Anuradha – Listen, the first question is crisis facing the film industry. And that is all the women seem to be upping and leaving to get married! What are you guys going to do?
Karan – Oh! You guys call it a crisis, I think it’s great and I think it’s amazing these women are taking such amazing personal choices as well and not just professional ones and I think it’s a huge myth, you know, that women in Indian cinema want to get married at the end of their journey. I think it’s ridiculous. I think time and again its proven wrong and you know whether it was Rakhi or Sharmila Tagore, and they were married and they were prime you know in the midst of their marriage, they gave huge hits in the cinema, continued to work and showcased immensely progressive and fantastic work. Similarly, Kareena now who’s working right after Kajol and Rani. All these, and Aishwarya, and all of them are doing fantastic work. Madhuri and Juhi continued to do great work in the cinema. I think it’s amazing.
Anuradha – And Priyanka now, and Alia if the rumors mills to be believed, sometime soon.
Karan – No, those are rumors mills, all those I can’t confirm for you. Unfortunately, they are conjecture. But it’s all surrounding us. More power to these girls because you have to balance your profession and personal life.
Anuradha – But as a producer who’s looking at box office counter whether the money comes in, would you say that it’s completely a myth that marriage does not affect the commercial prospects of the female in this industry?
Karan – Not at all, this isn’t affected at all. It’s complete nonsense. It’s obviously the film and the content that is really driving the film. Nobody amongst the audience sitting in the multiplex seat or single is going to be worried that she’s married, I won’t like her. I mean its absolute nonsense. Films like Veere di Wedding have just released and it just crossed 80 cr at the box office. Everyone is married in that – I mean, practically Sonam got married during that time, Kareena has been married for a couple of years before and it was immensely progressive film that progressive and sexy in nature. It was fantastic. It was just delicious to watch. Anushka is already married and Anushka has big film coming up by end of September. Alia gets married, anybody gets married, it is not going to affect the box-office. If they do bad films that will affect the box office, nothing else. Good films will work bad films won’t irrespective of anyone’s marriage status.
Anuradha – And producer’s not going to be scared of casting married women.
Karan – No, I have casted Kareena in one of the big movies Takht. She also signed a film Good News with us. She’s working all the time.
Anuradha – Is the movie business setting the trend or is it reflecting what’s going on around as a society?
Karan – I am glad that in a decade or so there’s been talk about women, their empowerment, respect for them in and quality. It has pitfalls to have excessive media and sometimes there are huge upsides and I think, in this case, they are getting their space and they are commanding their space and they are empowered and there is a certain accountability now.
Now, you know, you will think twice before you make a misogynistic statement. You will say something typical that’s part of your upbringing. You won’t say to your child don’t cry, don’t be a girl. Suddenly, you will think that its politically incorrect thing to say to your child or say in that environment. Sometimes, it’s not anyone’s mistake, it’s what they’ve been taught by their parents and they have been trained in a certain way. I think the accountability, not perhaps the reality, but the accountability, is making people think and say different things and that, in turn, I think eventually is reflecting in the fabric of the society. Like today, Priyanka Chopra announces her engagement to the world and she’s going to get married and she’s on the verge of signing a huge Hollywood film. She’s doing big motion pictures in India and she’s a global phenomenon and she’s married, sorry she’s engaged.
Anuradha – Given that you don’t know about much music, did you know who Nick Jonas was?
Karan – I actually surround myself with so many kids, that, so many people who are millennials surround me at Dharma, that’s why I know about him. I can’t claim that I have heard his music but then I haven’t heard anyone’s music. I heard whatever happened in Hindi films and the Indian Cinema’s space of music but other than that I am completely clueless and I am not proud of it but I am clueless.
Anuradha – What you make of this wonderful role of reversing gender she’s supposed to be only he is, isn’t that something?
Karan – I am very liberal and progressive about these things, I never have like, ohhhh your man should be older than you. Why? Why should we say these things? If you find compatibility and you find relationship of comfort who cares who’s older than who and who makes these rules? And who said that man should be older than the woman? I sometimes have heard “arrey voh toh badi hai” My family says like this. What does that mean? I mean you know sometimes I think that is the saving grace of the relationship, sometimes that maturity that does come that the women bring to the table, I think it can actually make sure the relationship has a strong binding. So, I really don’t buy this thing. It doesn’t make sense to me.
Anuradha – You’ve been agony uncle for lot of people around you over the years, right from the star you work with, people in the movie business you been worked with.
Karan – Yes I am a good listener.
Anuradha – So you been an agony uncle to a lot of people and now you are doing it for a lot more people, isn’t it via a radio?
Karan – Firstly, I have to tell you my observations. Couple of fun things are; everyone in the office is hooking up! Because I hear so much office romance. Its shocking! I keep looking at my own office with what’s going on here? I have heard all that everyone’s hooking up in the offices, you are married or you are in relationship, you are hooking up. And they are finding quiet corners to do things.
Anuradha – I would like to know Dharma policies on that please? Is that HR policy?
Karan – What you don’t see and what you don’t catch is fine, the moment it’s caught it becomes a policy. We haven’t caught anyone doing doggy in the deep corridors of the Dharma Productions yet and if it’s happening, no one knows, good luck to you. Other thing is dating apps which have become a reality – everyone is finding each other on Tinder or whatever.
Anuradha – All these people are trying to now hack, the dating apps in India are customized into find your marriage/life partner.
Karan – I don’t know how it works. Well I think that’s not true, certain people are using them for DTF, apparently. That I won’t tell you what that means because its tinder lingo because I found yesterday someone told me I can’t say on To because you will beep down to … so there is a zone to DTF and there are those who are DTM or either UTM (up to marry).
So if that’s what you are looking for but the reality is that it exists. Then there are people, youth signs like millennial lingo like ghosting and breadcrumbing and I am like whoa!! Whole zone of terminology out there! So those are the things, these are the disturbing that I’ll say the enlightenment of so many men. The way they think “arre my wife is like this” she wants to work and not take care of children. I am like how dare you like think that she should change her life just for you. Why can’t you take care of them?
Anuradha – Men’s enlightenment is scary. How deep it is?
Karan – Sometimes even domestic violence – once, there was a man who casually told me that he just raised his hand because he got angry, it wasn’t so hard he said and I was like even if it’s a pat its incorrect! You need help, you cannot raise your hand on anyone – a women, a child, old or anyone. You do not resort to violence. How dare you and how dare you think there wasn’t that bigger deal? The fact you think like that it’s very disturbing. Then I have incidents of like people who are gay but married (to someone else) and because of society pressures they get married and there are men who don’t know how to address it to, you know, he is scared to tell his parents.
Anuradha – Well some families will say in counselling sessions – it’s okay, that I can live with my son being a gay but can you please ask him to get married and have a child? Preferably a son and then get on with what he is doing? Clearly, the women is just there to help them in procreation. So, I find that really fascinating.
Karan – Not really, the first thing – I find it is very disturbing as firstly there is no information on sexual individuality. I think the most important thing is when there is information and awareness, it leads to understanding it and then it leads to get you an emotion towards it. When you don’t have an understanding and awareness of what it is, how deeply rooted and emotional it is, well that’s how it is.
When a man loves a women or a man loves a man, the level of intensity is not something that you are supposed to judge. It’s something you have to evolve with, it’s something you have to accept, and it is a part of the human DNA. And I think this sense of enlightenment that sometimes men have and, you know, the hypocrisy surrounds it, the parents who give advice to their sons or their daughters that even if you are, don’t let anyone else know in the family. Don’t tell this to anybody else and have a marriage, produce a child. It doesn’t matter what turbulence you go through internally as long as for the world you are fine. This “log kya kahenge” phenomenon has to end because really, Anuradha, eventually it doesn’t matter what anybody says because eventually what they say will pass but your life stays.
Anuradha – It took you long time to say this and to accept it yourself
Karan – No I don’t think, I am not living in a way people will say or judge. So, I do what I like and I do what I love. When I love to dance on stage, I do. As I was a film maker so they shouldn’t dance on reality stage I said who said this is a rule? They say you are not supposed to do a talk show. If I feel like pouting in a selfie, I’ll do it because it makes me happy. And I don’t want to do anything to confirm what the world says. When you do that with confidence and you do that with conviction, let me tell you nothing can come in the way of that.
Anuradha – Also, when you are hugely successful
Karan- I was this person , I was always raised to be the person who will find his own feet and to accept who I was and in the circumstances surrounding me, I was never told to do this or do that, like no one, like my parents were immensely progressive and understanding of who I was. It was not that I was the only child, they loved me immensely and my mother and I have a solid relationship but I was never told, Anuradha, that do this or do that.
Anuradha – But, Karan, I remember in some of the various conversations we had over the years about your cinema – you know in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, I remember you know why Karan and Kajol has to become sexy siren to get the guy, I remember and you said you have to sometimes confirm. Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna, deeply complex film and in that one you actually make Rani and Shah Rukh sort of suffer a bit before they come to sort of happy ending but it is almost the price that they pay for the happiness. I remember, I asked you about it you have to pay your due to the society in some way or some fashion, as the society extracts some amount of flesh if you go against the rules.
Karan – Well, I don’t think that there may have been something in cinematically. I believe that today, I believe, that earlier paying my due to drama not to society. I was trying to create that drama for the characters because already, see “Kabhi Alvida Naa Khena” is an extremely genuine film. I don’t want to make it that way again, which I plan to do, because there is too much apology in that film. There are too many tears and there is too much like me trying to justify, like I pushed the envelope then I tried to justify it. So, I have physically intimate situation in which I was told that they should not, that they should not have sex and they should hold each other hands. And I know that nobody at that age was having extra marital affairs, holding each other hands, you would go through with it. And after that I thought I must make them suffer then how is the Indian society going to accept it. Today, I would show that they would be repentant to do, of course, hurting other people you will go through it but I felt that I would have over dramatized that part.
Anuradha – The creative interpretation of screenplay as a result of it would be different.
Karan – So, I would reduce the drama, remove the songs and make that film again.
Anuradha – Welcome to Karan Johar, circa 2018
Karan – That’s what I would do. That’s one film I want to say, I want to make it because I am obsessed with infidelity. I think it’s such a reality, so beautifully grey, so scary and yet it’s like a forbidden fruit that I want to consume but stay away from. And I sound retarded, I sound crazy when I say that I love infidelity because I sound like very disturbed but I want to say cinematically, I like the concept of the dabbling with that zone.
Anuradha – And what you are going to explore what those are?
Karan – I just love that we all live in the greys. I think the concepts like infidelity are beautifully embedded in the grey.
Anuradha – I think, I am a little startled by the fact that you said that the way you handle the two movies I brought up your first and I think third as I say those were your creative interpretations of how you want to deal with rather than your own personnel understanding of the society.
Karan – I was in between of finding myself which today I have. When I was making “Kuch Kuch Hota Hai”, I was all of 24 or so, I was young and I was impressionable and I only wanted to make a big hit film. I wasn’t trying to take a stand, any emotional stand, I just wanted to make a very big commercial success that was the goal.
Anuradha – So you are saying that, that was the creative thing not your outlook?
Karan – It was me trying to make a Hindi film out of that situation and I wanted to juice the drama even though I was trying to push the envelope
Anuradha – I think there is more liberated feel about you
Karan – Yes, there is. In 2006 and in 2018, I have always said my cinema is reflection of my status, like my politics in KKHH went all wrong but it was like what I was raised to understand. In Hindi cinema, you know it was not something, I didn’t have voice of my own. I have a voice of Hindi cinema coming out of me. It’s not when Shabana Azmi called me and said “toh voh khoobsurat nahi thi toh pyaar nahi hua aur uske baal lambe ho gaye toh voh ishq ho gaya”, I said, I am really sorry but that’s what I really thought should have been at that time. Today if I have to ever visit the situation I wouldn’t do it.
Anuradha – And it is so interesting that “Ae Dil Hai Mushkil” which was the last film you directed, was talked about everything else but the material that you were bent on exploring it.
Karan – Like you said the politics around the film took the essence of the film. It was talking about the unrequited love and, in cinema, unrequited love in the cinema, there were many people saying that why he was paining so much “arre yaar jab dil toot jata hai toh” it very-very heartbreaking, it hurts and I said he went through that. It was also about friend zoning, understanding that male-female can find friendship if it doesn’t always has to be sexual, you can also find a solid dynamic so it was talking about that. It was also talking about an older women and younger man dynamic – dealt with that and it also mainly about what the feeling of one sided love can be like which I was involved in through.
Anuradha – And this was very deeply personal to you, you have talked about it
Karan – If you ask me, my most of the feelings worked for myself. It’s exactly the film I wanted to make. Every other film like fumbles and false and patches not entirely happy or thrilled with it but this is the film. When I talk about “Ae Dil”, anyone asks me what’s your best film I always say “Ae Dil” only because this is exactly the film I wanted to make.
Anuradha – You’ve been quite lucid in your description and articulation of going through unrequited love in your life, why is that that makes you feel that you can’t be loved.
Karan – Let’s put it this way, I’m so messed up sometimes that if someone gives me lots of love, I sometimes don’t feel the need to love back. I like but I can’t get, it’s like as messed up as which lot of people will identify with the moment. I love something and that doesn’t love me back then I wanted more. It’s moment like somebody gives me deep amount of love, I immediately get through it, as I feel like that I can never love someone who gives me a lot, Its almost as messed up as that. I want to love you, I want to chase you, I want to be treated sometimes little badly and then I want the drama but I am all about that madness. I am like there is the drama, messages, lines, emails all that drama. I enjoy that somewhere, I think whenever I have been in love, I haven’t got that love back. It’s been my most satisfying time. And there have been drama and there about depression and I don’t want to dilute all that. But I want to tell you that’s what I am. The moment someone loves me amazingly and like with all gut and heart, I am like I have taken the next flight out. It’s exactly who I am.
Anuradha – Bombay Talkies and now Lust Stories – suddenly, we see you go away out of your comfort zone. Maybe you weren’t in your comfort zone and now you are, I don’t know what it is. Female sexuality, the telling of the female desire, female need a voice where and why it’s happening.
Karan – I have to say that all of it are my thoughts, Anuradha, these are my thoughts, for lack of better way of saying it my liberal thoughts. But I can’t always platform those liberal thoughts in mainstream cinema because I am a businessmen as well. I run a company that is operating like a studio and when I make a film I need that film to do well pan India and with the diaspora. So, I have to carefully select my themes.
I cannot be that person where people come and tell me that we love lust stories, why can’t you do that all the time – like you don’t pay overheads , you don’t run a company. You are having no accountability on you which I want to be. I want to setup this mammoth production house that makes lots of work and lots of amazing movies and I want to be bit of tough to make those if I continue making plethora of Lust Stories and doing that.
So that’s the one reason why there is a complete difference in tactics of my cinema and with short stories that I have done. So, my Bombay Talkies talked about repressed sexuality which is where we talked about marriages and people who actually come under societal pressures and get married and lie to themselves when they are homosexual and pretending to be heterosexual.
All they do grining life of women and children of their family and because desire is the large part of the relationship cannot be swept under the carpet. Love and lust have to coexist – the success of the relationship – they have to be coexist. Sex and love are two intrigued entities and should be part of the marriage and whole. Similarly, lust stories that talked about female desire because men have their enlightenment where they think they have pleasured themselves and that’s it. That’s the end of the road for them. What about women and her desires? Sometimes, you know, it’s very important for you to ask – did you feel the desire, did it work for you as well? And I just want to address the character played by Vicky Kaushal was unaware. He had been trained to believe that this is what is, that me just being physically intimate with you was enough but whether or not you reached your point of desire, in not. It’s not something he has even thought of. And she even tried to tell him but he was so clueless. So I just felt that with these are platforms that I can actually use to speak my truly liberal voice to put it out there.
Anuradha – It has bothered you that people haven’t realized or recognized that there is the liberal person in you and K3G, epitome kind of movie, kind of stories, kind of traditional construct with which relationships that play according to Karan Johar ?
Karan – I am all about just K3G, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and then only told that you made glossy, glamourous films about rich people and NRIs. I don’t know, whatever that means you only make film for NRI’s . I have done everything , I talked about female sexuality , I have talked about homosexuality , I have talked about the misinterpretation of the religion , I have talked about infidelity. I have done all this but you will go back and people will say that Karan Johar make films about rich people.
Anuradha – Why this bothered you so much?
Karan – Actually it does not any more. I am amused, actually it’s like trolls. In the beginning I was like that I am not getting the amount of respect that other filmmakers do, I am like its okay. So I get the love but I don’t get the respect. But I learnt to live with that as well. So I have learnt to live with everything. Initially its anger, then its indifference which is kind of a defense mechanism and now its glorious amusement. I am very amused by anyone who constantly asks me these questions “aap toh sirf amir logo kai bare mein picture banate hain.”
Anuradha – But are you comfortable in placing your stories in socio-economic news that are not familiar to you.
Karan – Yes, totally. I mean, I am very happy about it .
Anuradha – You can make films about not so rich people from Bombay and New York.
Karan – I am a film maker who tells stories and yes, I have a deeper understanding of the environment I live in but it doesn’t mean I cannot have an understanding of demographic setups that are not known to me because I am a story teller .
Anuradha – You have also been incredibly controversial, isn’t it, in the sense not necessary of your own making but like your movies are the soft targets – like we saw with My Name is Khan when Shiv Sena after Shah Rukh Khan and that time then we saw with Ae Dil Hai Mushkil when you had to get the apology to get that movie going and is that Kangana Nepotism, not going there because a lot has been said and done about it . But is it bad to cross you, to cross Karan Johar, in movie business, to go against you, to take you on?
Karan – Why? Who am I? I am just another filmmaker and there are 10 another. If I am upset with you for a personal reason that has nothing to do with something else. People have problems with each other, they still emerged on their own. Again, like we say this is like women getting married equals that they will not be desirable anymore. I mean, that is ridiculous. Similarly, if someone is upset with me then they still can have great career and if I am upset with somebody I may still have a great career. Or if we make bad films we’ll fumble and fall. So it is nothing to do with the fact that if I am upset with somebody or somebody is upset with me, I’ll not work with them and they are doomed. This is ridiculous.
Anuradha – So you are not as powerful that I thought you were ?
Karan – Not at all
Anuradha – Oh my dear
Karan – Let me repeat no one is as powerful to achieve this. I mean like me, 20 other people are doing really well and we are making movies and it’s great. If you don’t work with me you will work with 10 others. So there is always an option. You can take me on if you have a legit perspective. If I am wrong I’ll apologize.
Anuradha – Did Kangana Ranaut have a legit perspective?
Karan – I think that she said something on my show that just became like – she came and suddenly showed Karan Johar his place, which is fine, it was great and I was very much shown my place and where I was not wrong. But I completely disagree with the revolution and that explosion that one statement has caused. I mean, that these kids are really burnt away. I feel very sad. It’s from time immemorial. In every industry, sometimes, you will support your own and you will want to and, yes, if they are not good at it they will go off the radar which has happened timely. Now, I feel scared to put up the photograph with any of these kids now because there will be thousand comments abusing me calling me all kind of things “papa of nepotism, dada of nepotism, nepotism uncle.” I think it’s not fair. If they are not talented they won’t last and if they are talented they will be major motion movie stars. So I don’t get it and I feel like what Kangana said was her perspective, I don’t think even she realized it would blow this way and I think it has.
Anuradha – I get what you are saying. I just feel like that someone who’s in the business family I do realize that why talent prevails in the end that first stepping stone is much harder to get by from someone who’s from outside .
Karan – I do get that. I understand that it is nepotism means opportunity but opportunity also has to be backed up by talent. And eventually the first break or stepping stone you said is definitely the advantage some of these have. I had it myself but my dad didn’t. So if my children choose to be I’ll do whatever takes for them and I won’t be ashamed of it and will not be apologetic no matter what is trolled to me. If my kids, 20 year later, decide that they want to be in movies, I’ll do whatever I can, like my father did for me to help and support them.
Anuradha – And what signs your kids are showing? How old are they? 2?
Karan – They are 18 months but they are not showing any signs right now. They are just trying to find their feet. Otherwise and I don’t know where things will go and I am not going to try doing anything that will push them in zone or keep them away. I won’t be apologetic introducing any talent from the industry. This is my industry, this is the place that brought me up, this is the place of my love and acceptance and in my way, if I can be there for people of the industry – be it as directors, and assistant directors, actors, I will always be there. I will refuse to be apologetic about it.
Anuradha – How are the babies and what type of father you are? I’m a little curious?
Karan – No, I am the father that my father was to me. Like, I can’t stop kissing them. My daughter is like – go away, like she knows that kissing machine is arriving. I just can’t help cuddle, hug and kiss them. My mother always say that don’t harass them, don’t annoy them because they cry sometimes. I just can’t stop squishing them.
Anuradha – How your mother is taking what you have done with Dharma Productions? Clearly she was not actively keen to have you in movies business.
Karan – My mother’s great, she is amazing. She always keeps me on my feet. She never praises me on my face. Every time I get an award, she asks me why I am getting that award.
Anuradha – can you just tell people how when you went to shoot Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, she kept on the first day of shoot
Karan – She woke me up in the morning, she said – Listen, it’s not just too late even though you are going outside. Do you know where to put the camera? So I was like I think I do. She said it’s not too late stop now because we can’t do with one more failure and how have you presumed this going to be failure she was like I don’t know you know anything? Adi used to come to me to take the feedback on Dilwale Dulhaniya Lai Jayenage . She asked me if you are okay, what do you know! Till today that emotion remains that behind my back she’s full of pride and she only gushes about me. She is always happy but she doesn’t shows it to me that what she believes that will keep me grounded. That’s the biggest teaching of my parents that please always be down to earth and not dilute it.
Anuradha – Karan when you did Student of the Year, one of those things was to be relevant. At that time you just turned 40. Do you get to the youth? Do they like you?
Karan – Yes, I think my awareness of young generation when I am surrounded by them and there’s fine line between identifiable and being one of them.
Anuradha – How do you do that?
Karan – so if somebody use like lingo FOMO and all. Sometimes, you have to be yourself, there is a general kind of younger vibe that I have. I don’t want to sit and hang with youngsters because it’s cool to do.
Anuradha – Has anyone called you uncle?
Karan – ALL the time! I am like komi Karan, because I don’t like and bear that tag of everyone around us uncle and aunty. I also say don’t call me Sir. Sir alienates you from the circle and uncle distances you. So, I don’t want it either. I don’t want alienation nor distance just call me Karan – that’s what my name is.