'I am an escapist in nature' : Karan Johar
Karan Johar has donned the director's cap again to relive the magic of youth romance in Student Of The Year (SOTY). TWF correspondent Sreya Basu in conversation with the filmmaker in Mumbai
You started off with Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham and then broke the genre to make films like My Name Is Khan and Dostana. Now you are back with a high-school romance.
Yes. I felt this was my holiday film (Student Of The Year). After My Name Is Khan (2010) I really felt the need to do something where I personally would have fun. I wanted to visit lip-sync songs, dance, youth, glamour and of course, keep the emotion intact. I felt with My Name Is Khan I had made a heavy, impactful film, which I am very proud of. But I needed to be on a holiday even on my creative field. It's not just another film for me that we will release but a movie where we launch new talents (Varun Dhawan, Siddharth Malhotra and Alia Bhatt).
What was the thing you were missing the most in My Name Is Khan?
I remember, while we were shooting for Sajda (song) from My Name Is Khan, both Shah Rukh (Khan) and me were sad that he couldn't do lip-syncing. His instinct is filmy and he wanted to show as if he is singing the song aloud. But he couldn't do it. Curbing that instinct was terrible for him and me. So I am happy that I have been able to make all three of them sing, dance and everything that I love about Hindi movies.
You showed youth romance in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. How different is SOTY from that?
This film feels very different from the films I have directed so far. I was more like a nervous parent to all three of them, nurturing them. So there was always a kind of inner stress. Making a film of that (huge) scale with these talents was something that I felt I needed to do and I am very satisfied.
Which school are you trying to show in SOTY that allows girls in shorts?
This is a school in my head. But there is a root about it. The characters are identifiable and extremely connective. The school is like any school, but the world of glamour within it is something that is me and I am never going to run away from something that is my core. I can't be dishonest and pretentious and say there is a school in this country like this. This is an aspirational school.
What do you do to stay young?
Oh I have to do a lot of hard work! You have to dye your hair, wear blazers like them (youngsters) ... mujhe paagal kutte ne kaata tha that I celebrated my 40th birthday (on May 25) and told everyone what my real age is...couldn't even lie on that. So I can only be jawaan and live my youth in my dreams now.
How similar was your student life to the one you have shown in SOTY?
I can assure you there is no similarity. Have you seen the promo? The promo shows students running, swimming and playing so many sports. It can never be my school life for sure.
Then from where did you get the inspiration for portrayal of such high school life?
Cinema is all about creation and the result of your own kind of aspiration as a human being. If you are not good-looking, you want to show good-looking people in your films. If you are not thin, you want to show them walk on the beach looking hot and sexy. So if you hadn't a glamorous school or college, you just want to show that. Escapism has everything to do with cinema and I am an escapist in nature and therefore it presents itself on celluloid as well.
Your films generally have a lot of cameos by your friends in Bollywood. Is SOTY an exception?
There is only one cameo in the film and that is by Kajol. Her cameo comes at a really interesting place.
Have you ever bagged the Student Of The Year award in your school days?
There was no question of me bagging such an award. I was happy in my own world.
These days the Rs 100 crore mark decides fate of a film. What do you think about it?
I think it's a pressure that's humming all of us all the time. It's great to achieve the Rs 100 crore mark and is glorious to do that. But then if you don't achieve the mark or go beyond it, doesn't make your film smaller or bigger. At the end of the day it's longevity of a film that is important. It's not that a Rs 100 crore film will live forever.
On what fronts are our films changing?
Our films have changed. We now stress more on entertainment and content. We have been able to understand the budget factor in films and hence economy in the industry has become more streamlined.
What kind of films do you think have a universal appeal?
There are two types of films that have always been acknowledged. One is, full-on masala films that run in packed threatres, and the other is content-based like Paan Singh Tomar and Kahaani.
Name a face on Bollywood that acted as a game-changer?
There are many, including all the Khans (Aamir, Salman, Sah Rukh). They have changed the economics. Also recently Hrithik (Roshan) gave his first Rs 100 crore (Agneepath). Then there are Ranbir Kapoor and Imran Khan who have shown their strength at the box office. Also I hope there are more actors like Vidya Balan whose intentions are very honourable and noble.