INTERVIEWKaran Johar entered our lives with his happy-sad stories of big Indian families. He stays on in our drawing rooms as a TV host who knows how to keep us hooked
His canvas is always gigantic. His vision opulent. His execution always large-scale. The film's titles are always long. And when he gets you sentimental, you need a big handkerchief to soak up your tears.
But whatever he does, Karan Johar always gets it right. Almost. Following a phenomenal directorial debut,Kuch Kuch Hota Hai(KKHH), over 13 years ago, he came up withKabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (K3G),Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna(KANK) and thenMy Name is Khan(MNIK). 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.
“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” withAgneepathbeing his one big success. “Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayengewas all the experience I ever needed,” adds Karan. The blockbuster saw Karan turn into assistant director and screenplay writer for best buddy Aditya Chopra. From then on, its stars, Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol, and Karan have been one big, happy family.
KANKandMNIKstepped 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. Meanwhile, Karan also producedKurbaan, dealing with global terrorism, that didn't go down well with the audience. Karan views this transition as his personal growth as a filmmaker though the audience might not get what they are used to.
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 such asUdaan,Taare Zameen Paror3 Idiots.”
No season four
Karan Johar, the talk show host, has met with more success, stars, controversies, and candid moments than any TV show host with hisKoffee 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. 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 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. 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 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. A remake of his father's production – theScarface-inspiredAgneepath– is something fans are looking out for.
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.”