Very few people really know of my close relationship with Yashji. In 1968, I used to go to meet him at the BR Films office in Kardar Studios with my photographs and Acting Diploma from FTII, Pune. Fortunately, I was better received as an acting aspirant over the others as I was selected by BR Chopra and 11 other top producers in the United Producers Talent Contest, along with actors like Rajesh Khanna.
When I would visit Yashji at his office, I saw an involved director in him but still he would offer me a cup of tea and chat with me about the Pune institute. He would tell me, ‘My brother BR says you are very talented and if you are, then you should have the patience and strong will to stay here till you get it.’ Those words completely discouraged me but were infused into my mind, which pushed me to wait and stay. I waited during his shoot of Aadmi Aur Insaan and became friends with his assistant Vakil, who told me Yash Chopra’s secret of success as a director. I did not get a role from Yashji but I learnt a lot and always followed his advice.
In 1973, I met him at his Bandra house when I narrated my first script Kalicharan, which he liked very much. But he told me this was not the kind of film he made even though he appreciated my animated style of story-telling. I was overwhelmed by his compliment, and remembered it on a day when I got an opportunity to direct Kalicharan. Thereafter, he met me in Rajkamal Studios during the sound mixing of Kalicharan. He also watched a reel of the film being mixed by ace sound recordist Mangesh Desai. He complimented me and, once again, at a crucial part of my career, boosted my confidence.
In the ‘80s, his office was in Rajkamal Studios and I used to spend a month or so there for the mixing of my films. We used to meet and chat very affectionately and he would share with me how he handled the most difficult things with utmost ease.
Even though Yashji made mostly romantic or drama films, he had a great sense of humour. He would make you laugh in the midst of the most serious discussion or in a crisis. He was a great observer of human nature and would react only to the situation, not to people as individuals. He cared for the industry, thier problems and became a well-deserved industry leader as a filmmaker and producer.
Yashji attended 90 per cent of my events and celebrations, and would compliment me wholeheartedly for my gradual growth. On July 18, 2011, he gracefully attended our convocation at Whistling Woods International in the presence of over 400 students and received the WWI Maestro award. In his keynote speech, he addressed the students and said, ‘You, the future of Indian cinema, are committed to carry this mashaal of filmmaking to shine at a global level.’
Last, but not the least, I can never forget that moment when the Supreme Court dismissed our plea for Whistling Woods. Yashji was the first person to call me and said if I need any help, the industry would stand by Whistling Woods’ survival.
What more can you say about a great human being like him? He was a rare combination of a passionate filmmaker and a humble man, who would understand every one’s pain over his own!