In a career that spans 50 years, one can only imagine the number of accolades filmmaker Yash Chopra might have received. Adding another laurel to his collection is the title of ‘Ambassador of Interlaken’, recently bestowed upon him by the Swiss Embassy; together with the naming a train and a hotel suite on him as well. I had the good fortune to interview him on this occasion. Here's an article that was published as part of a special supplement on Switzerland that was distributed with The Times of India.
Every Indian’s passion for cinema is driven by the unforgettable love stories deftly crafted by celebrated filmmaker Yash Chopra. His larger-than-life representation of simple stories, combined with heart-warming performances, iconic music and breathtaking visual imagery, is what makes him the legend he is today. He was also one of the first few filmmakers to shoot his films outside India, adding an aspirational value for his viewers. Switzerland alone has been a prime location for more than ten YashRaj Films, igniting the fantasies of billions of Bollywood fans across the world. As a tribute to Mr. Chopra’s contribution for promoting Switzerland through his movies, he was awarded the title of ‘Ambassador of Interlaken’ for his outstanding contribution to tourism development in Interlaken on April 8, 2011 by the Mayor of Interlaken Urs Graf. In addition to the award, a commemorative silver plate—replete with Mr. Chopra’s name and signature—will be placed at the centre of Interlaken, along the Höheweg. Mr. Graf exclaimed, “Mr. Chopra’s contribution to tourism in Interlaken, as well as all of Switzerland, through his films has been extraordinary. He has further promoted the relationship between Switzerland and India through the voice of cinema.”
When asked about his love affair with Switzerland, Mr. Chopra revealed, “I came here for the first time 50 years ago, and fell in love with this place; and 25 years later, I decided to make films here. Filmmaking is a very stressful job, but here, I’ve worked peacefully. The people here are so kind and helpful with everything you need; I didn’t face any problems.” Vijay, Darr, Chandni, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Mohabbatein and Veer-Zaara are among the many films that were shot here.
The Yash Chopra Train
Together with the honorary Ambassadorship, Jungfrau Railways also named a train after Mr. Chopra in a grand ceremony that took place at Kleine Scheidegg. The alpine horn resounded with a warm welcome as the CEO of Jungfrau Railways, Mr. Urs Kessler greeted Mr. Chopra with words of praise. Mr. Chopra then, together with his wife, Mrs. Pamela Chopra, inaugurated the signboard on the train that revealed his name with by popping the champagne. The humble Mr. Chopra said, “I really didn’t expect it. The only other person to have a train named after him is the founder of Jungfrau Railways, Adolf Guyer-Zeller. After 100 years, they name a train, and that too after an Indian; it’s a huge honour!” Now, movie buffs, the world over can relive epic moments from YashRaj favourites that were shot on Jungfrau Railways trains like the song ‘Zara sa jhoom loon main’ from Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaaenge or ‘Tu mere saamne’ from Darr, to name a few. Recalling his shoots aboard the trains here, Mr. Chopra reminisced, “Mr. Kessler and his team made it so easy for me to shoot in the trains. They used to give me an entire compartment and extended their help in anything else I required. I’m really thankful to them for their cooperation.”
The Yash Chopra Suite
To add to his overflowing collection of awards and accolades, the Victoria-Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa named a deluxe suite after him. Aesthetically designed with black leather sofa sets and exquisite lamps, the Yash Chopra suite comes with the magnanimous view of the Jungfrau mountain range, an elegant bedroom and two bathrooms. Lending a personal touch are the posters of his favourite film Veer-Zaara, which adorn the walls of the living room as well as the bedroom. When asked about his feelings about the honours bestowed upon him, an emotional Mr. Chopra revealed, “I feel that all of this is not my achievement; it is my industry’s and my country’s. Today, they have honoured an Indian. I’ve been in films for more than 50 years and God has been grateful to me and given me many accolades, but the honour I have received here has been the ultimate.”
Did you know?
- Not many people are aware that the first Yash Chopra film to be shot in Switzerland was Faasle in 1984.
- Among the many films he has filmed in Switzerland, the song ‘Yeh hum aa gaye hain kahan’ from Veer Zaara is his personal favourite.
- Parts of the song, ‘Ho gaya hai tujhko to pyar sajna’ from Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge that were supposedly in London were actually filmed opposite the Victoria-Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa.
P.S. My visit to Interlaken and Jungfrau was at the invitation of Jungfraubahnen | Jungfrau Railways