Karan Johar

In recent times, I’ve been a regular reader of the Bolly Woods column on rediff. The woman writers pretty sensible stuff on the whole, and it’s good fun to read. Her latest column titled The Mind of Karan Johar made a reference to a recent interview with the man in question. It was a fairly laudatory piece, despite the fact that she admitted to being less than impressed by his work. The interview excerpt was quite interesting, so I went and read the whole of it on Tehelka.

I must admit, the man has a good head on his shoulders and a fairly clear vision of who he is, how he got there and who he wants to be. Take this particular Q&A, for instance:

What explains your obsession with perfect colours, perfect figures, this sort of saturated opulence in your films? Is it revenge for being fat?

I think it comes from my need for beauty and good looks, which all through my childhood I didn’t have. The good-looking clothes I coul – dn’t fit into, everything I always wanted to be and couldn’t be — it’s all of that. Also, I suppose my need for opulence comes from the fact that I grew up in a 1,000 square feet house. So it’s all a very aspirational lifestyle that I’m portraying. But I’ve also always loved glamour. I love Yash Chopra’s movies — Silsila, Kabhi Kabhi. I saw his cinema first, then went back to Bimal Roy, Guru Dutt, Raj Kapoor. People ask me why there’s no poverty in my films — but I’ve lived a very, very sheltered life. The only trauma I had to deal with was being fat, so my films were about the things I knew about. My first film had to be about heartbreak and first love. I was such a good friend to so many, that’s what I’d always hear about. Then I made Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham — that was just about me being given this big toy called cinema and I wanted to show off with it. I couldn’t believe I had actually become a filmmaker. All through your life you never think you’ll do something and then it happens — your first film is applauded by the world — and then you just want to show off. K3G is all about me trying to show off, nothing else. It’s me saying, look, I’ve put up this big set; look, I’ve put up this star cast; look, they’re wearing beautiful clothes, look, look, look. Today I’ve become a school of cinema, and whether you like it or hate it, you club it like a Karan Johar film.

I might not always like what he makes, but I like that kind of self-awareness, and his ability to convey that in good clear language. His comments on where he felt he went wrong with some of his movies were quite interesting. With Kal Ho Na Ho, he talks about how he should’ve stuck to his original vision of just having SRK walk away and not do the whole elaborate death scene. With KANK, a movie I utterly hated, he talks about how he wanted to make a stark, simple film about four people but screwed it up.

I don’t necessarily buy his logic that he could only make films on the basis of what he knows about. But I can see how it would be where he would feel most comfortable. Besides, he is still only three films old. So he might end up doing some very diverse stuff in the fullness of time.

When I sit down to write, I often find myself writing about the things I am familiar with. I would take elements from my own experience — things I have seen, snippets from past conversations — and play with them like Lego blocks to create new lives and experiences. I do not think that this is the extent of my creative ability, but I have had doubts about the credibility of stuff I’ve written from other viewpoints. Muse, for instance, had a narrative thread that was from the point of view of a woman, and I have always wondered if I did justice to it.

Here’s something I found a bit problematic, though:

You must understand that a lot of filmmakers who’ve made great films have been through a cycle of work and life before they’ve made a film. I wrote my first film when I was 24. A sheltered 24, over indulged 24, spoilt 24. But I appreciate all kinds of cinema. I’m not brilliant, I’m just hardworking and sensible, sensitive and aesthetic, I’m not brilliant. But I hope to be one day. So I get really amused when I read people like Anurag Kashyap who writes blogs on Yash Chopra and my kind of films. I’m like, I appreciate Black Friday, I think you’re talented but I don’t like your attitude. All kinds of cinema can co-exist, so why attack a bigger banner just because they’ve made successful films. Writing blogs on a legend like Yash Chopra? You have some guts and gumption to do that. And you want to get away with it? This upstartish attitude really angers me.

I buy his logic that all kinds of cinema can co-exist. I also buy Suparn Verma’s logic that the big banner, big budget extravanganzas are usually the ones that rake in a lot of money and create a buffer for the niche films to coexist. I can also understand why he would be angered by Anurag’s opinions and attitude. But what is this about having “guts and gumption” to write about Yash Chopra? I didn’t know you needed qualifications for this job.

All said and done, he does come across as a fairly sensible chap. I just wish he’d make better movies.


5 thoughts on “Karan Johar

  1. //You have some guts and gumption to do that. And you want to get away with it?

    eh? So very typical. Sometimes I feel that it’s part of this larger sacred-cow attitude. Yash Chopra is beyond criticism. Our goddesses should not be portrayed nude etc etc.

  2. True. But when you think about it, it’s tough to draw the line. We want to believe that there is an ideal scenario where no lines are drawn and anyone can say anything. But deep down, I think we all have our holy cows.

  3. Well thats one thing i do hate about the mainstream movie makers, they have this “We r rulers and can do no wrong attitude”, yeah i know even the indie makers have it, but the mainstream movie makers seem to have an extra dose of it.

    Regarding KJo, my take is simple, he is a polished bull shitter, and nothing better than that.

  4. S says:

    I actually really liked that narrative strand in your Muse that was written in a woman’s PoV. There are so many “elements” you bring together so well in that story… Shards of glass, Citizen Kane, oil-mingled Seeyakai smelling hair that’s her signature, bus ride to Mettupalayam, The Hindu, crossword puzzle, Knight by Night, Lady in Ooty, Geeta Dutt, death… And the off-hand remark by a character (about memory being a side-effect and not the object of this exercise we call living) that later comes back to haunt…

    Amen to your comment above: “…deep down, we all have our holy cows”!

  5. S says:

    P.S. Speaking of Holy Cow, the number of views on your Sulekha story is 1921 (the last I looked; in case your inner data demon wants to track how many people go there since. And…you’re welcome) 😛

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