‘The Romantics’ Recap And Review: A Nostalgic Trip Down The Hindi Film Industry Lane

Smriti Mundhra’s last outing in the reality television foray came with a lot of polarizing reviews. If you remember “Indian Matchmaking,” which brought to the table the other national sport in India, the sport of matching one stranger boy with another stranger girl, after which they are pushed as per the societal norms to get “married.” The show garnered a mixed bag of reviews and reception; many outside of India loved the concept of arranged marriage, while many in India watched the show as it was so bad that it was good. Smriti Mundhra, from there, has ventured into documentary filmmaking, and she began with a topic that is close to everyone’s heart in India. The Hindi film industry or as it’s known by its other term of endearment, “Bollywood.” The Hindi film industry has had many stalwart directors who reached the pinnacle of fame, who are not easy to forget, especially from the pop culture reference points of our parents and us. Since independence, the Hindi film industry has taken on the mantle of unifying our large country in such a way that the impact of that movement is still seen in the way the industry functions.

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Smriti Mundhra’s “The Romantics” is about that one stalwart who will always remain immortal in the eyes of the biggest fans of the Hindi film industry because this person managed to take the industry from being nationally recognized to globally recognized. That man is Yash Chopra. The man is responsible for making countless films in the romantic, drama, and action genres, and each film has a unique touch to it. Though Yash Chopra was at the forefront of bringing back romance in Hindi films, “The Romantics” explores Yash Chopra’s legacy, the story of his film production house, his son Aditya Chopra, the dynamic producer who took charge of its functioning, and how it turned out to be the most sought-after film studio that nests many pre and post-production technologies.


The Man Himself, Yash Chopra, And His Legacy

“The Romantics” begins with many celebrities who were part of Yash Chopra films in the 60s and 70s talking in depth with a current lot of actors who have either worked with Yash Chopra or his son Aditya Chopra about the relevance of Yash Chopra films in the current age and the deep impact it left on the industry, which is still talked about with the highest regard. There are the likes of Amitabh Bachchan, Abhishek Bachchan, Salim Khan, Salman Khan, Rani Mukherjee, Uday Chopra (Yash Chopra’s younger son), Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan, Hrithik Roshan, Ranbir Kapoor, Ranveer Singh, Karan Johar, Kajol, Madhuri Dixit, Juhi Chawla, Poonam Dhillon, and Yash Chopra’s wife, Pamela Chopra. All of them have nothing but good words to say for a man who changed the image of Hindi films and how they are perceived not only in India but abroad as well. The director of the documentary wanted to talk in detail about the life Yash Chopra had led under the shadow of his legendary brother B.R. Chopra (the person who gave us the famous television serial Mahabharat) and dared to break away to forge his path.

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“The Romantics,” for lack of a better word, is truly a nostalgic trip down memory lane for those who are hardcore fans of Hindi cinema, and especially for those who have grown up on Yash Chopra staple movies and songs. It is interesting to know about the length and breadth the man himself took to make sure his films were made. In a way, he was the feisty director who dared to show another version of romance. What stood out in a Yash Chopra movie were the female characters; they had a voice, agency, and purpose in the film, and they were not just eye candy. Yash Chopra’s wife, Pamela Chopra, is a prominent speaker on the show who speaks about his mindset and his thought process involving the films he directed. The man spearheaded the new wave in the commercial Hindi cinema space, and no one can take that away from him. It is refreshing to know the man himself who not only made blockbuster films but went through a slump of bad films and back-to-back flops. It is interesting to know how he put India on the global map by shooting his films in countries like Switzerland, so much so that there are now multiple memorials in his name in the said country. Switzerland also owes a lot to the said man for putting it on the radar of Indians who want to travel abroad.


The Not-So-Mystery Man: Aditya Chopra

The biggest achievement of “The Romantics” is finally getting Aditya Chopra to come in front of the camera and talk about an entity he truly loves from the bottom of his soul and heart: cinema. Aditya Chopra was always known as the man who loved being the man behind the camera and shied away from giving interviews to any media house. He was known for dedicating all his time only producing films, though he has directed only a few of them. Most of his films remain pop culture phenomena, the biggest of them being Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. Smriti Mundhra here is not interested in knowing only the good parts or the perks he had as the eldest son of Yash Chopra and the man who would be taking the baton of Yash Raj Films forward. Aditya Chopra’s sheer love for cinema is palpable through the camera, and now we get to understand why he would rather stay behind the camera and not in front of it, because he would rather spend time nurturing people who live and breathe cinema and encouraging them to be the best.

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Aditya Chopra does not shy away from speaking about the failures their production house incurred at many stages. It is refreshing to hear the man talk about it and stress the fact that the film will only work if the audiences connect with it. No amount of promotions or projecting the fact that the said actor is the son or daughter of a producer or another actor will salvage the films. It is interesting to understand how self-aware all of them must remain to make sure they don’t become overconfident over time. “The Romantics” brought to light the fact it was Aditya Chopra’s instincts, eye for detail, and the fact that he made a fair newcomer Shah Rukh Khan feel welcome that led him to add inputs in his roles as per Shah Rukh’s suggestions. This projects Aditya Chopra as a man with a vision. He is single-handedly responsible for putting Shah Rukh Khan on the map of India as the man to look out for. Many will be elated to hear Shah Rukh Khan talk in depth about Aditya Chopra and his love for cinema; and the brotherhood Aditya Chopra shares with Shah Rukh himself.

“The Romantics” is far from perfect. The makers gave a lot of screen time to Uday Chopra, the other son of Yash Chopra, who wanted to make it big as an actor but failed to do so. It is anything but interesting to hear Uday Chopra endlessly talk about his work and failures, but what he refuses to acknowledge is the fact that he is probably not a talented actor, and just like Aditya Chopra puts it, the audience decides what they want. Uday Chopra’s trajectory as an actor did not require this much screen time in the documentary, and the makers could have given us more input from Aditya Chopra on his work and brought in other actors, directors and technicians who have worked with Aditya and have succeeded. It is interesting to see Parineeti Chopra not making an appearance because she is also a Yash Raj find. Not to mention, the leading casting director on camera admits to having suggested one of her colleagues lose weight (who was later cast in a Yash Raj film) if she wanted to audition for a role in Yash Raj films. This, coming from a leading casting executive with Yash Raj Films, sounds problematic. Hindi films are notoriously known for projecting impossible body standards. Bearing that in mind, it was absurd to hear executives sitting on top making such statements.

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It was also disheartening to hear many prominent makers and actors refer to Hindi cinema as Indian cinema. I think we all have reached a point where we know Hindi cinema is a part of the Indian cinema, but it is not “the Indian cinema.” That term sidelines and disregards other film industries in the country. It is highly smug of the Hindi film artists and technicians to call it “Indian cinema” because Hindi cinema does not represent the whole of the country. There are parts of the country where people relate more to their regional cinema than Hindi cinema. The makers should have been wary of using such terms in a documentary that will be watched by many, not just in India but in other countries as well. This cements the Indian cinema industry’s position as an entity that only sticks to song and dance routines.

Despite its setbacks, “The Romantics” invokes a sense of reminiscence and recollection and takes us back to our days of youth—not just ours but also of our parents. Smriti Mundhra and her team have gathered enough and more footage of Yash Chopra’s interviews talking about the stories of his films and what they represented then to the audience and what they represent now. “The Romantics” will surely make you go back and check out Yash Chopra’s filmography and music. “The Romantics” is worth watching. Also, we could go on and keep listening to Aditya Chopra unplugged, talking about his love for cinema.


What To Expect In The Show: A Recap

The first episode of “The Romantics,” “The Boy from Jalandhar,” takes a deep dive into the man Yash Chopra and how he began his life working with his brother B.R. Chopra, directing films under the B.R. Chopra banner and slowly shifted out from his brother’s shadow to start his own production company, Yash Raj Films. The support of his wife, Pamela Chopra, has been immense, which is another highlight of the episode. This episode is a nostalgic trip down memory lane where there is a detailed discussion on Deewar, Kabhi Kabhie, Chandni, and Lamhe. All these films still have a massive fan following, and rightly so. This episode also threw light on the fact that Pamela Chopra’s influence led to women’s characters being of utmost importance in Yash Chopra’s films.

“Prodigal Son” is all about Aditya Chopra, his life as the filmmaker’s son, and his humongous interest in the art of cinema and filmmaking. From this episode, we get Aditya Chopra talking about his relationship with work, his father, his life as an assistant director, and his camaraderie with Shah Rukh Khan since the Darr days. It is interesting to hear Aditya Chopra talk about the love he carries for motion pictures and how his method of directing a film is dramatically different from his father’s style of filmmaking. There is a detailed discussion of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge and his ventures from then on. Though Aditya Chopra has directed only four films, his life so far has been dedicated only to producing films.

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“The New Guard” focuses on the topic of nepotism. Aditya Chopra sternly believes that he comes from a privileged background, but he also believes it is the audience who decides the fate of the film. Like it or not, a privileged kid can only get a little far in his or her career. But if the said celebrity is not bankable, there is no way he or she will be cast again. This is a double-edged sword logic because sometimes good films do tank, and there is no hope for actors who were cast in it from there on. Aditya Chopra and his brother Uday Chopra talk in-depth about wanting Uday to be popular and accepted by the audience, but since the audience’s reaction is the opposite, Aditya and Uday admit that they should let go of their dream. This episode also focuses on Aditya Chopra giving chances to new directors and new creative producers who flesh out new stories and new characters that will be more approachable to the younger audience. Anushka Sharma, Ranveer Singh, and Bhumi Pednekar extensively talk about how they were cast and their journey as newcomers with Yash Raj Films. Another nostalgia trip with Aditya wanting to make films that would be a mix of Manmohan Desai and Michael Bay, and that’s how we got the “Dhoom” series. “Hum Tum” and “Salaam Namaste” were such films that attracted the multiplex-going audience because the romance mentioned in the films was of a mature kind. Aditya Chopra was keen on pushing the boundaries of the romantic genre.

In the last episode of “Legacy,” with Aditya Chopra producing films, there is an aging Yash Chopra still delivering hit films back-to-back until his last film, “Jab Tak Hai Jaan.” With the advent of American production houses making an entry into the Hindi film industry, Aditya Chopra becomes wary and possessive of the label he takes care of. Yash Raj Films soon opened a studio to compete with foreign production houses. Aditya Chopra here is hell-bent on giving Hindi filmmakers a homegrown studio, even if that would mean pumping in plenty of money. Aditya Chopra comes across as a visionary, and the fact that the studio still stands tall against the biggest American film production houses shows that came and went but couldn’t face up to the challenge. This episode was also about Yash Chopra’s final days, right after “Jab Tak Hai Jaan’s” wrap up, after which he succumbed to a dengue attack. The legacy that Yash Chopra left, which has now been handed over to Aditya Chopra and Uday Chopra, now needs to be carried forward.

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Despite its obvious flaws, which are the whitewashing of the entire YRF legacy by getting Aditya Chopra (for the very first time) and Uday Chopra to talk about their beloved father, there was enough sugar-coating. It was good to see Rishi Kapoor in the documentary and Shah Rukh Khan, for the first time, speaking his heart out about his love for cinema. Shah Rukh was not being charming or funny here; he was being an actor who is forever grateful to Yash Chopra and Aditya Chopra for being in his life. Kudos to the makers, Smriti Mundhra, especially for getting Aditya Chopra to talk extensively about his father, the stories from the set, and his undying passion for cinema. We will have to address the elephant in the room, which is Uday Chopra’s fluctuating American/British accent, which became more absurd in the last episode. Rest assured, “The Romantics” is well made, the audiences get enough and more anecdotes from the man himself, and what’s not to like about actors and actresses talking for once about the craft of cinema?


Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan is a cinema enthusiast, and a part time film blogger. An ex public relations executive, films has been a major part of her life since the day she watched The Godfather – Part 1. If you ask her, cinema is reality. Cinema is an escape route. Cinema is time traveling. Cinema is entertainment. Smriti enjoys reading about cinema, she loves to know about cinema and finding out trivia of films and television shows, and from time to time indulges in fan theories.

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