Filmmaker who made television history

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By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 6.11.08

B.R. Chopra, who gave Indian television viewers Mahabharat, died on Wednesday morning at his Juhu residence. The veteran filmmaker was 94 and had been ailing for some time.

He is survived by his son Ravi, also a filmmaker, and two daughters.

Director of some of the most thought-provoking films Bollywood has produced in the past 50 years, Chopra packed a strong message in his movies.

From the politics of rape (Insaaf ka Tarazu) to adultery (Gumraah), Muslim matrimony laws (Nikaah) and rehabilitation of prostitutes (Sadhana), he posed pertinent questions in almost every film he made.

The 1957 film Naya Daur, one of Chopra’s cinematic highs, dealt with the theme of machines threatening the existence of rural communities — a subject relevant even today.

However, Chopra, born in Ludhiana in April 1914, will be remembered as the man who in the eighties brought the country to a halt every Sunday morning as viewers switched on their sets to watch Mahabharat.

In 1988, putting his film projects aside, Chopra dedicated all his time to what would be television history, casting newcomers and making stars out of them.

When Mahabharat was shown in the UK by BBC, millions tuned in to watch the subtitled version. Two decades on, it still remains the benchmark for every mythological serial on the Indian small screen.

Chopra also produced his younger brother Yash Chopra’s breakthrough film Waqt.