16 years of  Veer-Zaara: A movie that was a tribute from a son to his father

It was a fantastic tribute from a son to a father: Cinematographer Anil Mehta

The Shah Rukh Khan, Preity Zinta and Ranu Mukerji starrer Veer-Zaara was a blockbuster when it released 16 years ago. The audience loved the movie not just for the romantic story line, but also for the soulful music.

Speaking about the story, cinematographer Anil Mehta, who has collaborated with Yash Chopra on his two timeless romances Veer-Zaara and Jab Tak Hai Jaan, says Aditya Chopra wrote the story and screenplay for the movie as a tribute to his legendary father, Yash Chopra’s, style of cinema.

“The incredible thing about working on Veer-Zaara was the way Adi and Yash-ji worked together. The fact is that Adi wrote the screenplay and Adi once, in one conversation, I remember telling me that how when he was writing, he was trying to think through Yash Chopra’s mind,” Anil says.

He adds, “He (Adi) was trying to see what kind of film Yash Chopra would make. So, that’s giving a lot of credit, I think, to the filmmaker. And coming from his son, it was a fantastic tribute. To try and write scenes and give this film a spirit of the old soul, was, I think, much to Adi’s credit. Even on set, Adi would be like a big support system for pretty much everything that needed to be done.”

Talking about how he loved to creatively collaborate with the Yash Chopra, Anil says, “When you work on a Yash Chopra film, everyone is an equal, and that is a very important quality to have on set. So, whether it was the biggest stars, the really bigtime director on set, when work started, everybody was an equal and everybody contributed in the best way possible and, you know– which actually also brings me to Sharmishta (Roy, art director) because she also contributed to the look of Veer-Zaara in a very big way.”

The movie brought to life rejected tunes of late Madan Mohan, says his son Sanjeev Kohli

With Veer-Zaara’s music, the audience was treated to late Madan Mohan’s unreleased and brilliant soundtracks like Tere Liye. Yash Chopra loved the song so much that it remained his ringtone till he breathed his last.

Yash Chopra wanted an old world score for the film which was set 22 years earlier. He had sittings with various composers but felt it was not working. In a chance moment, Madan Mohan’s son Sanjeev Kohli, who was CEO of YRF at the time, mentioned that his late father had left behind some unused/rejected dummy compositions. Yash Chopra and Aditya Chopra heard them and immediately decided that Veer Zaara would have music by the maestro!

The selected unheard tunes were recorded, some 50 years after they had been composed! This had never happened before and Billboard magazine wrote about its significance. The song Tere Liye which became the song of the year then, was based on a rejected tune for the song Dil Dhoondta Hai from a 1975 film, Mausam! Javed Akhtar, who made his debut as a lyricist with Yash Chopra’s Silsila in 1981, worked again with the director over two decades later with this film.

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