Yash Chopra is making a return

MUMBAI — Veteran Indian movie mogul Yash Chopra is making a return to directing after seven years, hoping that old-fashioned romance and modern day stars will lure new young fans to his work.

Chopra said the as-yet untitled film will star Shah Rukh Khan and Anushka Sharma, as well as the Hong Kong-born, British-raised actress Katrina Kaif, with music from the Oscar-winning “Slumdog Millionaire” composer A.R. Rahman.

The 78-year-old, whose last stint in the director’s chair was with “Veer-Zaara” in 2004, says he thought long and hard about returning to the studio floor and admits he has no idea whether it is the right move .

“It’s been seven years since I directed ‘Veer-Zaara’ and as I begin work on my new film, I hear my inner voice asking me a lot of questions,” said the award-winning film-maker this week.

“Are you sure you want to direct again, you are nearly 80 years old and the audience is getting younger day by day? Can I really speak from my heart and still expect today’s youth to listen to me?…

“The honest answer is I don’t know,” he added.

Chopra will be hoping that superstar Khan and Sharma will provide a winning formula. They were last seen in the 2008 hit “Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi” (Match Made in Heaven), produced by his Yash Raj Films company.

Kaif is also one of Bollywood’s most bankable leading ladies.

Chopra’s film-making career stretches back to the 1950s when he worked as an assistant to his brother, the director B.R. Chopra. His first film as a director came in 1959 with “Dhool Ka Phool” (Flowers from Dust).

Among his later credits is the hit film “Deewaar” (Wall) in 1975, starring Amitabh Bachchan and Shashi Kapoor.

Yash Raj Films was founded in 1970 and quickly became one of the biggest production houses in Bollywood. It now has interests in film distribution, television, the home entertainment sector and music.

One film, “Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge” (The Braveheart Will Get The Bride), directed by Chopra’s media-shy son Aditya, is still running in one Mumbai cinema 16 years after its release.

In 2004, the Hollywood Reporter put Yash Raj Films in 27th spot in its survey of biggest film distribution houses in the world.

But in recent years the company’s standing has faltered.

In August 2009, the influential Filmfare magazine demoted the studio from third to sixth in its Bollywood power list.

“There was a time when Yash Raj Films sneezed and the entire industry caught a cold,” the magazine said at the time. “Not any more. The production house has been losing its premiere position in the last few years.”

Indifferent scripts have largely been blamed for the slump as well as a stonewall approach towards gossip and speculation in India’s increasingly celebrity-obsessed media.

“My father and brother (Aditya) are inaccessible,” Chopra’s other son, actor Uday, told the Hindustan Times newspaper in an interview.

“So, people write stuff without clarifying. They know that no one will come forward and say, ‘that’s not true’,” he said.

In recent years, though, there have been signs of change, with a more open attitude towards the media and promoting the company’s films.

Chopra said his return to directing was driven by self-belief and promised “a film that is about love and nothing else” combining “an old soul with a young heart… classic in its look but contemporary in its language”.

“A film which I’m making on one simple faith… the love that my audiences have given me over the years. They have tolerated my indulgences for the past 50 years. I’m sure they’ll indulge me one more time,” he added.

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