करण जौहर से रघुवेन्‍द्र सिंह की बातचीत

करण जौहर का यह इंटरव्‍यू रघुवेन्‍द्र सिंह ने लिया है। य‍ह इंटरव्‍यू फिल्‍मफेयर में छप चुका है। करण जौहर के व्‍यक्तित्‍व के विभिन्‍न पहलुओं को टच करता यह इंटरव्‍यू उनके बारे में विस्‍तृत जानकारी देता है। करण हिंदी फिल्‍म इंडस्‍ट्री के कर्णधार हैं।
Karan Johar
-Raghuvendra Singh

Karan Johar is one of the most influential names in Hindi cinema. Raghuvendra Singh catches him in a candid mood talking about films, friends, insecurities and relationships

Karan Johar has the reputation of being a serious name of influence in the film industry. Whether it’s the A-list stars or the budding new talent, everyone is friends with KJo. He’s that rare breed of filmmaker and celebrity that even dwarfs the aura of some superstars. But Karan Johar is not the proverbial star with an entourage and LV and Gucci embellishments. That part is just a small brooch on the flawlessly style Armani suit that KJo fits into like a glove. The real Karan Johar is a man who drives endlessly establishing and maintaining his relationships. Whether it’s the bigwigs like Shah Rukh Khan and Aditya Chopra or the new talents like Shakun Batra and Ayan Mukerji, Karan is friends with them all. Because he values ringing phones more than ringing cash registers. He believes his people and his relationships give his life meaning. So in a candid mood, the master of conversations over coffee, spills some of his own secrets at loving and hating people. The one man who’s connections in the real world rival the nexus of social media, gives you the lo-down on what drives him and his film industry.

How is the young generation of actors different from their seniors?
Those times were different. They were different. I was different. This generation operates differently. With Shah Rukh there was always a sense of seniority, respect, awe and inspiration. There still is. Whenever Shah Rukh Khan walks into a room, I instinctively stand up because I call him Bhai. With Ranbir it’s easy and casual. I’m senior to them. I’ll always cherish both the memories. You can’t compare them because they’re different situations.
Your friendship with Gauri Khan has stood the test of time. What’s the secret?
She’s strong and solid. She’s a great mother, a wonderful wife and daughter. She’s the silent support in my life. We don’t need to talk to each other. Yet we’ll always stand by each another. She’s like a daughter to my mother (Hiroo Johar) and a sister to me. I love the way she handles her life. I love the way she balances being Shah Rukh’s wife and being a self-sufficient professional. She’s the support system we all lean on. Shah Rukh and I lean on her for stability because she’s such a strong lady. There’s a photo of Shah Rukh and Gauri in my room. I stare at them because they give me strength. The only other pictures in my room are of my father (the late filmmaker Yash Johar) and my mother.
Who’s dearer to you SRK or Gauri?
You don’t compare your relationships. You respect them. You love them.
When will we see Shah Rukh and you working together again?
Shah Rukh is a huge part of my career. When it comes to superstars, SRK is the only one I’ve worked with. He’s all I know. We will come together for something special immediately perhaps. But one doesn’t know when. I’m still in the thick of a movie. Working with Shah Rukh is easy. If I direct, he’ll say a yes for sure. We have that understanding. He never reads my scripts. Just a while ago, we had dinner and chatted for four hours about everything. I don’t enjoy that ease and comfort with anybody else because we have history between us. I’m in the movie business because of Aditya Chopra and Shah Rukh. I can never forget that.
When people suggest that you’ve moved on from Shah Rukh how do you react?
People talk rubbish. I’m co-producing two movies with him. How have I moved on? We’re co-producing the up-for-release Gauri Shinde film and we’re also collaborating to make the Ittefaq remake with BR Films. I’m in touch with his wife and him every day. I talk to Aryan and Suhana every day. People don’t understand people’s love and respect for each other.
Any plans of launching Aryan Khan, Shah Rukh Khan’s son?
Aryan is young. He has four years of university left. After that he’ll decide what he wants. I have told him that if he ever decides to do movies I have to be part of his launch. I will have to and I will force myself into that because I love Aryan. He’s my god child and I have seen him growing up. He is as old as my career. He was born after the first schedule of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai on the 12th of November, 1997. For me Aryan is beyond films. He’s more than family to me. Right now one should not burden him with anything.
You carry the halo of a ‘star director’. Is it a conscious effort?
I never planned it. I have projected myself in the way I wanted to project myself. I enjoy the limelight. I don’t believe in subtlety. I believe in front footing my celebrity status. I don’t have a problem posing for the paparazzi, hosting an awards show, judging a reality show, hosting a talk show. Being famous excites me and losing fans depresses me. I’m unapologetic about it. I don’t want to be behind the scenes. I’ve no interest in subtlety, neither in my cinema nor in my personality. I love who I am.
What’s tougher, directing a film or maintaining celebritydom?
Direction is my primary passion. Maintaining my stardom is not something that I have control over. It’s great as long as the going is good. Tomorrow when the flowers stop coming, then I’ll just have to deal with it. Right now life is kind. Hopefully, I’ll leave behind a strong legacy provided I have my feet planted firmly on the ground. I can’t be deluded. Delusion is the biggest disease. It can be the death of a career. I’m aware of my insecurities, inferiorities, mistakes… I know where I stand in the scheme of things. I don’t believe I’m the best filmmaker in the country or the most powerful person in the industry. I’m just a grateful member of this industry.
From where do you get this sense of wisdom?
I’m a friend, a father and family to my colleagues. That’s my biggest achievement. That’s what I learnt from my father. He taught me that hits and flops are immaterial. If your relationships fail you’ll stop mattering in the world. That I have smiling people who work in my company makes more difference to me than a blockbuster. For me, there’s no difference between a superhit film and a superhit family at work. Where will I take all this money? Money is a byproduct of success. But success is not just commercial. Success is a personal journey. I hope that my personal journey will always be more successful than my career.
Away from all the razzmatazz… what’s the real Karan like?
I’ve spent 44 years trying to figure myself out. I’m a Gemini. So there are two of me in any case. I’m many people in one. It depends on the circumstance and the situation. I can swing on politeness. I can swing on power. I can be sad, I can be happy on command. Because in the industry the cameras never go off. Even when we’re in business or creative meetings, the camera is always on. You’re an entity, you’re always performing. Those vulnerable moments of solitude or those intimate moments happen with just your family… my mom. Otherwise, when I leave the house I put on a mask and the camera starts rolling. And the camera goes off only when you put off the lights and sleep.
So are you being a different person all the time?
It’s not totally different but there is a difference between what you project and who you really are. We are in an industry of projections. You can’t be yourself everywhere. If you really get down to saying things that you want to, chances are you’ll end up in jail. So I don’t want to say those things. I mean at times you just have to shut up and you have to just play the part assigned to you.

What are your insecurities?
Bowing down to the system, bowing down to the norms or to fraternity practices I never want to ever be a weak version of myself. I always want to be strong and that’s not to do with commercial or monetary success, it’s to do with your own belief.
Did you ever feel Kapoor & Sons was a film that offered a risky proposition?
It was and we fought many odds. Many actors refused Fawad Khan’s role for various reasons. Everybody was worried about the how the film would shape up but Shakun (Batra) and I had faith in it. It was a powerful screenplay, it connected with the audience. It was brave and beautiful at the same time.

Is it true that Rishi Kapoor and Shakun Batra were not on the same page during the shoot of Kapoor & Sons?
Rishiji and Shakun definitely went through some ups and downs. It never got ugly, it never got bitter and it was a relationship of mutual debate and different perspectives. But they found their own ground. It was all for the betterment of the film. Eventually, they found a relationship. Today they’re very fond of each other.

Normally, in a situation like this, whose side would you take the actor or the director?
I’ll always take the director’s side. A film is a director’s medium. No actor can know the film better than the director. My energies are of course employed to sort out the situation. But I will always be there for the director. I’m a director myself. I believe the director knows best.  

Do you think Indian society and the film industry have become more accepting of homosexuality?
Acceptance is still a long way, away but at least we’re aware. That’s the first stage. There was once a point when we weren’t even aware. People criticized me for stereotyping homosexuality in Dostana but I’m the only filmmaker who put it out on the big scale. Its ridiculous how unaware people were before. The film, at least, brought the conversation of homosexuality into the drawing room of every urban home. I’ve received at least a thousand emails from kids, youngsters, teenagers, seniors… thanking me for making that film because now their parents are aware of the concept of homosexuality. It’s not brushed under the carpet anymore. I have always tried to address it in my own way. I’m not apologetic about Dostana. I’ve got a question for those intellectuals who think the movie was stereotypical... what are they doing? Rather than writing about it in columns no one will read, or making a self-indulgent film, might as well use pop culture to make people aware about homosexuality.

Does showbiz have a place for emotional and sensitive people?
It’s a sensitive profession. We make movies. Movies are an extension of our emotions especially when you write them yourself. They reflect your thoughts, your insecurities and your sensitivities. So of course we’re all sensitive being in a creative industry that allows us to be sensitive. In fact, our sensitivity makes us flourish. I think its fine to walk around with your emotions on your sleeve as long as you’re aware of the atmosphere and surroundings. Over time, I’ve realized that the more you expect from relationships the more they’ll disappoint. It’s important to be intelligent while being sensitive. I don’t think intelligence and sensitivity can exist on different ends of the spectrum. They have to co-exist. So while I might be sensitive about something I should be intelligent enough to know that just my sensitivity will not get me anywhere. You have to have a little bit of both. Fortunately for me I have struck that balance recently. I have understood how to balance and police my sensitivity and not get carried away with my emotions.

Have there been such moments?
Of course. There are people you get attach to and then there are people who hurt you. It’s important not to get over sensitive about everything and realize that there is line between what’s professional and what’s personal. In the industry we tend to blur those lines. That’s not the way to go. If there is a line then you have to respect it and live it. That’s what we don’t do. Many times I’ve been hurt but I’ve realized that probably my hurt is not warranted and it’s not coming from a place of a reason.

When someone hurts you, do you throw them out of your life or just let them be?
You don’t take drastic steps for small things. But when someone keeps hurting you over a period of time, continuously then you have to distance yourself from that person. I don’t like to fight, make things ugly, scream or shout. May be it’s good sometimes to do that but I’m not that person. I silently distance myself from that person.

How tough is it to nurture relationships in showbiz?
I think it’s a full time job. Films, projects, businesses every professional pursuit depends on maintaining relationships. Every relationship is different and everyone is difficult in its own way. Relationships are not machines. They don’t work with a button. You can’t switch it on and off when you like. You have to keep feeding it with human power. I wish relationships could work just like my I-pad. That doesn’t happen. There’s lot of your energy, time, compassion that needs to go into a relationship for it to really work. Every relationship needs all of this from both parties. People say it’s difficult to have friendships in the industry. The problem is that very few people try. If you want to make friends then you have to work at it. Then you have to keep going, maintain relationships and keep in touch. We’re all so self-absorbed in this industry and I think mobiles have contributed to the death of so many relationships. Today, we’re in a relationship with Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. We’re happy with our relationships with social media. When you’re in a relationship with virtual reality, not reality it takes away the romance, emotional investment and the friendships. The kind of time people spend with their phone, it’s like a new family member. Your phone has become your family and that’s an additional member that you should be dysfunctional with. The phone helps you distance yourself from people. It’s like a disease; we’re just not diagnosing it.

You’re known to be a friend to lot of people in the industry. What makes you a loyal friend?
Loyalty is not a pre-requisite of any relationship. I don’t know how it’s become such a prime feature in relationships. Loyalty, honesty and integrity are a given in any relationship. If you don’t have those basic pillars you’ll never have a friend in life. The key to maintaining relationships is to talk less and listen more. I know more than eight out of ten people just talk but how many of them listen? It’s important to be a listener because not every problem is yours, everybody goes through problems and I think that’s critical at maintaining bonds.

Who do you count as real friends?
I think I’m blessed with some really strong relationships and friendships. My mother understands and she’s a strong woman. Other than that there are lots of movie industry related relationships that are great and solid. I found some really good friends in the industry. Manish (Malhotra), Shah Rukh (Khan), Adi (Aditya Chopra) have been my friends for years. Right now I’m working with Ranbir (Kapoor), I’m close to him. The younger lot, Sidharth (Malhotra), Varun (Dhawan) and Alia (Bhatt) are like kids to me. They’re like extended family. I have a childhood equation with Tina (Akshay Kumar’s wife). I’m very much in touch with her. Right now she’s in a totally different zone but we still keep in touch. I’m friendly with Reshma Shetty. I have known her for 25 years. She’s a celebrity manager but I’m very close to her. Shah Rukh and Adi are responsible for me being in the movies. Outside the industry I have friends like Kajal Anand. I grew up with Farhan (Akhtar), Zoya (Akhtar) and Abhishek (Bachchan). Young directors like Punit (Malhotra), Ayan (Mukherjee), Abhishek Verman and Shashank Khaitan make the Dharma office a nice place to be in.  There’s no one person I turn to at any given point of time. I love the fact that I’m surrounded by all these wonderful energies.

Do you have plans of continuing your acting career?
I worked in Bombay Velvet as an experience. I’ll act again if I get offered something exciting. I’m not averse to doing it but I’ve not been offered anything after Bombay Velvet. Thankfully acting is just a byproduct of my presence in the industry. My phone didn’t ring for even one role. I was fortunate that the critical appraisal of my performance was decent; I believe I gave it my all. But I was not offered one role. I was not even offered a bad film. Right now I’m an unemployed actor.

Reportedly you met Rani Mukerji recently, how’s her and Adi Chopra’s parenting coming along?
Yes, I met her in Paris. I went to hang with Rani and Adi. I was in Europe. She is lovely. I keep teasing her by calling her Mother India. She’s obsessive about her child. We’re all amused about that. Adi and I are always laughing about how hysterical she is, but she’s lovely. Adira is beautiful. Adi and Rani are special to me and their child is exceptionally special. I feel so happy and I get teary when I see Rani and Adi as a parents. Adi is my closest friend in the industry. In fact we’re best friends. Rani is practically somebody, though I didn’t launch her but I feel I did. I feel a big part of her and I see them as parents and I was like I was so moved by them and how. To me it’s so special to see them with Adira. It’s amazing.

Does the younger generation of filmmakers and actors make you feel old?
No, I find myself younger than them. I feel my ideas and my thoughts about life, cinema and things in general are younger. I don’t feel old around them at all. I actually feel connected to all of them and I don’t feel a year older than them. I feel we’re all at the same level.
Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (ADHM) was about love and longing…
It’s a personal film. It’s about things we all have been through. It’s not a love story; it’s a story about love. It’s about how you react to heartbreak. It’s about unrequited love, one-sided love. ADHM is every single person’s film. I loved this couplet by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, “Gar baazi ishq ki baazi hai, jo chaho laga do dar kaisa, Gar jeet gaye to kya kehna, haare bhi to baazi maat nahi (loosely translated it means that one never actually loses in the game of love). That’s the thought on which I’ve based ADHM.  Even if you lose in love you’re still a winner because you did love.
Does it resonate your life?
Perhaps. I’m 44 years old, in the mid-point of my life. You realise the importance of being in a relationship, of love and romance. Do I miss love? Companionship? Intimacy? Yes, I do. So I felt that I needed to address that cinematically. Basically, it’s my quest for love. The lack of love in my life, my reflecting on my heartbreaks and the love that I could have had, which I never did. That has resulted in me writing AHDM. It’s about how tough the journey of heart can be, how you may achieve everything in the world professionally but if you don’t have love, you remain empty. Work is part of your mind. Love is about your heart. My mind feels liberated, my heart feels empty.
How was the experience of working with Ranbir Kapoor, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Anushka Sharma?
It was best experience I had because I knew all of them individually. They were cool, fun, co-operative, easy and supportive to the product we were making. I had the best time. I had two great outdoors back to back in London and I felt like I didn’t want to end. Working with Ranbir was exceptionally liberating. He is the easiest actor. He was so wonderfully fun. Anushka is gorgeous. Aishwarya I have known for years and I always wanted to work with her and my big dream to work with her came true in ADHM.

Is Fawad Khan your new favorite?
He is an exceptional talent. He is a great guy. He has a certain understanding of emotional nuances that I find rare in artistes. I have tracked him ever since Humsafar and Zindagi Gulzar Hai and I have also seen Khuda Ke Liye. He is an exceptionally sensitive man whose emotions come out beautifully when he performs. I think he was fantastic in Kapoor & Sons. I think he’ll be fantastic in everything he does because he is a great actor. He’s also funny. He’s got a great sense of humour. He can completely be the life of the party but he comes across as someone quiet. He takes time to open up but when he does he’s like a full raita failana type person. Fawad and I are friends today.

You have moved on from ‘Candy flaws’ to ‘serious’ films…

I don’t think now I can write a film like Kuch Kuch Hota Hai anymore. I don’t get those ideas. When I look back and see those movies I don’t know who directed them because I feel I was totally a different person. At 25, KKHH came naturally to me. At 27, Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham came naturally came to me. At 32, Kal Ho Na Ho was what I felt. At 36-37, My Name Is Khan was something I felt. And at 40, I was so exhausted of emotions that I wrote the happiest film of my life which was Student Of The Year. It was my holiday film. It’s not a great film from any angel. It’s just a happy film with a lot of time pass ness, songs everything I love about movies and launching three beautiful faces. I had no interest in moving Cinema Mountains. I knew I would not able to and I haven’t. SOTY is possibly my least cinematically appreciated film but it’s been a big success for me as my strategy go because I launched these three kids who have done phenomenally well and it made me feel very young at 40. It connected me with the young audience. I have kids from six to sixteen now who have seen that film five and ten times and I feel very proud of myself that I made that film. Yes, I didn’t achieve anything greatly cinematically in that film but I did a lot for my company with that film and that makes me extremely very proud. Everyone who thought that it was a wrong move for me I hope I proved them wrong because all three of them are where they are at today in the industry is definitely a reflection of the fact that I had to make that film at that juncture of my life.

Do you fear being disconnected with the younger generation?  
Yes, bahut dar lagta hai ki vo disconnect na ho jaayein because apne aap ko relevant rakhna bahut zaruri hota hai. It’s very important to be relevant to that generation. They are the generation that rules the roost today. It’s that big strong demographic between sixteen and twenty five are huge chunk of the movie goers that we have to be relevant today. I don’t want to be irrelevant. I’m still very young in my head and heart and I want to make that content that appeals to them as well. And I don’t think I’ll ever let myself down in that department because I’m very aware. When I look around me I know exactly who is wearing what, who is doing what, who is listening to what kind of music, how they are speaking to each other. I’m going to launch many more young kids and energies and give them a lease of life at Dharma because I connect with that generation. I understand their angst. I’m not somebody who walks with my age on my sleeves. I walk with my achievement on my sleeves.

What qualities do a person need to be Karan Johar?
Why should anybody want to be me? I think everyone is unique in their own way. I don’t want to be anyone else. So why does anybody need to be me? I’m happy being me. I have taken 44 years trying to figure myself out. I can’t bare the idea of trying to be somebody else. I would just tell them don’t try to be anybody else. Try to be the best version of yourself and you always know what your own feelings are and I feel you have to be your 2.O version, your new version. You have to always update yourself. We are just like technology is, we need to also update ourselves and that comes with awareness. Sometimes you have to better yourself. Don’t try to be me because you are wasting your time because I’m not all what I appear to be.

Three men I love the most:
Amitabh Bachchan
I have great respect for Amitabh Bachchan and his achievement. His zest, his zing, the way he conducts himself at 74, he’s the youngest man I know. I want to have the spirit that he has.
Aditya Chopra
I have great respect for Aditya Chopra because of his vision and what he’s achieved with it. He started the first studio in this country. Today he’s built it into a massive brand.
Shahrukh Khan
I think he is one of a kind. He’s a superstar, entrepreneur and he is also a visionary. He’s the most intelligent mind I know in the business.
Women I admire:
Lata Mangeshkar
My love for Hindi cinema has a lot to do with the songs Lata Mangeshkar and Kishore Kumar sang together and individually. Lataji will always resonate cinema for me. Her rendition of Lag ja gale (Woh Kaun Thi) gives me emotional strength. I hear it almost every night.
I’m a big Sridevi fan. She has done over 500 films and has been a top star in every language be it Tamil, Telugu or Hindi. She’s a genius actor. There’s no one like her. I’m dying to direct her someday.
Jaya Bachchan & Gauri Khan
I love the way they stabilise their relationships within the industry and within their families. Jaya aunty has an identity of her own. She’s the fulcrum of her beautiful family. She’s maintained her dignity, her self-respect. Hers is a strong energy. I call her ‘Aunty J’ with affection. She’s been like a mother to me. 


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