It’s been a year-and-a-half since My Name Is Khan released and Karan Johar is finally ready to direct again. Student Of The Year starts rolling on August 16. “I’m excited and nervous because this time I’m launching three newcomers — Siddharth Malhotra, Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhatt. And since this is the first time I’m working with debutants so I feel like one myself. We’ll make a beginning together,” says the filmmaker.
“Thank God, we’re starting with a big song, the way we did in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (KKHH, 1998) and Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (K3G, 2001). That will give the actors a chance to settle into their roles and with Farah (choreographer Farah Khan) in charge for six days, I can also ease in slowly.”
Karan rubbishes rumours that the campus caper is a desi High School Musical or a rehashed KKHH. K3G and KKHH, he points out, are playing on TV every weekend on some channel or the other. “I’m told they are the most viewed films on Indian TV and the ratings are consistently high. It’s gratifying to know that they’ve aged well and passed the test of time. But a lot has changed in the 13 years since we made KKHH. Youngsters won’t connect with bubblegum romance,” he reasons.
He points out that love today has lost its surprise element and its sense of awe. Young people no longer wonder about what their beloved is doing when they are away, and worry about whom they are with. Thanks to mobile phones, Skype and iPads, they are always in touch. “The overdose of information and constant communication has taken the beauty of romance out of relationships. The innocence is gone too,” he sighs. “Even I am no longer as innocent as I was during KKHH. I’m worldly wise and more cynical. So, the syntax and tonality of this campus movie will be very different.”
Waiving away any unfair comparisons with Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol who are “legends now”, he asserts that Siddharth, Varun and Alia are individuals in their own right, who need to be applauded for their strengths and forgiven for their weaknesses. “It would have been easy for me to put together a mega project with big names. But after My Name Is Khan, I realised the only way I could challenge myself as a filmmaker was by working with newcomers,” he says.
Interestingly, this is the first time Shah Rukh will not feature in a Karan Johar movie, even in a cameo or an item number. “He has a bigger, more responsible role to play; that of a producer. He is co-producing the film with me.” Quiz him on his days as a student, and he admits he was the bright academic sort, who focused on topping his class.
“Since I was overweight, sports was not my scene. So what I couldn’t do on the football field or in a 100-metre dash, I tried to compensate for in my exam papers. And I ended up missing out on all the fun,” he says. “If I ever have a child of my own, I’ll make sure that for him or her, academics is not the only priority.”