INTERVIEWKaran Johar entered our lives making us cry with happy-sad stories of big Indian families. He stays on in our drawing rooms as a TV show host who knows how to keep us hooked to just what we want to hear from our stars, writesBHUMIKA K.
His canvas is always gigantic. His vision pretty opulent. His execution always large-scale.
The big stars always sign on to do his films. The film's titles are always long. And when he gets you all senti, you need a big hankie to soak up your tears.
But whatever he does, Karan Johar always gets it right. Almost.
With a phenomenal directorial debut like “Kuch Kuch Hota Hai” (KKHH) over 13 years ago, he followed it up with “Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham”(K3G), “Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna” (KANK) and then “My Name is Khan” (MINK). If he's played on people's emotions, Karan says he has Mumbai's theatres to thank for it — they were practically his film school.
“The visits I made to cinema halls in my growing up years played a largely impressionable part in my life.
Those moments are ingrained in my mind — at what point the audience laughed or cried…” recalls Karan. Born and raised in a film family (his producer-father Yash Johar ran Dharma Productions) Karan says he always had a passion for Hindi cinema.
He's candid enough to point out that his father made “many unfortunate films” with “Agneepath” being his one big success. “The passion comes from it being a family business. My father spoke highly of the industry…but he was never creatively involved. ‘Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge' was all the experience I ever needed,” adds Karan. The blockbuster saw Karan turn into assistant director and screenplay writer for best buddy Aditya Chopra. And from then on, its stars Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol, with Karan have been one big, happy family.
“KANK” and “MNIK” stepped away from the success formula of his first two films, dealing as they did with infidelity and Muslim identity. They did reasonably well, but did not make the Karan Johar mark at the box office. In the meanwhile Karan also produced “Kurbaan,” dealing with global terrorism, that didn't go down too well with the audience. Karan views this transition as a leap in creativity and a personal growth as a filmmaker even though the audience might not get what they are used to. “I've seen that whenever you make a film that is popcorn in flavour, it does well. My later films may not have matched the success of my first films. But you have to take that giant leap as a filmmaker, if you want to have a graph as a filmmaker.”
Does the presence of many young filmmakers dealing with contemporary subjects make him insecure? “Inspired is the word. To acknowledge others' brilliance is what you have to do to be on top…to be the leader… whether it's the brilliance of a film like ‘Udaan', ‘Taare Zameen Par' or ‘3 Idiots'.”
Karan Johar, the talk show host has met with more success, stars, controversies, and candid moments than any TV show host with his “Koffee With Karan.” The man who is seen as being friends with stars across “camps” in Bollywood and being privy to many secrets says the latest season of the show may have had “a few skirmishes and obstacles. But it's a show with a casual irreverence… otherwise we tend to get very uptight in this industry. It's a lounge format and we say some mad and crazy things. It is just that the media makes more news about entertainment and its controversies now.”
There won't be a season four soon, says Karan. “I've run out of people to invite on my show. They have to go have new break ups, splits for me to start a new season,” he laughs.
In spite of building a brand around himself, Karan says he doesn't see himself as one. He is, and wishes to be seen, as a filmmaker. “I've a people-friendly personality,” is as much of a brand as he sees in himself.
His sexuality is another much talked-about and joked-about aspect of his life.
“Any one can speculate about it… the media can break news about it. But my personal life is mine alone and some things are best kept private.”
His strong attachment to his mother, Hiroo Johar, is well known, so would he discuss his sexuality with his mother?
“I have no problem talking about anything in front of my mother,” he says in between sips of coffee.
A remake of his father's production — the “Scarface”-inspired “Agneepath” — is something fans are on the lookout for. Karan promises the new version will definitely have a very different Vijay Dinanath Chouhan — less westernised than the character played by Amitabh Bachchan. “But it will be its own baby.”
Karan was in Bangalore this week as Goodwill Ambassador for VisitBritain, Britain's national tourism agency, which launched a “Britain, You're Invited” campaign.
They couldn't have picked a better representative for India — Karan says he writes all his films in London, it is a place he has holidayed in every year since his childhood, his top three films did great in the UK market, and the blockbuster “K3G” was shot extensively there.
The NRI audience has been his safest bet, though Karan says “I'm not working to woo that audience but maybe my sensibility adheres to them… they are more Indian than Indians back home are sometimes.”