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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
Q: So, are you saying you've completely swerved away from the Karan
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
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
Q: Do you foresee embarrassing comparisons among the actors in
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
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
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
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
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
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