Pre-release notions make KANK sound frivolous: Karan Johar ...

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By Subhash K. Jha, Indo-Asian News Service

Mumbai, Aug 14 (IANS) With Karan Johar's new opus "Kabhi Alvidaa Na

Kehna" (KANK) - spinning around extra-marital relationships - getting a

mixed response, the director feels pre-release assumptions tarnishes a

film's prospect at the box office.

"I think these pre-release notions make the film sound a tad

frivolous," Johar told IANS.

Johar, who has been accused of clever commercial calculations, is

convinced audiences will give the thumbs up to his film starring

Amitabh and Abhishek Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Preity Zinta and Rani

Mukerji.

"The audience has evolved. They're more than willing to accept

reality that bites."

Elaborating the difference between his earlier releases and KANK,

Johar said: "The difference this time comes in the colour of my

characters. Earlier my people lived in the white zone painted by

circumstances. In KANK the characters live in the grey area. My hero in

KANK is flawed."

Talking about the comparisons among the actors in his film he said:

"It's only the critics who compare performances, not audiences. From

audiences there's no comparison, only appreciation. In my film

audiences love everyone from Amitabh to Shah Rukh to Abhishek."

Excerpts from the interview:

Q: You decided to cancel the premiere of "Kabhi Alvida Naa

Khena".

A: Yes, Mumbai has recently been through a ghastly phase. I stuck to

my release date but to celebrate so soon after the tragedy seemed

insensitive.

But I am very excited that one of Mumbai's oldest and most revered

theatres (Metro) will re-open with KANK. Metro has always been my

favourite cinema hall. That's where I became passionate about cinema

watching the cinema of Raj Kapoor, Yash Chopra and Sooraj Barjatya. I

attended the premiere of Yash Uncle's "Darr", "Lamhe" and "Chandni" at

Metro and also of Raj Kapoor's last work "Henna". For Metro to open

with my film is a proud and nostalgic moment.

Q: Tell me about your release.

A: It was about 900 prints the world-over. It's much more than K3G

("Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham"). But that's because the format of release

is totally different now. The advent of multiplexes and the increase in

audiences have changed the scenario since K3G and "Kal Ho Naa Ho".

Q: Amitabh Bachchan thinks KANK is glorious.

A: I was very moved by everyone's reaction. He sent me a letter,

which I've framed in my office. Amit uncle is a legend and a family

friend. Shah Rukh who in a way launched me and Aditya Chopra, who has

taught me filmmaking, all have a high opinion of KANK.

I was an assistant to Adi and his opinion matters a lot. I remain

his assistant at heart. For me he's like the ISI (Indian Standards

Institution) stamp. And yes, like all directors I'd say I can change a

few things in KANK, but I can't.

Q: It's felt this time you've swerved into complex topics like

adultery, extra-marital relationships, etc.

A: I think these pre-release notions make the film sound a tad

frivolous. The difference this time comes in the colour of my

characters. Earlier my people lived in the white zone painted by

circumstances.

In mainstream cinema we tend to look at characters as saints or

devils. In KANK the characters live in the grey area. My hero in KANK

is flawed. He does wrong, but owns up to it. He's a real character.

Q: Do you think the audience would like the real in your film?

A: The audience has always been more real than us filmmakers. We

made them escape into Neverland. Recent successes prove that audiences

are willing to accept the unconventional - "Black", "Rang De Basanti".

So many thought-provoking films have made it at the box office. The

audience has evolved.
They're more than willing to accept reality that bites. But I don't

know if the average filmmaker has.

Q: After seeing KANK Javed Akhtar wonders how you know so much about

marital disharmony?

A: It is simple. Stand at a distance from any matter and you can see

it better. I'm not married. But I'm surrounded by married couples and

their problems.

Q: Is this the film where you've made the least mistakes?

A: No filmmaker knowingly makes mistakes. Sometimes a director's

perception fails to match his screenplay. KANK is the one film that I

made without any compromises, without playing to the galleries. I

didn't allow the mind to operate over the heart. KANK is all heart. The

film might open up debates. But this is what I wanted to make.

I've been accused of clever commercial calculations in the past and

I don't dispute that. K3G definitely had a lot of playing to the

galleries. With KANK I've grown up. I'm not saying it's a good or bad

film. I'm just saying I've evolved as a filmmaker. It's a sign of a new

phase.

Q: So, are you saying you've completely swerved away from the Karan

Johar style?

A: I'm not saying that at all. For heaven's sake, I do have a

bhangra and a disco in KANK. Every filmmaker has his own stamp. Just as

you can't imagine a Yash Chopra film without the chiffon saris, Sanjay

Bhansali's films without the visual opulence, or Nasir Hussain's films

without their elaborate musical numbers. Bad or good I came with my

bhangra.

Q: Some people say KANK is inspired by the Robert de Niro-Meryl

Streep romance "Falling In Love"?

A: The only motif common to both romances is the railway station.

Otherwise, there's no similarity between the two. Not a single twist is

common.

Q: Do you foresee embarrassing comparisons among the actors in

KANK?

A: It's only the critics who compare performances, not audiences.

From audiences there's no comparison, only appreciation. In my film

audiences love everyone from Amitabh to Shah Rukh to Abhishek.

I don't know how far I've succeeded in directing the actors. But

they've all done way better than how I had written the roles. Full

credit to all of them. I think the actors make KANK. I'm a distant

second.

Q: Abhishek is new to your cinema.

A: I was taken back to those filmy birthday parties when I was seven

and he was three. The vibes on the sets with Abhishek was like the song

"Where's the party tonight". Abhishek is a child-man. And that's what

he plays in KANK.

Q: There were speculations about fights among actors in New

York.

A: All we fought was the cold weather. No one fought with each

other. For heaven's sake, there're so many important wars being fought.

Why focus on non-existent wars?

The Rani-Preity war was totally over-blown. I'm not saying they are

the Pointer Sisters. They don't live in each other's courtyard. But

they share a healthy rapport.

Q: I believe it was traumatic in NY?

A: We faced every possible crisis, from bad weather to over-budget

schedules to location crisis. I fought a battle and now it feels like

ceasefire. But I might again shoot in NY if the city creeps into my

narrative.

It's ironical, but we shot in a horizontal (70 mm) format in a city

that's eminently vertical.

I feel there's an underlining sadness in NY, just like my

characters. KANK is the most traumatic film of my career. It was like

hell and back. We shot "Kal Ho Naa Ho" in July and August, which is a

relatively less busy time in NY. KANK we shot during September-

December, which is peak season.

Q: Would you say your father Yash Johar's absence added to your

woes?

A: Totally. He was a born crisis manager. Crises used to get him all

wired up. Each time I got into a crisis during KANK I felt his hand on

my shoulder. You lose a parent and you gain a god. My father is my

god.

Q: Your last thoughts?

A: I've always received my audiences' love. When they say they're

dying to see my work I feel they're referring to another Karan Johar.

I've been given that love without asking for it. I hope it

continues.