Karan Johar on his new film...

By Subhash K Jha, IANS

imageMumbai, May 27 (IANS) "I've got 'Veer-Zaara' and 'Bunty-Babli' in my film," chuckles Karan Johar from New York, referring to the Shah Rukh Khan-Preity Zinta-Abhishek Bachchan-Rani Mukherjee combo in his latest directorial venture "Kabhi Alvidaa Na Kehna".

The director has just celebrated his 35th birthday and he's groggy. "Because I'm in a different time zone friends from back home have been calling all night. It was uplifting but also exhausting," Karan told IANS.

Tired he might be, but he's more than willing to discuss his latest film. "'Kabhi Alvidaa...' has got Shah Rukh, Preity, Abhishek and Rani. And it's got Mr Bachchan. Believe me, that was the only piece of casting in the film that's absolutely irreplaceable. If I hadn't got Mr Bachchan for the role that I've in mind, I wouldn't have been able to make this film. It's a role that really rocks.

"As for Abhishek, I think his presence on the posters would add a certain curiosity value to the project. This is the first time he's working with me. And I'm really happy to have him in my film. Abhishek is the new element in my area of activity."

The enthusiasm level for his new film has been rising over the months, as Karan has been struggling to put together his script.

"Kabhi Alvidaa Na Kehna" is Karan's most mature and in depth take on human relationships. "It hasn't been easy. In terms of characters this is truly new territory for me. The important thing this time isn't the stars that I've signed. It really doesn't matter if Shah Rukh Khan has played Veer or Rani is Babli. Once I wrote the script they all became the characters that were playing in my mind. Shah Rukh Khan in "Swades" and Mr Bachchan in "Black" are Mohan Bhargav and Debraj Sahay. The same will hopefully happen to them my film.

"In terms of relationships this is a ménage-a-four. You must understand 'Kabhi Alvidaa...' is one film which isn't about getting the stars together. I admit 'K3G' was guilty of that. But in my new film the stars will cease to be stars. The characters will take over completely. There're no major confrontation scenes, no drama, no dips and highs..."

Karan, however, also shoots down the widely held belief that his film is going to be a departure from the 'Karan Johar style'.

"Hello? I've tried to make every film of mine different from the others. If they still carry my stamp what can I do? And why should I try to get away from it? Not that I'm comparing myself to him, but Guru Dutt's films bore his stamp even when they were as dissimilar as 'Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam' and 'Pyasa'. And my favourite director Sanjay Bhansali makes completely different films each time. And yet they bear his stamp.

"So I won't say I'm trying to get away from my style in 'Kabhi Alvidaa Na Kehna'. Why should I? When that's my USP. So, yes, in terms of look and appearance it'll be as glossy and glamorous as my earlier works. I hate it when I'm asked if my films are for NRI audiences. I make films for Indians everywhere from Bihar to Birmingham. 'Kabhi Alvidaa Na Kehna' will be no exception. But it will be a far more intimate study of human relationships than any of my films."

How Karan got the title for the film makes an interesting story.

"My film HAD to be called 'Kabhi Alvidaa Na Kehna'. It goes with the theme of human relationships set within a contemporary milieu. But to my dismay I discovered that the title belonged to Aroona Iraniji and that she had already finalised a TV serial by that title. With trembling hands I dialled her number to submit my request. She was very categorical. 'Beta, everything costs. So what are you willing to give me as compensation?' I told her she could have whatever she wanted, if the title is mine.

"She said, 'You can have it on one condition. You've to give me a hug and a kiss when we meet.' I was completely bowled over by her goodness. I guess I'm reaping the benefits of the goodwill that my father sowed."

Does he plan to shoot in Australia?

"Yes, as a matter of fact, I did plan to shoot in Australia. But now the locations have changed completely. I plan to start shooting in September and finish by year-end. Let's see how it goes. I feel like Soham just before he started 'Kaal'."