By Karima Rhanem | Morocco TIMES 11/14/2005 | 6:12 pm
Marrakech---Yash Chopra, one of the hippest and trendiest directors of Indian cinema was given the “carte blanche” to screen his eminent films during the Marrakech International Film Festival, currently held in Morocco's red city on Nov.11-19. Chopra, who is visiting Morocco for the first time, expressed his happiness to exchange and share ideas with figures of world cinema.
“I am happy to be here in Morocco. That's my first visit. I came here to share ideas with other film directors, and I wish to know more about Moroccan cinema,” Chopra told Morocco Times.
"I am very touched to know that I am already famous in Morocco, though it is my first visit. Moroccans know all my films and that's impressive," he added.
Chopra is the only director of the older brigade of Indian filmmakers who has successfully moved with the times right from his first film Dhool ka Phool (1959) to his latest film Veer Zara (2004).
“I am sensitive and I cry easily,” Chopra says. His sensitiveness is reflected in most of his films.
His picturesque, poetic images, often shot in Switzerland with melodious music, are charged with rich feeling, and in spite of all the gloss on screen, his films are more about life than lifestyle. He is reported to have the best musical sense of all filmmakers in the Hindi Film Industry today.
Chopra has been lately honoured for his sensitive and poetic contribution to Indian Cinema with the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke Award.
His latest and most favourite film Veer Zara was screened on Sunday in the open square of Jamaa Lafna. The film, says the director, has made a very good business across the globe, as it stars Shah Rukh Khan (Veera Pratap Singh), Preity Zinta (Zara Hayat Khan) Rani Mukherjee (Saamiya Siddiqui), and Amitabh Bachchan (Sumer Singh).
The choice of screening Veer Zara in this popular square of Jamaa Lafna reflects the popularity of Indian cinema among the grassroots.
Jamaa Lafna is a square and market place in the centre of Marrakech. Its name is usually translated as assembly of the dead or collapse.
During the day it is predominantly occupied by orange juice stalls, youths with chained Barbary apes, and snake charmers who will pose for photographs for tourists.
At night the square is filled with about 50 food stalls, traditional healers, and many musical performers and story tellers.
Veer Zara, a touching story
Through Veer Zara, Yash Chopra proved again that he is the 'King of Romance'. The film tells the story of an Indian, Veer Pratap Singh (Shah Rukh Khan) who has been in jail for 22 years. Saamiya Siddiqui [Rani Mukerji], a Pakistani lawyer, comes to know about the man who is languished in a Pakistan jail cell for 22 years and has not spoken to anybody.
Saamiya is shocked to know his conditions and decides to help him. As a first step, she wants to find the truth about this man, what happened to him and to his love Zara.
She challenges all the obstacles she faces to prove to her late father, to the cruel prosecution lawyer (Anupam Kher) with whom she worked before, and to the whole Pakistani society that a woman could do better, even in jobs usually dominated by men.
“Veer Zara's story is not about an impossible marriage between Hindu and Muslims, because there is no opposition in that. Rather, the movie is about the Indo-Pakistani friendship,” Chopra told Morocco Times.
The story of Veer Zara actually starts from this scene, when Saamiya pushed Veer to speak by calling him by his real name for the first time after 22 years. Only then Veer felt the need to tell his story to Saamiya. The movie began with a flashback citing memories of Veer and how he came to be in jail.
The beginning of the movie was routine and there were dozens of songs in the first half. However, the scenes developed gradually to provide the audience with a different experience. The screenplay never let you down. New characters keep entering whenever the film tends to stagnate and rejuvenate the proceedings.
Veer-Zara is an immortal, beautifully narrated, love story. It's about Veer Pratap Singh (Shah Rukh Khan) and Zara Hayat Khan (Preity Zinta) who endured the suffering of their separation for 22 years.
Veer Pratap Singh used to be a rescue pilot with the Indian Air Force. He loved life and was always out to help others. One fine day Shah Rukh Khan met 'Zara', the daughter of an influential Pakistani politician (Boman Irani).
Zara was a simple girl, who was ready to marry the man of her parent's choice, Raza [Manoj Bajpai]. She came to India to fulfill her surrogate Hindu mother 'Bibi's [Zohra Segal] last wish: To immerse her ashes in the holy river.
The bus in which she was traveling had an accident, and Veer Pratap saved her life. They soon became friends and slowly fell in love with each other.
Zara, then, accompanied Veer to see the place where he grew up (Punjab). His uncle (Amitabh Bachchan) and aunt (Hema Malini), who have raised Veer (an orphan), also liked Zara very much.
Veer accompanied Zara to Atari Railway station to drop her to Pakistan and decided to confess his love to her. However, he realised that Zara would soon get married to Raza Shirazi (Manoj Bajpai), who was waiting for her at the station. Nonetheless, Veer expressed his love to her and told her that he would give up his life for her anytime.
While in Lahore, Zara found it difficult to forget Veer. Her maid Shabbo (Divya Dutta) called Veer in India and explained the situation to him.
Veer, then, gave up his job and went to Lahore. He met Zara in the presence of her family and her prospective in-laws. Raza (her fiancé) still wanted to marry her for his political future.
Zara's father was shocked when he knew about Veer-Zara's relationship, and fell sick. At this point, Mariam (Kiron Kher), Zara's mother went to beg Veer to return to India and to forget about Zara.
Veer accepted to leave after a dramatic scene, which was one of the touchiest moments in the film. However, as he entered the bus, Pakistani policemen arrested him under false charges of spying. Veer's arrest was under the instructions of Raza, who wanted to make Veer pay for ruining his life by pushing him to get married to a woman who did not love him.
Veer had not uttered a single word for 22 years to save the honour of Zara and her family. Veer thought that Zara has now so many children and lives happily with her husband. He never thought that she would ask for divorce and would wait for him for 22 years.
The bus Veer was supposed to take had a dangerous accident, and all the passengers died. Zara thought that Veer died in the crash. So, she asked for divorce and went to India to live with Veer's uncle and aunt in Punjab.
Saamiya traveled to India and brought Zara to Lahore, where she met her love after 22 years. Saamiya won her case as a lawyer, and Veer received an official apology from the Pakistani court, and was allowed to use his real name and go back to India.
The last scene of the film shows Veer (the Hindu) marrying Zara (the Muslim), abiding with the Indian tradition. Veer and Zara went together hand in hand to cross the Indian Pakistani borders, with a hope of living peacefully for the rest of their lives.
Shah Rukh Khan, in this movie, acted brilliantly when he transformed himself from a youth air force pilot in his twenties into a 50-year-old prisoner (the constantly ventures into flashback and present). Veer Zara made Indian and Pakistani families exchange visits
Yash Chopra said “the movie had a great impact on the Pakistani and Indian communities around the world.
“The message I wanted to transmit through Veer Zara is that there should be no barriers to love. Veer and Zara's story can happen anywhere in the world,” the Bollywood director told Morocco Times.
“When I was presenting the film, I saw tears in people's faces. I have learnt that many families in both India and Pakistan have reviewed their perceptions after seeing the film. Many of those who hadn't visited their relatives for years have now started exchanging visits, and that's very important,” he added.
Chopra stressed that India and Pakistan should overcome their political problems and allow their peoples live in peace, love and harmony.
“We share the same landscape, almost same clothes, food and culture. So it is ridiculous that families are apart because of political conflicts,” he argued.
Indian pop culture on the rise
America isn't the only country that knows how to spin and export fantasies. India's pop culture is huge. Bollywood has millions of non-Indian fans in the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia, too.
Indian movies' dreamily suggestive dance numbers (Indian censors don't allow sex) go over well in many conservative societies. Given the choice between a “Steve Martin” divorce comedy and a musical about the virtues of God and family, Arabs, Africans and Southeast Asians often choose the latter.
“I am deeply touched by the story, I don't usually go to see Indian movies, but this one is just wonderful,” Mohammed, 37, told Morocco Times.
Meryem, 15, a high school student, said “I have never seen such an interesting Indian film like this before. The story makes you cry and laugh at the same time. The film director dealt wisely with the problems between India and Pakistan.”
For Hanane, a Marrakechi university student, “Indian movies are feel-good, all-happy-in-the-end, tender love stories with lots of songs and dances.” And this is why, she says, “they attract non-Indian audiences across the world.”
Mumbai directors, on their part, admit that they are adjusting their traditional, romantic themes slightly to new foreign audiences and changing tastes of overseas Indian audiences; but they insist the soul of Indian pop culture will remain unchanged, despite all the money and foreign interest.
Bollywood already sells around 6 billion tickets a year—with about 15 percent sold overseas. And the profits just keep going up.
Yash Chopra is attending the Marrakech International Film Festival accompanied by Indian actor Saif Ali Khan.
Chopra's carte blanche films will be shown at Le Rif and Saada theatres.
Chopra, an interesting career
Yash Chopra was born in 1932 in Jalandar, Punjab, India. His passion for cinema brought him to Bombay where he started out as a journalist, before assisting his brother, B.R. Chopra and directing films.
Success came to him early in his career right from his directorial debut with “Dhool Ka Phool” (1959), a melodrama about illegitimacy and communal violence. Two years later he won the President's Gold Medal for “Dharmputra (1961), as well as numerous awards for “Waqt” (1965), “Aadmi Aur Insaan” (1969) and “Ittefaq” (1969), a thriller with a bold storyline and no songs.
In 1970, Yash Chopra launched his own production banner, Yashraj Films, under which he made in 1973 the award-winning “Daag” while directing “Joshila” for other producers.
“Deewaar” marked a turning point in his career in 1975, making Amitabh Bachchan an overnight superstar and confirming his status as a trendsetter film director for generations of filmmakers.
Their collaboration over the following years brought them another series of critically acclaimed films, regarded as classics: “Kabhi Kabhie” (1976), “Trishul” (1978) and “Kaala Patthar” (1979).
Despite having experimented with various genres, and controversial themes, romance has remained Yash Chopra's speciality. “Silsila” (1981), “Chandni” (1989) starring the popular actress, Sri Devi, “Darr” (1993) with newcomer Shah Rukh Khan, and “Dil To Pagal Hai” (1997) follow the course of epic love triangles.
A keen interest for poetry, breathtaking locations, unforgettable melodies, brilliant picturisation and the ability of moving with the times are what have made Yash Chopra one of the most prominent film makers and producers of Bollywood.
Chopra's films screened at the festival 1959 DHOOL KA PHOOL (Blossom of Dust) 1961 DHARMPUTRA 1965 WAQT (Time) 1969 AADMI AUR INSAAN (Man and Humanity) ITTEFAQ (Coincidence) 1973 JOSHILA (Zesty) DAAG (The Stain) 1975 DEEWAAR (Wall) 1976 KABHI KABHIE (Sometimes) 1978 TRISHUL (Trident) 1979 KAALA PATTHAR (Black Stone) 1981 SILSILA (The Affair) 1984 MASHAAL (The Torch) FAASLE (Distances) 1988 VIJAY CHANDNI 1991 LAMHE (Moments) 1993 PARAMPARA (Tradition) DARR (Fear) 1997 DIL TO PAGAL HAI 2004 VEER-ZARA