Veteran Bollywood multihyphenate B.R. Chopra, who made socially relevant pics as well as serialized Hindu epic “Mahabharat” for TV, died Nov. 5 in Mumbai. He was 94.
Baldev Raj Chopra started out as a film journo and then moved to writing for the screen. Born in Ludhiana, Punjab, Chopra moved to Delhi after the partition of India and then Mumbai. While the first pic he produced, 1949’s “Karwat” was a box office disappointment, his soph effort, which he also directed, 1951’s “Afsana” was a success.
In 1955 Chopra founded BR Films where he could release his own films, which mixed sentiment with social messages. Beginning in 1956 he made a string of hits such as “Ek hi raasta,” centered on widow remarriage — a taboo among Hindus; “Naya daur,” about modernism affecting Indian villages; “Kanoon,” a courtroom drama that unusually for Bollywood had no songs; “Gumrah,” on adultery; and “Ittefaq,” in which the wife murders her husband.
In 1959 Chopra gave his younger brother Yash the chance to direct “Dhool ka phool,” centered on illegitimate birth, which started him off on his career. After a few decades of working together though the brothers split and Yash Chopra founded his own very successful Yash Raj Films in 1973.
B.R. Chopra continued with his own films including “Insaaf ka tarazu,” centered on rape, and “Nikaah,” about a Muslim love triangle.
In his later years Chopra turned to television, serializing Hindu epic poem “Mahabharat,” which aired on pubcaster Doordarshan beginning in 1988-89. With its 98% world viewership the serial has entered the Guinness Book of Records. Series, in which he helmed with his son Ravi, was a top seller for BR Films when it was sold for homevideo. In 2002 he produced the other Hindu epic, “Ramayana,” for TV.
Chopra also produced his son’s pics, which included hits such as 2003’s “Baghban.”
The Indian government bestowed one of its top awards, the Dadasaheb Phalke Award (named for the pioneer of films in India), on Chopra in 1998.
Survivors include his filmmaker son Ravi; two daughters; and his brother Yash. Another filmmaker brother, Dharam, died in 2002.