B.R. Chopra was Nostradamus of Indian film industry: Biographer

Panaji, Nov 28 (Calcutta Tube) B.R. Chopra could well be called the Nostradamus of Bollywood. He dwelt on issues like capital punishment long before there was a debate on it and even made a song-less film at a time when movies without songs were unwanted, says his biographer.

Vinay Vairale, 45, who currently works with the Films Division of India (FDI), said Chopra’s films knocked on the doors of greatness not because of their commercial success but because they were predictive visual documents of the time to come.

‘Through his film ‘Kanoon’, Chopra sahab dealt with capital punishment way back in 1961, years before the issue became a subject of mainstream debate and discussion with rights groups,’ Vairale told IANS in an interview.

The Ashok Kumar starrer dealt with subjects which evoke passion and relevance even today, he said. It is being screened at the 41st edition of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) as a tribute to the departed master, along with others like ‘Naya Daur’ and ‘Nikaah’.

‘Kanoon’, according to Vairale, has another significance, which is lost on many a film buff.

‘ ‘Kanoon’ was Hindi cinema’s first song-less film. It was made in 1961. The year is significant because that year had films which are known most for their songs like ‘Ganga Jamuna’, ‘Junglee’, ‘Jab Pyaar kisi se hota hai’, ‘Hum Dono’, and many more,’ Vairale said.

At a time when films had an average of more than six songs, a song-less film was considered nothing less ungainly and unwanted as the proverbial ‘ugly duckling’, said Vairale, whose biopic on Chopra, ‘Har Daur Mein Naya Daur’, was screened at IFFI in 2006.

‘I remember Chopra telling me that he was taken aback for a minute when he was told that the script for ‘Kanoon’ had no songs,’ Vairale said, recalling a meeting he had with the filmmaker in course of research for his documentary.

‘But then he said he had taken the mandate for doing cinema which not many were willing to touch with a bargepole. So he went ahead,’ Vairale said.

According to Vairale, who has also worked as an editor in B. R. Chopra’s grand tele-serial ‘Mahabharat’, said that Chopra had produced 33 feature films and virtually everyone had a social message.

”Naya Daur’ in 1957 documented the ‘man versus machine’ dilemma which confronted the entire country then. And ‘Baghban’ in 2005 spoke about family values, in our contemporary times when the institution of family is crumbling around us.

Vairale also draws an interesting comparison between the philosophies and techniques exhibited by Chopra in ‘Naya Daur’ and Ashutosh Gowarikar in ‘Lagaan’.

‘Both the films are similar in many ways like they reflect a struggle between the old order and the new order. About values and moral grit versus technology and a sense of superiority. Only the tonga has been replaced by cricket,’ Vairale said.

Born in 1914 in Lahore, Chopra migrated to Mumbai where he died in 2008 after beginning his career as a film journalist.

(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted at mayabhushan.n@ians.in)

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