Netflix’s The Romantics offers more than just a rare Aditya Chopra interview

Celebrating 50 years of Yash Raj Films, Oscar and Emmy-nominated director Smriti Mundhra’s The Romantics is a homage to the studio's many love stories.

Netflix’s The Romantics offers more than just a rare Aditya Chopra interview

Tuesday February 14, 2023,

6 min Read

“These Yash Raj films have set my expectations so high that every guy I meet in real life seems like a disappointment!”

A friend of mine ruefully tells me when I ask her how the date went the previous night. Hilariously, this holds true for most women in India—having grown up watching the many Raj’s and Rahul’s of Yash Raj Films (YRF) woo the ladies on screen, and, in turn, us in the audience.

From the pretentious ‘Cool’ dude (throwback to Kuch Kuch Hota Hai for immortalising “pyaar dosti hai”) with an unexpectedly deep and emotional side, or the obnoxious NRI who can dance atop the snow-clad Alps—YRF’s leading men have set the bar high for more than one generation of women looking for love.

In fact, last year, economist Shrayana Bhattacharya's book on Indian women’s fight for equality was unironically titled Desperately Seeking Shah Rukh, and spent quite a few pages diving deep into the romantic hero SRK has evolved into—largely thanks to YRF.

After all, true love is when you fly across the world to sing your heart out to your lover in the middle of a mustard field in rural Punjab. Or, perhaps, when someone puts their feelings in the backseat and prioritises your future and happiness because you are that precious to them. 

For a lot of us, true love was what Yash Raj showed us on the silver screen. If history had Laila-Majnu, we got Veer and Zaara, Aman and Naina, Raj and Simran, and more. 

It is only fitting that The Romantics, Smriti Mundhra’s docuseries on legendary filmmaker Yash Chopra, is released on Netflix on Valentine’s Day. 

The Romantics

The highlight of the show—besides interviews with 35 celebrities from the film industry—is a rare interview with the Aditya Chopra, the prodigal son continuing his father’s legacy. 

The last time an Aditya Chopra interview appeared in the media was in 1995 for a print magazine for his now-longest-running film Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. In The Romantics, we see Chopra in his first on-camera interview, a certain change of pace for the man behind over 50 movies.

If that wasn’t lucrative enough, Oscar and Emmy-nominated Mundhra gives viewers more reasons to tune in to the docuseries on a weekday afternoon. 

The four-episode long series asks leading actors Amitabh Bachchan, Rani Mukherjee, Salman Khan, and Ranbir Kapoor what ‘Bollywood’ means to them, and then goes on to answer itself.

Bollywood, says The Romantics, means Yash Chopra, and the legacy he has left behind.

Starting on a surprisingly candid note, The Romantics shows you what it looks like behind the camera—before ‘light, camera, action’ masks the imperfections and the doubts that can plague even the biggest superstars of the country.

Shah Rukh Khan being vulnerable, asking where he needs to be seated; Ayushmann Khurrana adjusting his glasses so they don’t reflect the studio lights; Uday Chopra’s hilarious confusion on which accent would sound better and eventually deciding on his British drawl; Rani Mukherjee asking if she has any food stuck between her teeth.

It is a no-brainer: cinema is important to India. And throughout the docuseries, we are reminded exactly how much. “We (Indians) are fanatic about two things: one is cricket, and one is cinema,” says actor Rani Mukherjee. 

Even veteran actor Rishi Kapoor, who passed away last year, makes an appearance, and says, “After sex, cinema is the best form of entertainment—for Indians at least.” 

The Romantics beautifully captures the essence of Indian cinema and its evolution in the last 50-odd years. And it isn’t just the dialogues that stay with you. The opening credits—a series of posters of YRF’s iconic releases—take us on a delightful journey. From a shot of Amitabh-Rekha in Silsila to DDLJ’s last scene at the train station, the heist movie Dhoom, and Aishwarya Rai’s sizzling item number Kajrare in Bunty Aur Babli

Immediately after, a black screen explains the meaning of ‘romantics’—“A person who has ideas that are not based on real life or that are not very practical.” It is a subtle note to its audience that real lives (and love stories) are rarely as dramatic, as grand, and as hopeless as YRF films. 

The first part is a tribute to the Hindi film industry, and the second half dives into Yash Chopra’s life peppered with commentary from people who have known and worked with the legend closely.

The Romantics

While all of this was an expected part of the show, Mundhra delivers much more by deep-diving into understanding nuances that influenced Yash Chopra’s filmmaking decisions—both the blockbusters and the theatrical misses. It narrates the impact of India’s political milestones on Yash Chopra, why he went on to add socio-political elements to his films like Dharamputra and make a cross-border love story like Veer-Zaara, and also narrates the role of his brother BR Chopra in building his career. 

Then, the influence of his marriage and fatherhood moved the director-producer to use woman-centric elements in his films, a marked change from the ‘angry young man’ narrative to a softer, romantic boy-next-door. 

But, at the end of the day, nostalgia is the strongest element in the almost four-hour-long show. Time and again, clips from YRF’s 70’s and 80’s films, and music from the 90’s blockbusters pop up. 

Despite the long run-time, The Romantics is engrossing. Even if you are not a die-hard fan of Bollywood or romance, the story of the evolution of the Hindi film industry will keep you hooked to the screen. 

As the creator of the controversial Indian Matchmaking series, Mundhra is no stranger to this interview-format narrative and the ease is apparent throughout the show.

Speaking of his childhood and introduction to cinema, SRK says, “At that time, directors were not public figures. Stars were public figures.” But, he adds, Yash Chopra changed that. 

Post his multi-starrer film Waqt (1965), the Indian masses started going to the theatres not just for the actors but for his association with the movies. 

The Romantics could not have been released at a better time. For 50 years, YRF has faced multiple ups and downs—delivering blockbusters, as well as flops. 

Reports tell us that the flops outweigh the successes. In fact, last year, YRF was making headlines for all the wrong reasons—experiencing an all-time low with theatrical misses like Ranbir Kapoor-starrer Shamshera, Ranveer Singh’s Jayeshbhai Jordaar, Akshay Kumar’s Samrat Prithviraj, and Shahid Kapoor-starrer Jersey

However, its 2023 release Pathaan—which marked SRK’s comeback as a leading man after nearly four years—made up for the losses by becoming the highest-grossing Hindi film of all time. 

After all, as The Romantics reminds us, there is always ‘light at the end of the tunnel.’ 

Rating: 4/5

Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta