Noted Filmmaker B R Chopra Dies at 94

Times of India
MUMBAI, Nov 5: Legendary filmmaker B R Chopra, who made immortal classics highlighting socially relevant issues and produced the popular Hindi TV serial Mahabharat , died at his home on Wednesday following a prolonged illness.

Baldev Raj Chopra, elder brother of another noted filmmaker Yash Chopra, was 94.

Chopra was not keeping well for some time and the end came at 0830 hours at his residence in suburban Juhu, family sources said.

One of India's most respected film personalities and an eminent film producer-director, Chopra is survived by his filmmaker son Ravi Chopra and two daughters.

Chopra laid great emphasis on the story because he himself had started out as a writer.

In his twilight years in the late eighties, Chopra went on to produce one of India's most successful TV series in the country's history.


Born on April 22, 1914 in undivided Punjab, Chopra's interest in films started as a movie journalist.

After partition, he moved to Delhi and then to Mumbai. He began his celluloid career writing and editing film reviews for the Cine Herald Journal.

In 1949, he produced his first film Karwat , which unfortunately turned out to be a flop.

In 1951, he tried his luck again as the producer and director of the film Afsana (1951) and hit gold. This movie, a tale of mistaken identity with Ashok Kumar in a double role, was a runaway hit and went for a silver jubilee run.

In 1955, B R formed his own production house, B R Films. His first movie for this production house was the highly successful Naya Daur .

Encouraged by this success, B R started off on a roll with the release of Ek Hi Raasta (1956), a drama about widow remarriage and then churned out a string of successful films, the most notable being Naya Daur (1957), Sadhana (1958), Kanoon (1960), Gumrah (1963) and Humraaz (1967).

He also gave his younger brother, Yash Chopra, his first directorial opportunity with the box-office hit Dhool Ka Phool (1959) and in the subsequent years Yash made four more films for B R including Waqt (1965) and Ittefaq (1969).

B R was instrumental in boosting the career of singer Mahendra Kapoor and utilised him in most of his movies.

His foray into television led to 'Mahabharat', one of the most successful TV serials in Indian television history.
B R Chopra had always endeavoured to make socially relevant films, which at the same time tried to cater to popular sentiments. A file photograph of Ravi Chopra with father B R Chopra. (TOI)

For instance, Naya Daur (1957) told the story of a traditional rural community threatened with modernism and mechanism. B R perceived mechanism as evil and had the protagonist, a horse carriage rider, defeat an automobile in a race.

He also made films that were regarded as ahead of their time. Kanoon (1960) was a courtroom drama without any songs at all (music being essential of all Hindi films, this was a novel technique).

Gumrah (1963) told the tale of a woman resuming her affair after marriage and Ittefaq (1969) showed the heroine as a killer of her husband.

B R continued to make films into the 1970s and 1980s, and met success with Insaf Ka Tarazu (1980) focusing on the issue of rape, and Nikaah (1982), a Muslim love triangle.

His son Ravi did try to keep the banner going but none of the films did well except for Aaj Ki Awaz (1984), another courtroom tale, and the family epic Baghban (2003).

B R Films turned to television in 1985 and made several successful television programmes, the most successful of the being the serial Mahabharata A file photograph of Ravi Chopra with father B R Chopra. (TOI)

It entered the 'Guinness Book of World Records' by registering 96 per cent world viewership. In 1999, B R was awarded the Dada Saheb Phalke Award for his contribution to Indian cinema.

B R's third generation has also taken its bow with one of Ravi's son turning director and another an actor.

With the success of Insaaf ka Taraazu, Nikaah and Tawaif, Chopra reasserted the superiority of a director even in the era of megastars.

It is to B R Chopra's credit that he always picked up socially relevant topics and yet catering to popular sentiment so as to convey his message to larger audience effectively.

Chopra's magnum opus Naya Daur portrayed the conflict between rural tradition and modern technology. The protagonist of the film defeats a motor vehicle in a race.

The film is a quintessentially Nehruvian film that fitted in nicely with the new initiatives in economic planning and rural community development in the first decade of Indian independence.

It hailed by critics as a powerful and vibrantly gripping film. "B R Films' 'Naya Daur' is a distinctly successful combination of pertinent social education and moral and top rate entertainment," critics had said.

The black and white film was recently re-released with coloured print but failed to capture the magic of the original.

Many of Chopra's films were regarded as bold and ahead of their time. He dared to try a songless film with a hard-hitting suspense courtroom drama, Kanoon, showed a woman resuming her affair with her lover after marriage in Gumrah , a tale of marital infidelity.

In Ittefaq (1969) his heroine kills her husband with the help of her lover and in Dhund (1973), a woman married to a paralytic A file photograph of Ravi Chopra with father B R Chopra. (TOI)
takes on a lover.

Gumrah needs special mention because it describes the Lakshmanrekha , the sacred threshold of a traditional family inside which lies the safety of a married woman and the consequences of what happens if she crosses the line and goes astray.

In the film, the heroine (Mala Sinha) has to marry her sister's husband for sake of the children when the sister dies even though when she is involved with another person.

As the woman caught between her husband and lover, otherwise having a tendency to work herself into hysterical, melodramatic histrionics of the highest order, Mala Sinha responds with perhaps her career's most effective performance.

However ending of all these films was in keeping with the popular norms of the day. The sanctity and purity of marriage had to be preserved. Duty and sacrifice had to take preference to matters of the heart. So in Gumrah the woman finally chooses to live with her husband, while in Ittefaq the woman kills herself as repentance.

His son Ravi did try to keep the BR Banner going but the films directed by him barring a stray Aaj ki Awaaz (1984) have not done well at the box-office.

However Ravi and the banner made a grand comeback when Baghban (2003), looking at the journey of an elderly couple (Amitabh Bachchan and Hema Malini) who are let down by their children.

Today B R Films has diversified into Television after the success of television serial Mahabarat in the 80s.

B R Chopra has for long been the Hindi film industry's senior spokesman and was deservedly awarded the Dadasaheb Phalke Award for his contribution to Indian Cinema in 1999


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Comment on this article

  • Rajinder Saini, Nawan Shahr Doaba

    Fri, Nov 07 2008

    Extremely sad to know the demise of great films maker Mr B.R. Chopra. I have almost seen all the movies produced under B.R. Chopra banner. Is this correct that Mr Chopra had his roots in a place called RAHON near Nawan Shahr Doaba formerly under Jullundur in Punjab. I pray almight God to grant peace and place in heavens to the departed soul.

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  • Ganesh, Mangalore

    Thu, Nov 06 2008

    I used to enjoy Mahabharatha those days when I was very young.

    DisAgree Agree Reply Report Abuse

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