Smriti Mundhra, director of Yash Chopra’s ‘The Romantics’ on Rishi Kapoor’s last interview, ‘He was full of life…’ – Exclusive

Smriti Mundhra, director of Yash Chopra's 'The Romantics' on Rishi Kapoor's last interview, 'He was full of life...' - Exclusive

Director Smriti Mundhra has achieved not one but two coups while filming the Netflix series The Romantics, the four part series that’s dedicated to filmmaker Yash Chopra. For this special series, Smriti managed to interview Yash Chopra‘s son and current head of Yash Raj Films, Aditya Chopra. Adi, as he’s more affectionately referred to in the industry, is a recluse and his appearances are so rare that people actually discuss if he exists or not. The other feat in The Romantics is an interview with the late Rishi Kapoor. It is, in all likelihood, his last ever interview recorded just days before his passing in 2020. In conversation with ETimes, Smriti recalls how he managed to get Adi and Rishi on camera and how these interviews have made all the difference to her series. Read on…

Aditya Chopra has been a mythical figure, there have been so many articles about him, whether he exists or not, because he is such a recluse. But you actually managed to bring him on camera for an interview after twenty five years. How did you manage to convince him? It was definitely not an easy process. I think the only obstacle in this entire process was convincing Aditya Chopra to speak to me. But I think we just started, with some background conversations, just to get more, so I can get more context in terms of the history of the films and the family and all of that. And then slowly, convincing everybody in the family to talk. I spoke with Uday and Mrs. Pam Chopra. And finally, I told Aditya, let’s just record an interview. You don’t have to let me use it, but you can put it in your archives. 100 years from now, somebody can find it. But since we’re here, we’re filming all these things, we’re telling the story about your family, let’s just film something. So he very reluctantly agreed to that. You know, first he said only audio, and then, I said, well, the camera’s here, let’s just turn the camera on. And then he agreed. And after that, he still said no, you can’t actually use this in the series. You can just use it for background information. And then finally, we were editing the series and when I showed it to him later, much later, it was very evident how important his presence was, in telling the story, especially the story of his father, Yash Chopra. I think because of the regard he has for his father, this series is really a tribute to his father’s legacy. He then reluctantly agreed to allow it to stay.

We also get to see Rishi Kapoor, in perhaps his last interview?
We actually spoke to him in 2020. That interview was done one month before he passed. It was such a special day. It was such a special interview, probably one of the most memorable I did in this whole series. You know, obviously at that time, he had been having some health problems, but to see him on set that day when we filmed his interview, you could have never guessed that we would lose him a month later. He was full of life, gregarious, excited to talk, had so many stories to share, so much reminiscing. He was so gracious with his time. I think we talked for three hours. It was like he took us into a time machine, talking about the early days of his career and of course, his relationship with Yash Chopra and the films that they made together, including Yashji’s last film, Jab Tak Hai Jaan. So just to see the span of their careers, together, their lives together was really amazing. Also he’s the most charming man, and he looked amazing. He was wearing this amazing purple suit and was just eager to talk. Having his amazing wife, Neetu Ji with him, was just an absolutely wonderful experience.

But he was also known to be a taskmaster. Was convincing him for the interview tough?
It really wasn’t. He agreed to do the interview because it was for Yash Chopra. But once he was on camera, it felt like he had nothing else in the world to do but talk and reminisce. He made it very easy for me as a filmmaker and as the person interviewing him. We just had the most wonderful time. Ultimately, it’s a four part series and I couldn’t use everything that we talked about. But there’s so much more and I kept trying to find places to put more and more of Rishi Kapoor in there because it was a special interview. He wasn’t rushing out the door or anything.

What is your favorite YRF film?
I have to say Chandni. I just watched it again last week. I have no reason to watch it again now because I’ve probably seen it 25 times by now, over the course of making the series and even before. But it’s just one of those films I never tire of. I love watching it. Sridevi’s performance and just her energy is something else. She’s never been better, in any film. She was just absolutely amazing, a revelation. It’s probably my number one film and then there’s DDLJ (Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge). I tell those people who are interested and curious about Hindi films to watch those two movies. It’s the perfect introduction.

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