Uday Chopra. What comes to your mind when you hear those two words? Ali from Dhoom? Failed actor? Or Aditya Chopra’s brother?
The Romantics, the new Indian docu-series on Netflix, reveals the origins of Yash Raj Films right from the early films of Yash Chopra to his son Aditya Chopra being the creative force behind the studio. Given that YRF itself produced the series in the first place, one can expect the documentary to turn into a PR exercise or a brand film of sorts.
And while the four-part docu-series does indulge in all things Adi for a good deal of time (with the unique angle being that Adi is usually shy and reclusive for interviews), it is all the more amusing to find Uday Chopra in front of the camera after a pretty long time. While his acting career never took off, Uday’s inclusion seems apparent given how he is Adi’s younger brother.
The Romantics is making me realize Uday Chopra might be my favorite nepo baby, man is a whole ass vibe making a fictional nation in his mind— pooh (@purveois) February 14, 2023
With Uday also serving as executive producer on The Romantics, he does stand out among the rest of the interviewees: an ensemble of big names ranging from Karan Johar to Madhuri Dixit to Manish Malhotra to obviously, Shah Rukh Khan. But while all these artists indulge in anecdotes on Yash and Adi and how their careers took off with YRF, Uday comes off as arguably the most brutally honest.
Right from the opening minutes of the first episode, the actor and producer asks if he should speak in a British accent (and then goes on to display his skills of aping the “goras”). While he gives up the British mimicry, the man continues to speak with a heavy Western accent for the rest of the series, an amusing far cry from the tapori lingo of Ali in the Dhoom trilogy.
So, even though he might have shut shop in the acting department after 2013’s Dhoom 3, Uday has understandably been around the world. And why wouldn’t he be? With Yash Chopra establishing himself as a Bollywood titan, Uday would still have the silver spoon that he was born with whether his films worked or not.
Since the past few years, one of my favourite pop culture tidbits to tell people as an awkward conversation icebreaker would be the fact that Uday Chopra is an Emmy nominee. I have always managed to get reactions of disbelief until I had to show them Uday’s IMDb profile.
Back in 2014 when Adi was busy struggling with loss-making machines like Gunday, Uday was overseas at Cannes debuting his new venture as a producer. Grace of Monaco was a 2014 biopic that starred Nicole Kidman in the titular role alongside Reservoir Dogs’s Tim Roth. With YRF Entertainment joining the now-infamous Weinstein Company to produce it, it was evident that Uday was trying to reinvent himself.
While The Romantics does offer a few glimpses of the Cannes premiere (it was screened out of competition), the docu-series still could not cover how Grace of Monaco went on to bag a Primetime Emmy nomination for Outstanding Television Movie (it was later broadcast as a TV movie) with Uday being one of the chief producers. But why would the Netflix documentary get into the details of Uday’s achievements, he was after all...
Nepotism is a myth. That seems to be one of the prime morals guiding Adi Chopra’s life and a few episodes of The Romantics. While Adi does admit in his parts that he had always been a “rich kid” and had the right connections to start his career in cinema, he also very conveniently pushes Uday in front of the train to show how not all starkids can be successful.
I saw only episode 3 of The Romantics because it had Ranveer Singh. It was entertaining because Netflix knows how to sell its shit.— Aarti N (@10MinuteMaggi) February 16, 2023
Chopras found the right time to-
1. Throw Uday Chopra under the bus and take one for the team
2. And deny and justify nepotism all at once
While Adi’s denial of nepotism might be too simplistic and Uday is still doing good financially, one can’t help but sympathise for the younger brother a little (at least I did). “Sucks to be him,” was my inner reaction as I saw Uday smile on how he was never star material moments after the clips where Adi explained how YRF succeeded at launching new faces but couldn’t establish their in-house talent.
But because Uday is well-aware of his own creative limitations and he has absolutely nothing to lose now on the acting front, that’s what makes his parts in the documentary the most organic. It serves as an interesting contrast for the viewing experience.
On one hand, we see Adi yapping about how he has a good eye for new creative producers to take his vision forward. We also see him go into Walt Disney mode as he talks about building a YRF theme park in the future. And then, we see Uday talking about how most of his early work as Assistant Director on YRF films just found him “chilling on sets”. We hear him talk about how he came up with the iconic jacket that Shah Rukh’s Raj wears in DDLJ.
WE EVEN HEAR HIM TALK ABOUT AN IMAGINARY COUNTRY THAT HE CREATED IN HIS HEAD! (Did Nithyananda take notes before creating Kailasa? You can come up with an answer)
Such self-awareness and randomness is what made Uday the best part about The Romantics. And this doesn’t mean that whenever he’s speaking, it’s all fun and games. Seeming to harbour no enmity with his much-successful brother and father, Uday reveals how close he was with Yash Chopra.
In his own poetically bizarre ways, the Mohabbatein actor mentions the premonition he got when his father was on his deathbed (and how he continues to see and talk to him in dreams even after his demise). Uday also describes Adi as being more of a strict father figure than Yash, whom he saw more of as a sibling.
Perhaps if the makers of The Romantics would have been more accommodative, they could’ve delved more into Uday’s professional life. How did he manage to produce a Nicole Kidman film? What happened to Yoomics, the 2012 company that Uday founded to create comics based on YRF films? Will there be a fourth Dhoom film for Uday to return in as Ali?
But with all the celebration of “Yashji’s legacy” and the romanticisation of “Adi’s genius”, there was obviously not much space to make for Uday.
Up until a few years ago, a few social media users were equally puzzled and amused with Uday’s cryptic tweets. Christened as a “flop actor” by the audience, Uday seemed to be quite receptive of all the online trolling to the point where even the trollers would feel guilt.
For instance, when a Twitter user asked him whether he would resume acting, Uday’s response was “That ship has sailed”. When someone blatantly said, “you’ve def lost your mind now”, Uday replied, “I lost it a while back”.
Not to trivialise Uday’s emotions but I couldn’t help but hear Joker’s melancholic score play in mind while going through Uday’s absurd and rather tragic tweets. Initially, it made for good meme material to share with friends but soon, the only seemingly legitimate reaction to his thoughts was “I hope he’s okay”.
In fact, in 2019, Uday even tweeted "Confession: I am not ok! I'm trying so far but failing" followed by another concerning tweet that talked about how he felt close to death after de-activating his Twitter for some time. He went on to describe suicide ideation "phenomenal". With some of the Twitterati being seriously concerned for his mental health, Chopra soon deleted those tweets.
While he does seem to be smiling more on The Romantics, one can only hope that he's in a better headspace. His Twitter was not all about mental health as his tweets also reflect his strange sarcasm and self-deprecating humour. The man offered some absurd “sh*tpost-level” gems too such as “10 is the mos amazing colour”, “I’m going to invent a language that only I can understand and only speak in that for the rest of my life”, “I don’t believe in New Years. I don’t think they exist.”
It’s a shame he doesn’t tweet much these days. But watching Uday bhai smile and talk in his strange accent did feel like a good comeback (in a year when another failed actor Arbaaz Khan made quite a comeback playing Roger Federer for a hilarious ad film).
Maybe, Uday is best when he doesn’t act. I hope Netflix produces a reality show next that merely covers Uday’s everyday life and inner thoughts and nothing else.
Each episode can begin with an iconic Uday tweet like,