Smriti Mundhra, the creator of “Indian Matchmaking,” has launched a show called “The Romantics” on Netflix just in time for Valentine’s Day. The docuseries centers on a bastion of Hindi cinema, Yash Raj Films, which just released the smash hit “Pathaan.” Netflix releases the series day and date in India, the U.S. and around the world. And it is coming just as interest in films from the subcontinent are piquing international interest.
“It was sort of on my bucket list to make something about Indian cinema, broadly,” she tells Variety. “The intention was to look at the formative, most iconic films in Indian cinema, or the filmmakers — something that gives a glimpse into our industry.”
To Mundhra, there was a gap in world knowledge of the films coming out of Mumbai, even though many people thought they knew “Bollywood.”
“When I was in film school I studied all the auteurs of world cinema, but with the exception of Satyajit Ray there was nothing about Indian cinema,” she says.
But having embarked on the project, Mundhra decided to make it about the 50 years of Yash Raj Films, based on the “longevity of [Yash Chopra’s] career and his contributions to Indian cinema,” she says.
When she made the pitch to the company she didn’t know him, but Mundhra says she owes much of the opening to the fact that her father, filmmaker and theater owner Jagmohan Mundhra, was known to Chopra.
She got the keys to the Yash Raj vault and, with the company’s blessings, had access to home movies, archival stills, film footage and willing subjects. The four-part series not only features interviews with producers, directors, actors and Indian journalists about Yash Raj Films and its impact on Hindi cinema, but there is also a primer on surrounding events in India that affected films, including when the Indian government opened up the country to foreign goods.
Those featured in the project are a veritable who’s who of Hindi films — from Yash’s wife Pam to son Aditya Chopra, Shah Rukh Khan, Karan Johar, Abhishek Bachchan and Kajol.
“The reason was Yash Chopra,” Mundhra says. “When I approached, because it was about Yashji and his career and contributions to Indian cinema, and it had the blessings of YRF, people were happy to participate.”
Scheduling was the hardest part of pinning down the interviews, Mundhra says, sometimes setting aside one day to a subject because she didn’t know if she would get them right away or have to wait six hours.
The next challenge was to edit down the material to fit in the four episodes of the series. But Mundhra is already looking ahead to more such projects, teasing the idea of regional films, including Tamil cinema’s icons.