The casts and director of SOTY talks about their movie
Karan, tell us about your actors.
Karan Johar: All of them have distinct personalities. Alia listens to funky music and has this high school element to her. That helped because I was making a young film. I didn’t want to sound wannabe. Being ‘young’ can fall flat sometimes. I didn’t want that to happen.
Varun belongs to an edgy, dark zone, contrary to what people think of him (laughs) — that he’s David Dhawan’s son and that he comes from a certain school of cinema.
The lesser-known fact about Sid is that he has this quiet intensity and is semi-spiritual. He reads different kinds of literature. I was fortunate to know Sidharth and Varun before the film, as they were assistant directors (ADs) on My Name Is Khan (MNIK). They were called the “pretty boys on set” by Farah Khan (laughs).
Karan: Alia just wants to be a star! She wants to wear nice clothes, put on make-up and wants a fan blowing her hair in the middle of the mountains. She’s too young to think, ‘Ye hogi meri award-winning film (this will be my award-winning film)’. That will happen, but right now, she just wants her hair to fly and look ravishing.
Do you agree, Alia?
Alia: (laughs) Yeah, I love dancing, I love the fans and I love everybody looking at me.
Alia, this is your first film. What was the experience like for you?
Alia: It was very different from what I’d imagined. I didn’t know there was something called continuity. So if they were shooting a scene inside, I would ask if they would then go shoot outside, and they would say, “That’s somewhere else, baby.” I would wonder, how am I going to connect? I didn’t know anything about camera and lighting, but it was a great experience. It was like an acting school on set.
You never went to your dad’s sets?
Alia: I did, but just to see the shooting. Actually, eating the shooting-ka-khana was my main motive.
Sidharth, what made you shift from modelling to films?
Sidharth: I had come to Mumbai for a film (to act in), but that never worked out. Then I started doing rounds of auditions to become an AD. People used to think I had come to audition as an actor, then I would tell them that I was there to be an AD. Luckily, I got the chance with My Name Is Khan.
Varun, did coming from a film background give you an advantage?
Varun: It is easier when you come from a film background. What I have seen is a man (his father David Dhawan) becoming successful and how he sustained that. My father didn’t come from a film family. He came from a small town, Kanpur. He made it big on his own terms. I was born in a one-bedroom flat, I lived there for most of my childhood. I remember my brother used to ask my mum if we could get sliding windows in our apartment, because he had seen them in a friend’s house. But we couldn’t afford that. I am grateful for what I have now, and I understand the value of money. I know how hard it is to make it in this industry.
Karan, were Varun and Sidharth your first choice for the movie?
Karan: Yes. I had made up my mind. We went through auditions only because I didn’t want them to feel that they got it easy.
Varun: I thought he was testing us.
Sidharth: We thought he would cast somebody else, that mid-way we would be told we wouldn’t be part of this.
Karan: I think these guys were thinking that Shah Rukh Khan will be the lead, that eventually they would be standing behind him. That vulnerability is what this film is all about. It’s not a path-breaking narrative. I think the freshness is because of them. The film would not have worked without new faces. There’s a paucity of acting talent and people are fed up of circling around the same male stars.
When I read newspapers, I see the same 10 people saying the same thing. You start off sounding a little edgy and then you become politically correct. Actors are caught up in this whirlwind of the industry and I think that more fresh talent will challenge them. We need to shake this industry with new energy.
MNIK was a very different film. Was there a process of switching off and switching on?
Karan: MNIK was emotionally exhausting. Switching off was easy because I was so drained by the experience. I call SOTY my holiday film. I love songs and dance and good-looking people. I won’t apologise for liking this. We all like it, we just sometimes pretend otherwise. I had no interest in making a film that was close to reality. I don’t want to see anything real for a while. I want to make it look outlandishly fantastic and yet have a film that connects because that’s my personality.
Varun, your father and brother are directors. Any plans of working with them in the future?
Varun: My father never launched anyone and he is fine with that. Actually, I’m now going to go tell my dad that I’ve done a film, so you now have a chance with me. In fact, my brother even said that he would have to audition me before taking me in his film.
Alia, do you feel bad that your father (Mahesh Bhatt) isn’t directing anymore?
Alia: Yeah, he calls himself an extinct volcano. But I pull the daughter card saying you directed a film for Pooja, so what about me?
You asked, they answered
When will we see Alia after SOTY?
Alia: There is no second movie as of now. If you happen to know any directors, then you can ask them to offer me a film!
KJo: She is currently unemployed.
Was Sidharth worried that Alia and Varun would overshadow his work since they're star kids?
Sidharth: You can’t call it pressure, but yes I was knew that they were more aware of how the industry works and how marketing, PR, promotions work.
@pragati7: Varun, are you anything like your character Rohan?
Varun: The things that Rohan Nanda goes through and feels is a lot like what I was at that age. He is an 18-19-year-old kid and he has an elder brother, and I have an older brother. And just the way he is rebellious, I was a bit rebellious.
What kind of roles would you like to do in the future and why?
Sidharth: Depends on what I get offered (laughs) For now, we are only doing SOTY ya. I want to try different kinds of stuff; I don’t know what I’m good at right now.
@NikhilMyana: If you were to cast SRK in SOTY, what role would he play?
KJo: There is no role that would depict the magnificent presence of Shah Rukh Khan.
@JazzKaurTweets: Did you ever feel attracted towards Alia during the shoot?
Varun: Always, I think during the shoot of the song ‘Ishqwala love’. I think the weather and the atmosphere was that way and it was really cold, so we needed body heat and stuff. I felt attracted and I’m just giving a reason for that.
@kushdeewani: You’re casting new faces with SOTY. Please select from Tellywood next time!
KJO: We looked for girls even from the TV industry. If and when there is talent on television, I would love to work with it. I don’t believe in slotting actors, I think a good actor, is a good actor. Whether he’s doing mad work on television or great work on theatre, it doesn’t matter.
— Transcribed by Amrutha Penumudi, Soumya Vajpayee and Petrina D’Souza