Yash Raj Films completes 50 years: Picking the best album of every decade, from Kabhie Kabhi to Ishaqzaade

Devansh Sharma

Yash Raj Films, founded by late filmmaker Yash Chopra, is currently in its 50th year. The production house, popularly known for its romantic dramas and colourful palette, has experimented with its offerings over the years, particularly when Aditya Chopra took over. From stylised action dramas to films set in small-town India, YRF has brought many a flavour to the big screen. Through a series of throwbacks, we will celebrate the legacy of the production house across the year.

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If there is something that has endured like the legacy of YRF, it is the music of its films. Yash Raj Music has been an integral component of pop culture, and has enjoyed tremendous recall value for decades. Rather than ranking its best albums in the past 50 years, we have decided to pick the best album from each decade, and discuss what makes it stand out.

1970s - >Kabhie Kabhi

Composer: Khayyam >Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi

Six years after Yash Chopra laid the foundation stone of his production house, he made the poetic Kabhie Kabhi. Like Chopra, who had the ability to present the varying romances across different generations, from Raakhee and Amitabh Bachchan's to Neetu Singh and Rishi Kapoor's, Khayyam and Ludhianvi were also equipped with the skill to construct an album that cuts across age groups.

Whether it is the pristine title tracks (sung by Mukesh and Lata Mangeshkar), the ruminative 'Main Pal Do Pal Ka Shayar Hoon' (Mukesh), the honeyed 'Mere Ghar Aaye Ek Nanhee Pari' (Mangeshkar) or the high-spirited 'Tere Chehre Se' (Mangeshkar, Kishore Kumar), all the songs served the dual purpose of an ideal soundtrack €" to aid the narrative and have a life of their own.

Honourable mentions €" Daag: A Poem Of Love (Laxmikant-Pyarelal, Sahir Ludhianvi), Noorie (Khayyam; Jan Nisar Akhtar, Naqsh Lyllapuri)

1980s - >Silsila

Composer: Shiv-Hari Lyrics: Javed Akhtar, Harivansh Rai Bachchan

Javed Akhtar's lyrics and Shiv-Hari's music are inseparable from the visuals of Rekha and Amitabh romancing in the Keukenhof tulip gardens in The Netherlands, and of the foggy, lush-green Pahalgam. The balmy 'Neela Aasman' (Mangeshkar, Amitabh), the frolicsome 'Dekha Ek Khwab' (Kumar, Mangeshkar), the roguish 'Rang Barse' (Amitabh), and most memorably, the soulful 'Ye Kahan Aa Gaye Hum' (Mangeshkar, Amitabh), constituted an album that still irons out the rocky terrain of most romances today.

Honourable mentions: Chandni (Shiv-Hari, Anand Bakshi), Mashaal (Hridaynath Mangeshkar, Javed Akhtar)

1990s - Dil Toh Pagal Hai

Composer: Uttam Singh >Lyrics: Anand Bakshi

In the '90s, as Yash Chopra's romances blossomed, and Aditya Chopra made his directorial debut, Yash Raj Music reached its peak. With fresh faces crowding the screen, new blood was infused into the music as well. But the film that made all the right noises (pleasant ones at that) was Yash Chopra's 1997 musical romance Dil Toh Pagal Hai. 

Since the backdrop of the film was dance, Singh ensured that the album has as many romantic ballads as dance numbers. The romantic tracks like the title song, 'Bholi Si Surat,' 'Dholna,' and 'Koi Ladki Hai' (all sung by Mangeshkar and Udit Narayan) were choreographed by Farah Khan, whereas the dance/stage numbers like 'Le Gayi' (Asha Bhonsle), 'Are Re Are' (Mangeshkar, Narayan), and 'The Dance Of Envy' were directed by Shiamak Davar. The two completely different choreography styles lent a diverse appeal to this thoroughly unforgettable album.

Honourable mentions: Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (Jatin-Lalit, Anand Bakshi), Darr (Shiv-Hari, Anand Bakshi), Lamhe (Shiv-Hari, Anand Bakshi), Yeh Dillagi (Dilip Sen-Sameer Sen, Sameer)

2000s - Saathiya

Composer: AR Rahman Lyrics: Gulzar

As Aditya Chopra gained more control in the 2000s, YRF transformed from merely a production house to a studio. It introduced new directors across the decade, who, in turn, brought in fresh music through their films. Shaad Ali's 2002 romantic film Saathiya may not hold when it comes to innovative storytelling, but AR Rahman's music for the film was certainly one of the biggest disruptions, even outside the production house.

Rahman reused most of the compositions from his 2000 Tamil film Alaipayuthey, directed by Mani Ratnam, in Saathiya. But the evocative imagery in Gulzar's lyrics turned all the regurgitated melodies into a breath of fresh air. Consider the imaginative beauty of these words: "Zulf ke neeche gardan pe, subah-o-shaam milti rahe" in the title song (Sonu Nigam), "Zindagi palkon mein jhapkii hai meethi shikayat hai" in 'Aye Udi Udi' (Adnan Sami), and "Shaam ko khidki se chori-chori nange paon chand aayega" in 'O Humdum Suniyo Re' (Kunal Ganjawala). And then there were other gems like Mahalakshmi Iyer's 'Chhalka, Chhalka Re' and Bhonsle's 'Chori Pe Chori.'

Honourable mentions: Bunty Aur Babli (Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, Gulzar), Veer-Zaara (Madan Mohan, Javed Akhtar), Fanaa (Jatin-Lalit, Prasoon Joshi), Hum Tum (Jatin-Lalit, Prasoon Joshi), Tashan (Vishal-Shekhar; Piyush Mishra, Anvita Dutt, Kausar Munir, Vishal Dadlani)

2010s - Ishaqzaade

Composer: Amit Trivedi Lyrics: Kausar Munir, Habib Faisal ('Chhokra Jawan)

The rage and romance in Faisal's 2013 adaptation of Romeo & Juliet was represented in two very different title tracks composed by Trivedi. That reflected the new-age composer's genius. But his craftsmanship, coupled with Munir's remarkable lyrics, soared with two stimulating songs, poles apart in their styles and syntax: 'Pareshan' (Shalmali Kholgade) and 'Jhallah Wallah' (Shreya Ghoshal). While the first one emerged as an anthem of bittersweet love, the second one turned out to be a fun jibe at how silly love really is. And to spruce up the album, there was the electrifying dance number, 'Chhokra Jawan' (Dadlani).

Honoruable mentions: Band Baaja Baaraat (Salim-Sulaiman, Amitabh Bhattacharya), Jab Tak Hai Jaan (AR Rahman, Gulzar), Shuddh Desi Romance (Sachin-Jigar, Jaideep Sahni), Befikre (Vishal-Shekhar, Jaideep Sahni), Meri Pyaari Bindu (Sachin-Jigar; Kausar Munir, Priya Saraiya)

To read more from our '50 Years of Yash Raj Films' series, click here.

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