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Habitat 2019: Documentaries on BR and Yash Chopra offer a trip down memory lane

Though the presentation of the documentaries on the two Dadasaheb Phalke awardees was rather monotonous, the audience seemed to love the information on offer.

Yatharth Vohra

Independent filmmaker Savita Oberoi presented two documentaries that were part of her series on Dadasaheb Phalke awardees, The Legends, at the 14th Habitat Film Festival on Friday.

Eminent Asian cinema scholar and film curator Aruna Vasudev, as the series consultant, introduced the films and spoke of the time she first met the director. Also present at the screening was Congress politician and writer Mani Shankar Aiyar, who thanked Oberoi for the opportunity to recapture moments from his youth through the films.

The first film focused on Baldev Raj Chopra, one of Hindi cinema's most acclaimed directors. The 30-minute film discussed his years as an editor at Cine Herald, a film magazine in Lahore, his downfall due to Partition and the subsequent shift to Mumbai and rise to fame making socially relevant films.

Despite venturing into sensitive topics such as gender inequality, Hindu-Muslim amity, and illegitimacy, Chopra's films found success. He was considered to be experimental with genres as well, as can be illustrated by the multiplicity and variety of his work — from serious mythologies (the television series Mahabharata) to light comedies (Pati Patni Aur Woh, 1978) to suspense thrillers (Dhund, 1973).

However, as a film, it failed to impress. It included too many shots of the interview with his son and long-time AD, the late Ravi Chopra, to an extent where it became unbearably monotonous. It failed to engage the audience with its unclear dialogues and lack of subtitles, though it was still largely informative.

Yash Chopra, his younger and perhaps more sensational brother, became the protagonist of the second hour-long film. Surprisingly, in the film, he credited all his success to BR Chopra.

It followed almost the same format as the previous one; only, this film also spoke of his love for his wife Pamela ("his motto was Food, Family, Films"), had more amusing anecdotes from his friends (and none, at all, from him), and seemed better researched. He was hailed as a precursor of change and a cult figure for new young directors in the movie. The only flaw was presenting him as too flawless and avoiding addressing any negative elements, a balance crucial in truthful documentaries.

Ultimately, the audience seemed to love the information contained in both films and probably enjoyed a little trip down memory lane. 

The Legends: BR Chopra and The Legends: Yash Chopra were screened at the 14th Habitat Film Festival at New Delhi's India Habitat Centre on 24 May 2019.

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Habitat Film Festival