Celebrity Interview: Karan Johar ...


By Subhash K. Jha, Indo-Asian News Service

Mumbai, Aug 4 (IANS) Life is a blur of activities for director Karan Johar. Besides readying "Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna" (KANK) for an Aug 11 release, he has to blow kisses at an avalanche of social activities.

As we talk, there's a truckload of tourists waving and squealing when they spot Johar at a traffic signal. To Johar goes the credit for flagging off the cult of star-directors in Bollywood, but right now he is on tenterhooks.

"I don't know whether I should take credit for that, though I'd love to. I do love people. I love interacting with everyone from friends to fans. Somewhere, that innate warmth reaches out to people," Johar told IANS.

There's the downside of flamboyant fame -- colleagues taking potshots, for instance. Recently, Ram Gopal Varma created a farcical flutter by announcing he was looking forward to KANK because he loves horror films.

Johar takes a deep breath.

"I'll speak on this for the last time and then move on. In my opinion Ram Gopal Varma is one of the finest filmmakers of our country. His 'Satya', 'Company' and 'Sarkar' make a trilogy of terrific gangster films. When he has so much work on hand I wonder why he keeps obsessing with what I do! I know he doesn't respect my work. But could he please keep quiet about what I do?"

In spite of a gruelling post-production schedule, Johar took time off to be in Cannes with pal Preity Zinta for the international marketing of KANK.

"I hoped to facilitate the film's international distribution. I also wanted to experience the little side-pleasures of Cannes, like strolling down the avenues and watching new films. I'm a major film buff.

"Bollywood, Hollywood... just give me my daily flick. Adding to my pleasure in Cannes was Preity. We both talk non-stop. Together we constitute Talkathon 2006.

"Between the two of us we leave no room for a third person to talk. Unless it happens to be Abhishek Bachchan who beats us both hollow. Even Preity has to shut up when Abhishek starts talking. Yup, he takes the cake when it comes to gabbling."

In KANK Johar has directed Abhishek for the first time.

"I wouldn't like to say much about the film right now. For once I'll let the audience and critics see the film, and then I'll say whatever I have to. I don't know what people expect from me this time.

"But it's a very simple film. The entire cast is first-rate. But Shah Rukh Khan will obviously be the film's mainstay the world over. His popularity in European countries like Germany and Poland is big.

"Recently 'Veer-Zaara' was premiered in Paris. I was unfortunately not there with Yash uncle (Yash Chopra), Preity and Rani. But Shah Rukh was there. And the way he was greeted proves that Shah Rukh is not only god in India but in Europe as well.

"My Paris distributor said it felt like Elvis Presley had been reborn when he saw the ovation Shah Rukh got. So yes, I'd say he's the biggest USP of KANK."

Johar hopes KANK will further consolidate Bollywood's global impact.

"We saw what a film can do abroad when 'Lagaan', 'Devdas' and 'Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham' (K3G) were released. If KANK goes several steps further than K3G it would be because of the process that my father (producer Yash Johar) started of taking our company's films to places outside the traditional Indian market."

Johar disagrees with Naseeruddin Shah who feels Indians are hallucinating about Bollywood's worldwide impact.

"I don't know when and why Naseer saab said that. The globalisation of Hindi cinema is certainly no illusion for me. I think we are rocking the world over. And to me 2006 is the biggest year for Bollywood since 2001 when we had 'Lagaan', 'Gadar' and K3G all coming together.

"This year we have 'Fanaa', 'Krissh', 'Dhoom 2', 'Don', 'Munnabhai 2' all huge, huge films. And I am looking forward to all of them. I hope to see my own KANK make a place among these biggies."

He thinks the year has already started favourably with "Rang De Basanti".

"What a film! I congratulated everyone including Rakeysh Mehra and producer Ronnie Screwvala after seeing it. And look at Aamir Khan. He stepped back from the forefront - merged with the rest of the cast to move so many steps forward as an actor."

Johar feels our cinema is ready to rock globally.

"The rate at which things are going we'll be the king of the world in 2007. We're shaping into one of the most self-reliant entertainment industries in the world.

"The eyeball exposure for our cinema is growing constantly. I hope the Indian film industry meets with unparalleled success in the coming year."

KANK releases on Aug 11. "To say I have butterflies in my stomach would be an understatement. I feel I am going through labour pains."