor family, and that definitely was a point I remembered in Part 3 when you see how involved Aditya is involved in looking at how the studio itself could evolve.
Absolutely LOVED Shahrukh in this. Not only because of his charm and affability – but also because I often love people who go into detail and explain things in their context and Shahrukh does that often here. It also makes the one bit where he is completely silent in the documentary – when they talk about Yash Chopra’s death – that much more impactful.
I also loved Ranveer’s bits in this! Both when he talks about dramatizing the Deewar dialogue to his class in the US, and when he speaks about his early days with the Band Baaja Baraat auditions.
I did wish there was more of Veer-Zaara but more out of pure selfishness 😂 It was the first film I ever saw in an Indian film theatre when I came to study in Bangalore 13 years ago. I don’t think I can ever forget the thrill of that experience. But yeah I do think they didn’t want to go in too much detail on Yash Chopra’s films post-Darr and DDLJ, and before JTHJ. DTPH was not mentioned much either.
I did love the sections where directors from the studio could talk about the way they were mentored too. I think the documentary also tried to highlight the young NRI crowd with Superwoman.
Uday came across quite well in this. Like they get to the point about his failures straightaway then give us a glimpse of him being an emotional support for his father which I liked.
I can barely remember what Ranbir said, actually, and I’ve watched the documentary twice. Like I can recall clearly Hrithik speaking passionately about how certain older people weren’t understanding Adi’s vision, or the childhood stories Abhishek shared, or Bhumi speaking about being cast in Dum Lagake…but I draw a blank with Ranbir.
It was so so well done! The only thing is, I wish it had been made ten years ago. Just for the interviews we lost since then. Rishi, I suspect, could have given a longer interview if he’d done it before he was so sick. And then there’s so many others who died in the intervening time. It could have been 6 episodes instead of 4, with the first 3 fully about the rise of Yashji.
Alternatively, they could have hit up the memoirs HARD and used the voices from there to remember Yashji instead of interviews with live people. Rishi put a lot more in his book, I’m sure there are loads of others who have written about him over the years.
But as it is, if they wanted real live interviews in 2019-2020, there just weren’t enough people to talk about the early days.
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From my tweet:
Great production. Time with A Chopra/loved it. Background for Chak de India from Jaideep Sahni-screenwriter/enlightening. Potential Hollywood takeover/scary. @RanveerOfficial /who knew? As always @iamsrk /love him and grateful for @yrf / Yash Chopra’s movies and legacy.